According to Mick Jagger, the title for Bridges To Babylon “came from looking at the stage”. “Because it was going to be the name of the tour as well as the record – it all had to fit together. We were looking at the stage one day and trying to find where we were with it. What does this design say to us? I came up with the ‘Bridges’ idea and a friend of mine came up with the ‘Babylon’ thing. The bridge to the B-stage worked perfectly most nights, except when it was too cold or too hot, and then it had to be sort of manually got together. It was always my worry that it wasn’t gonna actually open.”
The Rolling Stones’ Bridges To Babylon tour was announced in a press conference held underneath the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, and began on 9 September 1997 with a warm up show in Toronto, Canada, followed by another at The Double Door in Chicago. The tour officially began on 23 September at Chicago’s Soldier Field, and was followed by 55 more shows in North America, nine shows in South America, six in Japan and 37 shows across Europe.
The production was designed by Mark Fisher, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger and Patrick Woodroffe, and opened with a circular central screen exploding with fireworks, from which guitarist Keith Richards emerged playing the riff to ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’.
This was the first tour on which the B-stage featured at almost every gig; the stage design included a 46m (150ft) long telescoping cantilever bridge that extended from the main stage to a B-stage in the centre of the stadiums. The only issue, according to Keith, was the fact that outdoor shows had the unpredictability of the weather to contend with:
“There’s another guy that joins the band on outdoor stages: God. Either he’s benign or he can come at you with wind from the wrong direction and the sound is swept out of the park. The weather normally comes good around show time… but not always.”
Keith also pointed out that, “The bigger shows are harder to play, even though that’s what we do most of the time, because we are so locked into lighting systems and computers: the more constructed you have to be, because of the size of the operation. When we play on the B-stage or at a club venue, for us it’s just like coming back home – sweating it up a bit.”
All in all this was another massive step forward in terms of the number of people who watched the Stones perform on the Bridges To Babylon tour: 4.8 million at 108 shows in 25 countries.
The tour concluded on 19 September 1998, in Istanbul, Turkey. Five shows were cancelled (in Marseilles, Paris, Lyon, Bilbao and Gijón), and five more were postponed (in Italy, Ireland and Great Britain).
Bridges To Babylon can be bought here.
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