The Rolling Stones at Comiskey Park, September 2002

September 14th, 2002

By Mark Guarino
Daily Herald Music Critic

Here’s a rare sight: about 52,000 people sitting in about 52,000 seats at Comiskey Park Friday, the South Side’s concrete monolith called a ballfield, home of the lame-duck White Sox.

The sudden surge in attendance wasn’t for a ballgame. It was for the Rolling Stones, the Brit-rock stalwarts who have been leisurely engulfing Chicago since early last week. The band played the first of a three-night stand Tuesday at United Center. The third show is Monday at the Aragon.

Individual members of the Stones have been popping up around town at restaurants, health clubs and blues bars. On Wednesday, singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Ron Wood snuck into Buddy Guy’s Legends to join the clubs namesake proprietor for a version of “Little Red Rooster.”

The ban is celebrating its 40th anniversary with this current tour featuring stripped-down performances in stadiums, arenas and small clubs, plus set lists that pair crowd-pleasing hits with B-sides and soul music covers they haven’t played live since they first recorded them, if at all.

Friday evening in Bridgeport had a ballgame taste. Stones fans mingled in Halsted Street hangouts like Puffer’s and Schaller’s Pump before the show. The old Comiskey Park had a history of hosting many full-fledged rock shows, including the Beatles. The new park, built in 1991, had yet to be tested until Friday.

Located far in the outfield, the stage faced Comiskey’s triple decks as the $350 ticket holders enjoyed field sitting nearby.

“It’s a big night,” Jagger said at the kickoff. Keith Richards started things off, walking on stage leading with the first riffs of “Brown Sugar.”

In what Jagger called “a big, enormous place,” it was the stage design that delivered the thrill. 40-foot-high video panels created an airplane hanger of personality for songs – a spray of hits in the beginning – that are now fat and familiar.

After almost an hour of mandatory favorites, the Stones finally gave some fresh satisfaction with a cover of the O’Jays “Love Train.” Performed in broad soul revue style with a four-man horn section, it buoyed the thousands like no Stones nugget was able to before or after.

The band played fewer rarities than on previous tour stops; their place was reserved only for the cube-shaped club stage located on the outer lip of the infield. The Stones arrived there to play the rock-boogie B-side “Neighbours,” from “Tattoo You,” and the aforementioned blues standard “Little Red Rooster.”

But the night’s highlight was their cover of – appropriately enough – Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” As the house lights went up for the chorus and 50,000-plus people shouted, “How does it feel?,” it was the ultimate in group therapy.

The Pretenders once again opened the show. Singer Chrissie Hynde mentioned former band members James Honeyman-Scott and Pett Farndon who died respectively in 1982 and 1983 – “They would have loved to have been here with the Stones. Maybe they loved them too much.”

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