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Remembering The Rolling Stones’ Bridges To Babylon Tour

The Bridges to Babylon Tour was another huge jaunt for The rolling Stones, starting in Chicago, in September 1997, and ending a year later in Istanbul.

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The Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon

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.

Bridges To Babylon Oslo tour posterThe 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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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Kevin Gilsenan

    September 21, 2016 at 3:19 am

    Was at the show in New Mexico, University of New Mexico Stadium. Drove from Denver, Colorado to see this tour. I’ve seen the band 18 times and will keep going as long as the band goes on. First time for me was 1978 In Philadelphia. Drove from Staten Island, New York to be there. New York, Toronto, Kansas City, Denver, New Mexico, Las Vegas traveling to see the Stones. Lucky me as I’m going to the next Vegas show. Can’t wait… it’s Only Rock n Roll but we need it!!!

  2. Shelton Jones

    September 21, 2016 at 4:06 am

    Thinking I’d never manage to have the money or time to facilitate seeing them again, lo and behold– it all came together at the last minute –caught them at Dodger’s Stadium– sat behind Ed McMahon and Tom Arnold (and thousands of others, but hey!). The B stage was the great surprise, and highlight–made this old fan wish they did the whole show like that. Did not disappoint!

  3. Flynn Welles

    September 21, 2016 at 5:36 am

    I believe I went to 34 shows in the USA and 14 in Europe. I finally got them to play LOVE IS STRONG in Munich and again in Istanbul. I jumped on the train in Athens w/out a rail ticket for Istanbul, because my Rail Pass did not include Turkey. So I prayed to the Gods and was able to pay on the train. It was worth it, I got LOVE IS STRONG played again at that last show on the BRIDGES TOUR:) Flynn. aka / STONESBABE, LIS@MM

  4. Douglas Ellis

    September 21, 2016 at 6:13 am

    Went to the UK Wembley Stadium gig which was the final concert ever played before Wembley Stadium was demolished and re-built.Had no idea about the secondary stage or the mechanical footbridge extending from the main stage , but suddenly found myself 50 feet away from the band performing on the mini stage. Thought I might nevr have the chance to see the Stones live again, but have seen them 3 times in the last few years at Abu Dhabi, Lisbon and summer in Hyde Park. Waiting for my lottery ticket to come up trumps so I go to sold out LA next month !

  5. Tony Hagman

    September 21, 2016 at 6:28 am

    saw you in Gothenburg, unfortunately my t -shirt from the show was stolen at Stockholm Central Station, a few years later !

  6. sergey

    September 22, 2016 at 5:15 am

    I was in Moskow 11 aug. 1998 the first time in life!

  7. Ren Rodriguez

    September 22, 2016 at 5:37 am

    I caught this tour in Chicago and then in Honolulu. I just caught the Stones in Mexico City this past March and they still ROCK

  8. Gis Bun

    September 30, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Where’s the Blu-ray release?

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