5 Of Keith Richards’ Best Live Performances
photo credits to youtube.com/KeithRichards
The Rolling Stones owe much of their identity to Keith Richards’ songwriting and gritty guitar riffs. Richards’ greatness is evident not only in their live shows but also in their recordings, where he skillfully shapes the band’s sound without overshadowing it.
When spotlighting Richards’ most memorable live moments, a distinct criterion comes into play compared to, for instance, selecting Jimi Hendrix’s standout shredding episodes.
To pinpoint instances where Richards truly shines among his fellow band members, it becomes necessary to include performances beyond the Stones.
Therefore, you won’t find iconic Stones moments from The Ed Sullivan Show or their Super Bowl halftime show in this collection. Instead, you’ll discover numerous instances of Richards electrifying the stage and showcasing his unique playing style.
1. “Rock and Roll Music”, Fox Theatre, St. Louis, 1986
Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll captures the essence of Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday celebration through a concert film featuring two memorable shows. In this particular performance, Richards takes the stage alongside Berry, along with fellow guitarists Robert Cray and Eric Clapton, and the lead vocal is handled by Etta James.
Given the multiple guitarists involved, it may be challenging to discern Richards’ specific contribution, but the spectacle is compelling due to the sheer star power on display. Richards radiates unadulterated joy, and the pleasure of witnessing him jam with Cray while embracing James and Berry at the song’s conclusion adds an extra layer of enjoyment.
This reaction is not surprising, considering Richards’ deep admiration for Berry, evident in his cover of Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run”, which served as his debut solo single.
The documentary and accompanying soundtrack album, both released in 1987, not only feature Richards as a performer but also credit him as a co-producer of the film.
2. “Wild Horses”, Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, 2004
This memorable performance unfolded as part of the Return to Sin City, a remarkable two-night tribute concert dedicated to honoring the legendary Gram Parsons.
Keith Richards took center stage, contributing not only his adept acoustic guitar skills but also lending his distinct voice to the first verse. It’s worth noting his creative touch, seamlessly interweaving lyrics from the second verse into his rendition.
As the song progressed, Richards gracefully handed over the lead vocal duties, creating a dynamic and collaborative atmosphere on stage. Jim Lauderdale, Jim James, Steve Earle, and Norah Jones stepped into the spotlight, each infusing their own vocal nuances and interpretations into the verses. Meanwhile, a collective of star performers joined forces for the choruses, elevating the emotional resonance of this classic.
“Wild Horses,” with its mellifluous and country-tinged essence, proved to be a fitting choice for such a special occasion. The song retained its timeless beauty, showcasing a different yet equally captivating perspective without the familiar vocals of Mick Jagger.
3. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, Forest National Arena, Brussels, 1973
It would be a regrettable omission not to showcase the Rolling Stones in this compilation, even though the brilliance of Keith Richards’ guitar work occasionally takes a back seat to Mick Jagger’s magnetic stage presence during live performances. The rendition of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” that graces the Stones’ 2011 album, Brussels Affair (Live 1973), stands out as a testament to the band’s enduring musical legacy.
Within the entirety of the album’s exceptional sound, it’s on this specific track that Keith Richards’ unmistakable riff emerges prominently, showcasing the raw energy and distinctive style that has made him an iconic figure in the world of rock.
The performance at the Forest National Arena in Brussels holds a special significance in the Stones’ history, as it unfolded during a period when Richards faced restrictions from playing in France due to drug possession charges.
In a gesture of commitment to their French fans, the band decided to organize a show in Brussels, ensuring that their audience across borders could experience the magic of a live Stones performance.
4. “Happy”, Tarrant County Convention Center, Fort Worth, 1972
Another must-add to The Riff’s most iconic live performances is this rendition of a Rolling Stones classic where he takes center stage as the lead vocalist.
The vibrant performance of “Happy” at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth in 1972 exemplifies a dynamic interplay between Richards and Mick Jagger, where they flawlessly capture the magic of their harmonizing prowess.
A distinctive highlight of this rendition is, of course, Richards unleashing the irresistible riff that has become synonymous with his musical ingenuity. This particular live recording of “Happy” holds a special place in the Stones’ musical journey, captured in the 1974 concert film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.
This film not only provides a visual testament to the band’s electrifying stage presence but also emphasizes the unique charisma of Keith Richards as a lead vocalist. The chemistry between Richards and Jagger is palpable, adding a layer of energy and authenticity to the performance.
5. “Yer Blues” with The Dirty Mac, Intertel Studio, London, 1968
Of course, this one-off rendition that became a somewhat mythical status thanks to the participants takes the top spot. The Dirty Mac, a transient supergroup comprising Richards, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and Mitch Mitchell, came into existence solely for the purpose of participating in a television special known as The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.
Among the two tracks performed by The Dirty Mac, the cover of The Beatles’ “Yer Blues” took center stage, with the other being an improvisational piece featuring Yoko Ono and violinist Ivry Gitlis, whimsically titled “Whole Lotta Yoko.”
In a departure from his usual role, Richards assumed the bass duties for this performance. While it’s tempting to be captivated by Lennon’s robust vocals, the collective brilliance of all four members is truly remarkable.
Witnessing these rock legends share the stage is nothing short of mind-blowing, and the experience is heightened as each member demonstrates their musical prowess in prime form.