I saw the Rolling Stones for first time in 2015, and it was maybe the best show I’ve ever seen. Mindblowlingly good. I got to see them again this week. How was it? Honestly, not nearly as good. But still a great show.
Mick: Amazing. At 78, looks and moves like he is 50. Especially compared to Roger Daltrey who is just done, it’s amazing how good his singing is. It probably helps that his style was never to push the vocal limits, it was always about the phrasing, the groove, the style. And he plays a great guitar and an amazing harmonica!
Keith: Oh, this hurts. This hurts. I hope he was just mailing it in. I hope it was just an off night. Because if not, he has lost more than a half-step. On most songs it felt like he was going through the motions, and not particularly well. He woke up for Honky Tonk Women and his own material, but mostly might as well have stayed in the background. He flat out missed many riffs. Listen to this solo in Sympathy for The Devil below. The same riff repeated endlessly, a striking lack of confidence and creativity. The guitar tone was awful as well, enormous attack creating unpleasantness on many songs. The beginning of Start me Up was just… wrong.
Conversely, Ron Wood was marvelous. Every time he stepped up to do a solo, it was like a new concert. Blazing solos with touch, and feeling, and plenty of grit and balls. He was everything you’d expect and more. I just wish they’d let him talk, he’s got some great patter.
Steve Jordan: He gets an A in difficult circumstances. It’s not easy filling the shoes of such an amazing drummer as Charlie Watts (Number two on my list of “drummers I would get for my fantasy band”). If you played a recording of this show and compared it to Charlie, you’d be hard pressed to find much difference. That somewhat makes sense, since he’s been working with the band for 30+ years. The only off-note for me, the very distinctive beat of Satisfaction was changed for some reason.
Catalog/song choices/arrangements: One of the great things about these old bands (McCartney, The Who, Queen, etc.) is their catalogs are ridiculous. They could have played another thirty songs that everyone knows. They didn’t, they pulled out a few obscure ones, and that’s to the good. Each night they do one song that’s voted in. Our show featured She’s a Rainbow. Not in my top fifty, but I guess the Ted Lasso fans took over. I wish they had a few more non-hits from their grand slam of albums (Beggars Banquet, Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street), but it’s hard to complain too much. They threw in Let’s Spend the Night Together and Slipping Away, some of my faves. Miss You is a huge high point of the night, the extended breakdown is wonderful.
Here’s a plug for The Session. If you want to understand how songs are put together, listen to the 20 minutes on Honky Tonk Women.
The rest of the band was predictably amazing. They’ve been playing together a long time. A special shout out to Sasha Allen. Filling the shoes of Merry Clayton in Gimme Shelter is about the toughest job out there. But she was the latest of the Stones singers to rise to the occasion. She was dressed much like Tina Turner, from whom Mick Jagger stole most of his stage moves. (My video from last night was too big to load, this is from a couple months back.)
Opener: The Zac Brown Band was very competent in a genre I don’t care for. Their hit song Chicken Fried sounds like a parody of country music. I’m not exaggerating, I heard it on the radio and started laughing. The lyrics are literally one country music stereotype after another. That said, they are good performers. They unexpectedly covered Bohemian Rhapsody, and ya know what – it worked! Maybe I’m the jackass here.
Highlights: Tumbling Dice, Miss You, Gimme Shelter, Connection, Slipping Away, patter about Atlanta, Honky Tonk Women, Paint it Black, real time requests, Gimme Shelter, Sympathy for the Devil, shoutouts to Charlie, and also let’s not forget Gimme Shelter.
Lowlights: Let’s call them mediumlights, as there were no true lowlights. Shattered (still a boring song), She’s a Rainbow (still a Sgt. Pepper wannabe), and (ouch) mostly Keith.
Summary: There ain’t nothin’ like ‘em. The Stones are the Stones. I likely won’t ever see them again, but grateful I got to be there. I spent a lot of the next day in the basement, playing along to their greatest hits. It’s the Stones baby.