Photo: Roland Feria
Photo: Roland Feria
The design featured huge triangle shaped petals that were closed at the beginning of the show and would slowly open during the opening number 'Honky Tonk Women'. As they opened, Mick Jagger would be towards the top of the center petal peaking over into the audience as it lowered down revealing the band.
It should be noted that the Stones 1976 Europe tour featured a re-floored stage that was much less intricate and had a maze-like pattern on it. It also did not have the neon lighting running inside the outer edges and instead had yellow and blue lightbulbs along the outer edges. (see photos here 1, 2, 3).
Here is the blueprint for the hydraulic equipped stage:
The show was lit by Broadway veteran Jules Fisher who had designed stages for David Bowie and would go on to design stages for Kiss (see post here). Interviewed on the beggining of the tour Jules Fischer told Rolling Stone magazine "Wait till you see the Madison Square Garden show, It'll be decorated like a garden: hundreds of leaves on cables leading to the stage and the petals of the stage will be closed to resemble a tree trunk. The petals will open to show the band and Mick will rise on an elevator and we'll project flying eagles all over the audience.(see photo here) The leaves, ten-foot leaves will rise on hydraulic pistons and there'll be neon rimming on the stage. It'll be beautiful."(RS Issue 191) According to Dave Marsh in Rolling Stone, the 350 ten-foot leaves made of white gauze with silver foil trim removed from the ceiling of Madison Square Garden before the show because they were considered ineffective and too much of a temptation to the hands of the audience. (Reference)
As seen in the lighting plot above, the lighting rig was circular in shape which was very cutting edge at the time and featured a mix of Par 64 and Par 36 cans as can be seen in the photo below. It also featured super trooper spotlights on either side of the stage at 45 degree angles towards the back of the arenas. *These same lights had been used on the 1972 stage where they were used very effectively in a effect designed by Chip Monk. They were on stage behind the band pointed up towards the ceiling and would bounce off a huge mirror that was over the stage. (See photos here 1 2 and video)
Below is a photo taken at the Madison Square Garden show just before showtime. You will notice the blue "christmas" lights strung out over the crowd from the lighting rig, and the cluster of lights prominent in the photo that were projecting the eagles that Fischer had mentioned. You can also see in the front rows around the stage, the steel drummers and calypso band hired for the show. They would play before the intro of "Fanfare for the Common Man" signaled the start of the show.
The footage below taken from the Los Angeles Forum show on July 7th is interesting as the penis has been transformed into a middle finger complete with nail and and knuckle markings.
At the climax of the shows during Jumping Jack Flash, Jagger would bring out a dragon head that had an inflatable tongues that would lap at the audience in the front row and would spew confetti into the air.
It can be seen in action at the 4:00 minute mark of the following video:
The shows in MSG and LA ended with Sympathy for the Devil with the steel drummers and dancers circling the stages as the petals closed around the band ending what was for many Stones fans, the ultimate concert and tour.
At the 7:12 mark in the below video, you can see Mick Jagger re-enter the stage via the elevator located in front of Charlie Watts drum platform, the same hole in which the phallus and the dragon come out of.
You can click here for a 30 minute audio interview with Mick Jagger from June 11, 1975 where Mick discusses the stage design.
For anyone intersted in doing further research, I would recommend tracking down the 1978 book The Rolling Stones On Tour by Sykes, Liebovitz, and Southern, a lot of the images used in this post were taken from that book. For those with some extra cash on hand, Genesis publications produced a deluxe leather bound book The Rolling Stones Tour of the America's 75, by Sykes, Rudge, and Jagger for a cool $700.
Special thanks to the people on IORR.org that helped with me with this piece, especially Roland Feria, and Richard Galbraith.