From Babylon to Buenos Aires: The Rolling Stones Revisit Their 1998 South American Extravaganza

Mick and the boys went deeper into their catalogue on the second live set from the Bridges To Babylon Tour

The Rolling Stones ’98

By any measure, the Rolling Stones will always have plenty to live down — their bad boy image, their complete disregard for authority, their feuds and fragmentations, and the fact that boasting an average age of 75, they’re decades past any credibility they might claim for inciting adolescent rebellion. 

On the other hand, the Stones also have plenty to live up to, namely the same traits listed above. And with each concert and every tour, they manage to fulfil those roles by doing all that’s required.

Not surprisingly then, this particular performance–recorded at Buenos Aires’ River Plate Stadium on April 5, 1998, midway into an extended world tour in support of their then-current album Bridges to Babylon–reflects the essential Stones in a typical timeless manner. The album itself marked something of a comeback, especially in the midst of various less than spectacular entries that had preceded it in the decade before. Sales-wise, it climbed into the top ten in both the U.S. and the U.K., which in itself was an impressive feat considering the fact that many fans and pundits had written off most of the Stones albums released after the ‘70s.

Rolling Stones Bridges to Buenos Aires, Eagle Rock 2019

Likewise, Bridges also yielded at least four tracks that managed to make a dent on the singles charts — “Anybody Seen My Baby,” “Flip the Switch,” “Saint of Me” and “Out of Control.” And yet, while three of the four are represented on Bridges to Buenos Aires (surprisingly its biggest hit, the aforementioned “Anybody Seen My Baby” is omitted), truth be told they come across simply as obligatory offerings meant to keep the current album top of mind. Now, more than 20 years later, they pale besides the other staples of the set, especially in the larger context of a repertoire consisting mostly of fan favorites.

Indeed, listening now, there’s no sense that this tour was essentially any different from any others the Stones took in the years before, or for that matter, during the decades since. Watching and listening to the group going through their usual paces while retracing such standards as “Brown Sugar,” “Satisfaction” (situated here at the start of the set instead of its usual placement as a cap to their concerts), “Gimme Shelter,” “Start Me Up,” “Brown Sugar” and the like, perpetrates that sense of timeliness and, well, sameness as well. Even though they’re each 21 years older now,  their current international excursion varies little from what’s offered here. Given their age, which in itself is remarkable, it also proves the Stones are an eternal ensemble, and in a world where little remains the same, they remind us that we can still count on some constants. And nowhere is that more important than in the realms of rock and roll.

 

VIDEO: The Rolling Stones perform “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in Beunos Aires

Still, the 1997/98 tour was significant in some ways as well. Saxophonist Bobby Keys, a staple with the band since early ‘70s, was still a formidable force within the expanded ensemble. On the other hand, bassist Darryl Jones remained a rookie as far as his role in the band was concerned, evidenced by the fact that though he had replaced retiring Stone Bill Wyman five years prior, he was essentially considered only a sideman. That’s especially evident given the fact he was one of eight bassists tapped to play on the Bridges to Babylon studio sessions. 

So what does Bridges to Buenos Aires offer that isn’t found elsewhere? At least a couple of distinguishing elements come to the fore. Bob Dylan makes a cameo on a cover of “Like a Rolling Stone,” and while there’s is a faint hint of a smile on his otherwise frozen countenance, his mumbled, haphazard drawl makes it challenging for Jagger to stay in sync.

Bob Dylan performs “Like A Rolling Stone” with The Rolling Stones

Likewise, when Keef takes the mic for his two solo songs, he doesn’t opt for the expected; instead of his usual trademark tunes (“You Got the Silver,” “Before They Make Me Run”), he taps a current choice with Babylon’s “Thief in the Night” and the otherwise obscure “Wanna Hold You,” plucked from its predecessor Undercover.

Yet, despite the otherwise unyielding consistency of any Stones set that comes to us from the past 30 years, Bridges to Buenos Aires remains an interesting snapshot in time. Ultimately, it’s a strong addition to a lingering legacy that currently encompasses some 57 years and counting. In essence, isn’t that enough?

 

VIDEO: The Rolling Stones Bridges To Buenos Aires Trailer

 

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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