There are certain concerts music journalists remember as if it was yesterday. The agonizing shin splints from watching a multi-night stand by AC/DC or seeing then-unknown New York quintet The Strokes opening for British band Doves at Toronto's Opera House in March 2001 before a few dozen people both come to mind, for different reasons.
But perhaps none have been as satisfying as landing a ticket for The Rolling Stones "warm-up" gig at Toronto's Phoenix Concert Theatre on Aug. 10, 2005. No guest list, no media pass. Just lining up at 5 pm on Sherbourne Street the night before, waiting 16 hours and hoping to pay $10 for one of roughly 200 to 300 ducats to see an incredibly exclusive gig before the band kicked off their A Bigger Bang world tour.
Now, as part of their ongoing archival "bootleg series" in association with Google Play, The Rolling Stones will be releasing "Light the Fuse: A Bigger Bang Tour Toronto 2005." No official release date has been set but a YouTube video was posted Tuesday showing the band opening the 14-song set with "Rough Justice" along with a brief interview with guitarist Keith Richards recorded last month in New York City discussing the warm-up gigs and the band's longtime association with Toronto.
"It's like a mutual respect, I've always felt that about Toronto," Richards says. "It's been our favorite haunt to rehearse in for some reason, a lot of it is to do with logistics and money, I have no doubt. You go into the Masonic Hall [editor's note: actually Keef, it's the Masonic Temple] and you knew where you were going and you didn't have to break in a new room. So it was an easy place to rehearse in and it's always been a good town to us, especially to me, they got me out of jail."
Richards is referring to his arrest in Toronto back in February 1977 where he was charged with possession of heroin for the purpose of trafficking. The charge could've landed him in jail. But he plead guilty and Richards was given a suspended sentence. He was also asked to play two benefit concerts for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) in Oshawa in April, 1979 as part of his plea bargain. The shows featured the Rolling Stones and The New Barbarians.
The '05 gig wasn't the only time the Stones have played Toronto clubs, though. After rehearsing in the city, it's tradition for the band to play one "surprise" gig in Toronto before their world tours kick off. In August 2002, the band played Palais Royale behind their Licks world tour, opening the venue's rear doors so the ticket-less outsiders (including this writer) could listen to the show. In 1994, the Stones played a similar gig at the RPM club prior to the Voodoo Lounge tour, and in 1997 the group's Bridges To Babylon trek commenced with a show at the Horseshoe Tavern. The shows have usually come after a couple of weeks rehearsal at an undisclosed location in the city.
And long before all of these shows, the band played the El Mocambo in 1977, doing two surprise club gigs at the venue. The Stones dubbed themselves "The Cockroaches" on the marquee, recording both shows and using portions for their Love You Live double album released later that year.
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On top of that, the Stones headlined a massive July 30, 2003 gig dubbed "SARS-Stock" at Toronto's Downsview Park featuring AC/DC, The Flaming Lips, Rush and Justin Timberlake among others. The one-off show -- which saw them briefly break away from their European tour -- was seen by an estimated 460,000. It was primarily used to boost the city then battling an outbreak of (SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The illness caused 44 deaths in the Greater Toronto Area as well as creating a massive economic dent to the tourism industry.
As for the 2005 set, the Stones performed material from A Bigger Bang, but also dusted off some rarities including "Live With Me," "She's So Cold" and a slower, bluesier version of "19th Nervous Breakdown." The group also played two covers, including a rather odd rendition of Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up" and Otis Redding's "Mr. Pitiful."
"When Mick's feeling adventurous it means he feels confident in the band and that everything's set and ready to go, which I certainly think he was that night," Richards says, adding, "the hard gigs are like the small ones, you know, where you've got no props, no nothing, you just have to do what you do face-to-face."
The release comes after news the band will play four dates later this year as part of their "50 and Counting..." tour. There's no word if additional dates will be announced, or, as they have in previous outings, are rehearsing in Toronto before the two shows in London and two in New Jersey. The closest fans might get to the Stones being in Toronto is the band's longtime touring saxophonist Bobby Keys playing a Toronto show this Friday night.
"It's a hot ticket, I'll give you that," Richards says of the club shows. "I don't know if they come to see us screw up or what."
Here is the set list from the 2005 Toronto show:
"Live With Me"
"19th Nervous Breakdown"
"She's So Cold"
"Back of My Hand"
"Ain't Too Proud to Beg"
"Oh No, Not You Again"
"Get Up, Stand Up"
"Jumping Jack Flash"