Mick Taylor Returns to the Stones’ Stage

The Vibrato. The Quiet One. The Kid. The non-flashy one. And now, thirty-eight years after leaving the Rolling Stones and thirty-one since they last played live with him (2003’s guest appearance was scuttled while he waited backstage with his guitar), the unassuming guitarist who took them to musical heights not seen since stepped out on the darkened blue stage and completed the journey. He had so much pep in his step, it looked like it was impossible for him to relax into a slow blues or even assume his traditional standing-still stage demeanor of yore.

He spun around, he lurched, he prowled the front of the stage (has he ever done this even once in his entire career?), he gravitated between hanging out with the guitarists in front of Charlie Watts’ drums and heading out to play off of the other Mick who was busy blowing harp and exhorting the audience. It was a little messy, and surely a little disorienting to be playing on a giant stage again after years decades away from the limelight. Was he sending a message to Jagger and the others? Something along the lines of “I can still play this shit and I can even walk around and entertain if you need an extra guitarist for the 2013 tour”. The Vibrato has become the Big Gazelle. Was it the shoes?

Mick Taylor first stepped onstage with the Stones as a wide-eyed twenty year old playing to a giant outdoor audience gathered for the free concert at Hyde Park in 1969. Five and a half years later he departed, leaving behind a vast record of soaring melodic runs and mournful slide guitar playing spread across several albums and tours that form the majority of the band’s artistic pinnacle. Afficionados point to the 1973 concert bootleg “Brussels Affair” as proof positive, with his arching guitar lines on Gimme Shelter, Heartbreaker and the band’s transcendent performance of Midnight Rambler.

Since then, Taylor has lived in relative obscurity, playing scruffy rock clubs and the odd blues festival, despite occasional pairings with Dylan, Cream’s Jack Bruce, Michael Oldfield, Carla Bley and others. So it’s a real treat that, A., he’s still alive, and B., that this long sought after (by the fans) reunion has finally occurred. It looks like he has now been confirmed for all 5 of the Stones’ 2012 50th birthday shows, which means we’ll get to hear more than just Sunday night’s performance.

I can’t imagine how much more at-home he’ll feel when he gets to do it again on Thursday night. Hopefully we’ll get to hear him play another Midnight Rambler. As the actual event happened, fans from all around the world were following the event on the IORR.org chat section. The show itself was already noteworthy: their first full concert in five years, Keith apparently recovered from a concussion which affected his playing at the end of the last tour, Mary J Blige kicking serious ass co-singing Gimme Shelter, Jeff Beck letting loose a torrent of his heady Strat riffs on an old blues cover and the lauded return of original bassist Bill Wyman who left the band in 1992.  But when Mick Taylor, surely unrecognizable to those who had last seen or heard of him as the cherubic lad of the band in 1974, stepped out from the dark blue lights and began to play, grown men and women in several time zones welled up with tears just reading about it, knowing that it finally was happening, right at that moment.

The Stones return to the 02 arena in London on Thursday night, this time with guest singer Florence and guitarist Eric Clapton. And Mick Taylor returns to the Stones’ stage, in from the cold.

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Update: The videos from the 2nd O2 show, Thursday night November 29, are starting to make their way online. A much more focused affair (from the guitarists and the soundman mixing the guitars) than Sunday night’s opening show.

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All pics in this article are stills from the first full video of the song to appear on the web. Thanks to alert video-taking from concert attendee and IORR forum member “TooMuchForMe”.

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