The Rolling Stones dipped into their live archive in the summer of 2011 and unearthed and officially released the famous and long-bootlegged Brussels performance from October 1973 known as the Brussels Affair. It's release unlocked the Stones Archive, and gave live music junkies like myself a vintage and outstanding performance, fitting of the "Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World".
While you'd be hard-pressed to find a music fan who isn't at least somewhat familiar with the Rolling Stones studio work (Who hasn't heard Satisfaction?), Brussels Affair gives the listener the opportunity to see the band in an unrestricted environment; one in which they are free to stretch out and jam when the mood strikes. The combination of compact true-to-the-album classics and extended, blues laden jams brings something to the table for everyone. That combination has cemented Brussels Affair at the top of my collection since its release.
The hour and 20 minute performance in front of a enthusiastic Belgian crowd finds the Stones in fine form and is jam packed with highlights, virtually from beginning to end. While each member of the band has their turn in the spotlight, for my money, the star of the show is without a doubt Mick Taylor, who despite his outstanding contributions to the Stones during his tenure, would leave the band in just a year's time after the Brussels performance.
After powering through a few bonafide Stones classics, Brown Sugar, Gimme Shelter and Tumblin' Dice, Mick and Co. roll out the Bootleggers first real highlight: Dancin' With Mr. D. Only performed a few times during this tour, Dancin' With Mr. D features an infectious groove, and some simply stunning guitar work from Mick Taylor. After two years of listening to this set, Mr. D is still the magnet that draws me back in every so often. Despite the presence of several of their more commercially successful songs being performed that night, Mr. D is the true gem of the set.
Not to be outdone, the Stones cruise right into another new track from Goat's Head Soup, which would become a classic, Heartbreaker, which again features great energy, including some interesting lead interplay between the Micks, and a funky little breakdown section, before ripping right back into the chorus, hinting at how versatile and nimble the band is.
Cranking back the intensity, Angie is another shining example of how multi-dimensional the Stones are, giving each member of the band their place to shine, and with the pace of the show to this point, giving drummer Charlie Watts time to take a little break! Charlie's break carries on into the Stones classic, Can't Always Get What You Want, where they spend 11 minutes exploring, highlighted by more soaring lead work by Mick Taylor, complimented by a stunning horn solo.
The break's over, but the jamming is just beginning. The final Bootlegger's highlight from this show, a romping and high energy 12 minute Midnight Rambler. It's as if the first half of the show led up to a breaking point at Angie and now the almost frantic energy and urgency is back, punctuated this time by Mick Jagger's harmonica playing.
But predictable is one thing Brussels Affair is not, and Midnight Rambler is a perfect microcosm of just that: slowing down to nearly a complete stop about halfway through for some riffing and vocal/guitar interplay, including Mick and Keith trading some tasteful lead lines, before Mick brings them slowly back onto focus to finish things out.
Bootleggers Bottom Line: Brussels Affair is a must-have for any Stones fan, and is also a great entry into the Rolling Stones over all, both as a live act and as a band over all. It has been and will continue to be a staple on the show from now on.