The Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle stadium tour ran for nearly a year. The North American leg started in Philadelphia on Aug 31, 1989, and the European leg ended in London on Aug 25, 1990. The tour is notable for many reasons. The 10 nights they played at the Tokyo Dome in February 1990, from which the material on this live album comes, was the first time they ever performed in Japan. It was the band’s first tour since their 1982 European Tour. It was their first tour without touring pianist Ian Stewart. It would be bassist Bill Wyman’s last tour before his departure in 1993. It was also the start of narrow-minded folks who made known their thoughts that being 40-something (and 50-plus in Wyman’s case) was too old for rock ‘n’ roll. This entertaining performance proves all the naysayers wrong as has the band over the years, who show no signs of stopping as they head to Latin America next month.
After the hard to make out “Continental Drift” opens the show, the crowd goes wild after an explosion leads into “Start Me Up”. The five-piece horn and guitar playing on “Bitch” really ramp up the intensity. Mick Jagger speaks some Japanese, the effort of which the crowd appreciates, and the band segues into “Sad Sad Sad,” the first of five songs off Steel Wheels, and Bobby Keys delivers a sax solo.
The band’s R&B roots shine through on their cover of Bob & Earl’s “The Harlem Shuffle” and “Tumbling Dice” with the three back-up singers helping to round out the sound. Keith Richards picks up an acoustic guitar for the tender “Ruby Tuesday.” Showing confidence in the material, they fire off a trio of Steel Wheels songs, even though many would consider that the bathroom/refreshment break. The arrangements on “Almost Hear You Sigh” and “Rock and A Hard Place” might understandably be too ’80s-sounding for some. “Mixed Emotions” is a strong song.
The crowd cheers the cowbell announcing “Honky Tonk Woman” and soon, two inflatable women hover over the stage, although it takes a while before the cameras offer a clear view of them. “Midnight Rambler” is a marvelous, slow groove with piano, harmonica, and guitar coming to the forefront at different times.
Richards gets to sing two songs, the new “Can’t Be Seen,” which is how the second CD starts, and “Happy” with Ronnie Wood delivering some sweet licks on the slide guitar. Richards picks up an acoustic for “Paint It Black” as drummer Charlie Watts drives the beat. Jagger does a very odd dance as the band segues into the delightfully psychedelic “2000 Light Years From Home” that concludes with the keys leading the outro. The show concludes with two early singles extended, “Satisfaction” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Jagger proves to be in great shape running as far out as he can along the stages and prescient as one of his many costume changes is into a “Stop Global Warming” t-shirt.
The video has been upconverted and presented in 1080i/MPEG-4 AVC at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The cameras have trouble handling the brightness of the lights so on occasion trails can be seen when the cameras move. One camera behind the band even exhibits a pattern burn for a bit. The strobing flames during “Sympathy for the Devil” mess with the video. Colors are adequate but blacks aren’t very inky. Softness abounds.
The audio is much better with LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks to chose from. The 5.1 offers great fidelity and a wide dynamic range. Vocals are typically clear and don’t get drowned in the mix, although Richards’ singing almost disproves that. The bass is strong in support. The audience can be heard in the surrounds, opening up the space the audio resides.
Previously an exclusive digital download by way of Google Music in 2012, Live at the Tokyo Dome 1990 is now available as a 2-CD/DVD, single DVD, and SD Blu-ray from Eagle Vision. It’s a strong performance from the band and the last time they’d be in this configuration. This document proves the doubters wrong and is a worthy addition to stand alongside their other live albums.