While it was rumored that Keith Richards was going to make a surprise appearance, Rolling Stones guitarists Ronnie Wood and Mick Taylor demonstrated that they were perfectly fine without him as they ripped through more than an hour's worth of gritty blues at an 11 p.m. show at the Cutting Room in New York City Saturday night, November 9.
Focusing primarily on the catalog of Mississippi electric blues pioneer Jimmy Reed, the tight-but-loose band, featuring keyboardist Al Kooper, Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke and two bassists (electric and upright), occasionally sounded like the classic Exile On Main Street-era Stones. But more often they recalled the earthy stomp of the great electric Chess bands from the Fifties, playing Reed classics such as “Big Boss Man” and “Bright Lights, Big City.”
During most of the evening, Wood and Taylor locked in on rhythm parts that were different, but complimentary, as they snaked and slithered around each other, avoiding lengthy solos in favor of tasty fills and sharp statements that would’ve made the economical Reed proud.
More often than not, the comically animated Wood, who sang and stood center stage, let his array of harmonicas do the majority of the soloing as he demonstrated his surprisingly fluid chops on the blues harp.
Fans of Taylor’s great solos on such Stones classics as “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and “Ventilator Blues” weren’t completely shut out. Taylor unleashed his signature vibrato and flurries of notes on his sunburst Les Paul several times during the intimate show on songs like “I Ain’t Got You” and two instrumentals.
Wood also thrilled his diehard guitar fans by breaking out his classic black, three-pickup Zemaitis guitar from his Faces days for some lethal slide licks throughout the night.
Yes, it would’ve been grand to see Keef mix it up in a club setting with the two guitarists, but no one was complaining when the show ended well past midnight. Ronnie and Mick, as New Yorkers would say, “aren’t exactly chopped liver,” and the heartfelt performance that paid tribute to one of their heroes made the late-night show one of the best and most memorable of the year.
Brad Tolinksi is the editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine.