The Rolling Stones were flying high in 1981. Touring in support of the critically acclaimed Tattoo You, the band's tour took in a then record $50 million. While on tour, the band simulcast a Hampton, VA, concert to many major rock stations across the country and made the show available on pay per view -- a first for any concert. That show has been restored, with remixed audio by Bob Clearmountain, who supervised the Stones' audio archive releases, and is available on SDBlu-ray for the first time as The Rolling Stones -- From the Vault: Hampton Coliseum Live in 1981.
The disc opens with a notice about the radio stations broadcasting the show, their station call letters and numbers strategically painted on the body of a naked female. Backstage footage follows, with Mick Jagger drinking Gatorade on ice before the band took the stage. The show opened with the classic cut, "Under My Thumb." While some renditions from this tour weren't as clean, the band is tight here, delivering for their large audience. Birthday boy Keith Richards, celebrating his 38th birthday (which was considered old at the time!), delivers a fine solo in this excellent opener.
Jagger takes to guitar for a high-octane "When The Whip Comes Down." It is one of several songs played much faster than the record and showcases Richards and Ronnie Wood on backup vocals, something that has been sadly downplayed in the band's more recent tours. When the Stones resumed touring in 1989, they employed backup singers, making this tour, for many, the last "real" Stones tour. Richards and Wood practice their "fine art of weaving" on guitar, with their dual-lead attack.
"Neighbors" is the first of six Tattoo You songs in the set and finds the band pushing the tempos yet again. Ernie Watts (No relation to Charlie) handles sax duties here and throughout most of the show (save for a few songs where Stones veteran Bobby Keys plays) and does a fine job. "Black Limousine" finds the band going back to their blues roots, with Richards and Wood trading licks throughout.
A few well-chosen covers follow, including the Temptations' "Just My Imagination" and the Miracles' "Going To A Go-Go." In both cases, the band gives the song a harder edge than its original version, while still remaining true to the songs' soul roots.
Jagger takes to acoustic for a strong "Waiting On A Friend" that find Watts mimicking the falsetto vocal part on saxophone. Jagger stays on acoustic for "Let It Bleed," with Keys taking over sax duties for the number. Jagger leads the crowd in a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Richards before the guitarist launches into his own "Little T&A."
Even on its first tour, "Start Me Up" held a place among the set-closing numbers and the band delivered on their newest classic track. The show closes with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." As balloons cover the stage, Richards doubles as security, taking out an overzealous fan with his guitar -- rock and roll ending to a great rock and roll show.
The video is upscaled SD and looks great for its age. The original 4:3 aspect ratio has been preserved here. Audio options include LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 96/24. The sound is big and full and most likely better than it ever was in 1981.
The Stones' 1981 tour was a major success in every possible way. It showcased a band still on top of its game and delivering live in a big way. With a great new album and their back catalog, how could it not be? For fans wanting to see what all the excitement was about, The Rolling Stones -- From the Vault: Hampton Coliseum Live in 1981 is a must-own SDBlu-ray.