Why the Rolling Stones’ ‘Brussels Affair’ Is Essential Listening
For the penultimate stop on the Rolling Stones' 1973 European tour, they staged a pair of loose, swaggering sets in Brussels. They'd already played around 40 dates — but as showcased on Brussels Affair, a rare live album bundled in the new deluxe edition of Goats Head Soup, their energy was still at a peak.
"Toward the end of [listening to] it, I wondered what the rest of the band were on because things were really starting to rock at a ferocious pace," guitarist Keith Richards recalled in a 2011 interview. "What's interesting about these bootlegs is the band don't know they're being recorded, so they don't give a shit, and they're playing what they're playing and you get a natural feel, you know?"
The LP documents the band at its scrappiest: Richards sounds like he's on the verge of blowing out his voice during Exile on Main St.'s "Happy," and frontman Mick Jagger is seemingly gasping for air on a brassy version of "Brown Sugar." Throughout, including then-recently issued songs like "Angie" and "Dancing With Mr. D," the Stones push forward with the relentless of a teenage garage band.
"We were hitting some very fast tempos," Richards noted in the 2011 interview. "Mick was doing an incredible job. It didn't faze him."
It's far from the Rolling Stones at their smoothest or most pristine, but the backing band — including keyboardist Billy Preston and a full horn section — offers a cinematic wrinkle to tracks like "Star Star" and "Street Fighting Man."
With the latest Goats Head Soup reissue, the show is finally available in a (somewhat) more accessible physical format. The album was first released digitally in 2011 through Google Play Music and the Rolling Stones Archive website, followed in 2012 by limited-edition vinyl box sets (which cost at least $750) and a 2015 Japanese CD.
Brussels Affair is included on Goats Head Soup's four-disc CD and vinyl box sets, along with rarities and alternate mixes. And if you trust Richards, the live set is essential listening. "I was impressed very much with the Brussels [show]," he said in 2011. "I've rarely heard the Stones that early on playing live and that well recorded."