ROCK / Lost spirits: Matthew Krietman catches Mick Jagger playing live in New York

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The Independent Culture
PRESUMABLY that really was Mick Jagger on stage in New York on Tuesday night? There were times when he sounded as good as ever, but in this made-for-media event (the only show to promote Jagger's latest solo album Wandering Spirit), the star performed mostly for the video camera swinging continuously over the invited audience.

For a one-off of this magnitude, the record company had flown in hundreds of journalists from around the world. The remaining space in Webster Hall, a smallish club in the East Village, was mostly filled with record company types. The few real members of the public who had managed to get in had spent days trying to get past jammed radio-station switchboards for free tickets.

'I know no one paid to get in but you can still have a good time,' were Jagger's first spoken words during the set. And because Jagger can still do his thing and has an album full of more-than-decent songs, most of the audience was quite happy to oblige - for the first half at least.

Throughout the hour-long show, the songs that worked best were those that could have come from any of the better Stones albums. Starting with 'Wired All Night' and 'Out of Focus', both straightforward rockers, Jagger loosened up without any noticeable exertion. 'Sweet Thing' found him at his pouting best, complete with falsetto, Stones beat and even a few struts about the stage.

The old Bill Withers song 'Use Me', with its heavy funk rhythm, was also delivered with zest. Jagger by this time had discarded his blue blazer and was sporting a flouncy purple shirt over a yellow T-shirt, to complement his blue pants with cavalry stripes. Signs of enthusiasm were coming from the radio contest winners who had gravitated to the front.

'Don't Tear Me Up' and 'Evening Gown' both kept up the momentum and let Jagger show that if the moves were slowing, at least the vocal chords still did what he asked them. But 'Angel In My Heart', a pleasant ballad on the album, was transformed into a total clunker which almost stopped the show dead. The guitar sounded ugly and clashed badly with Jagger's voice, the organ came over as simply pretentious and the harmonies set your teeth on edge.

Things went downhill from there despite the best efforts of Jagger and the same polished backing band that played on the album. The title track, 'Wandering Spirit', was plodding and pedestrian. 'Put Me in the Trash' gave a glimmer of hope that things might pick up but the metal rendition of the soul classic 'Think' was a mess of jangling chords.

The show finished with Jagger pointlessly playing the harmonica for a couple of bars on 'Mother of a Man'. An encore of 'Rip This Joint' and 'Live with Me', from Get Yer Ya Yas Out, seemed hurried but the closing thrash version of 'Standing in the Shadows' was appealing.