These days, you know what you’re getting when you go to a Rolling Stones concert. Never the most improvisational live act in the first place, the Stones have now aged to a point where their concerts are meticulously planned out beforehand, largely by Mick Jagger. You’ll almost assuredly hear ‘Gimme Shelter’ and ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, and if you don’t hear ‘Satisfaction’, you can probably legally get your money back.
To be fair, the English rockers have been doing this for 60 years and counting. In that time, they’ve had their periods where deep cuts and hidden gems were trotted out for live performances. If you want to see how the Stones handle songs like ‘Loving Cup’ or ‘2000 Light Years From Home’, then YouTube is home to plenty of clips of the Stones at varying ages reviving mostly-ignored buried classics.
One clip that you won’t find online is video footage of the Stones playing ‘Ventilator Blues’, the grimey Exile on Main Street cut. That’s because the Stones only took on the song live one time – at the opening show of their 1972 tour in support of Exile at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Columbia.
That show saw the Stones debut a number of songs from the month-old Exile album, including all-time classics like ‘Tumbling Dice’, ‘Rocks Off’ and ‘Happy’ along with beloved tracks like ‘Rip This Joint’, ‘Torn and Frayed’, ‘Sweet Virginia’, and ‘All Down the Line’. While those songs saw additional plays, ‘Ventilator Blues’ was quickly dropped from the setlist. According to Charlie Watts, the Stones continued to toss around ‘Ventilator Blues’ at soundchecks, but the song never again saw a proper live performance.
We always rehearse ‘Ventilator Blues’ [for tours]. It’s a great track, but we never play it as well as the original,” Watts recalled in According to the Rolling Stones. “Something will not be quite right; either Keith will play it a bit differently or I’ll do it wrong. It’s a fabulous number, but a bit of a tricky one.”
Listen to the audio of the one and only live performance of ‘Ventilator Blues’ down below.