Why the Rolling Stones remain music’s most electrifying show after six decades
On Sunday night, October 17, the Rolling Stones returned to LA’s massive new SoFi Stadium for the second of their two-night run in the City of Angels.
The Stones had just been to LA two years earlier, for a triumphant show at the Rose Bowl. It wouldn’t matter if they did a Billy Joel residency at Madison Square Garden in Los Angeles and played once a week.
One of the most remarkable things about the Stones, unprecedented for more than six decades at the absolute top of the live music food chain, is that every Stones show, regardless of when they performed , looks like an event of Super Bowl proportions.
Again, their last visit was a sold-out show just two years ago. And yet, the fervor surrounding these shows felt like it was their first reunion show in decades.
So what makes every Rolling Stones tour seem even larger than life? It would be an oversimplification to say now that it is the fact, that at their age, every tour feels like it could be the last.
The “Steel Wheels / Urban Jungle” tour, which ran from 1989 to 1990, and the “Voodoo Lounge” tour, from 1994 to 1995, became the highest grossing tour of all time at that time. So every Stones getaway over the past three decades and more has been part of the cultural zeitgeist that transcends music.
Nor is it that they are the last of an era. Equally important and great peers like the Who and Bob Dylan in music history tour just as regularly for smaller audiences and much less hype.
So, yes the Stones are legends, one of the greatest bands of all time. But other artists of similar stature and history who emerged from the ’60s also continue to tour and release new music on a regular basis. So it’s not as if the Stones are singularly unique in this regard.
So what is it? You can just watch my friends and I and our outlook on Sunday night to get a taste of what sets the Stones shows apart from almost every other musical event.
My first Stones gig was in 1981 at the LA Coliseum, the infamous night a young artist named Prince was booed from the stage as fans threw things at him. This time I went with two friends, one who had last seen the Stones in 1991 and the other who had never seen them.
Despite our different experiences, everyone felt the same electricity as the group kicked in. And just for the record, although I’m a huge fan, I never subscribed to The Stones as “the best rock and roll band in the world”. These are not my personal favorites. So I am not too biased to enter.
But when they come on the scene, whether you see them for the fiftieth time or the first time, it’s a palpable electricity. It starts with leader Mick Jagger, who, after his health scares a few years ago, is revitalized, reinvigorated and has more energy at 78 than an entire classroom full of kids six. years who jumped on a mix of triple espressos, Red Taureau and amphetamines.
I remember attending the two nights of the Rock And Roll Hall OF Fame twenty-fifth anniversary concerts in New York in 2009. Over the two evenings, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Lou Reed and others all played.
The final set of the second night, U2 brought in Jagger as a surprise guest during “Gimme Shelter”. There aren’t enough clichés in the world to describe the impact Jagger’s presence had on the crowd. In a building filled with music legends, the world’s greatest music legends, when he took the stage out of the blue, he would have measured 6.1 on the Richter scale in Zimbabwe. From the second he walked in he owned this scene,
Twelve years later, it is the same. Possessing a charisma that has only been matched in rock by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, Jagger is unmistakably on the Mount Rushmore of rock singers. And the excitement of seeing him command the stage is as compelling and powerful as it has ever been,
As great as Jagger is, like any of the iconic bands – Zeppelin, Beatles, The Who – the magic of the Stones is in the chemistry of unique personalities. This Sunday show, like everyone else on this tour, was dedicated to drummer Charlie Watts, who passed away just before this tour started. But while his absence was definitely making itself felt, there was, as it should be, a plethora of time allotted on the giant video screens to guitarists Ron Wood and Keith Richards.
The dynamic Jagger Richards over the years is of course famous, or infamous depending on the time. But they remain the perfect foils for each other. Jagger the accomplished showman and Richards the cooler-than-you rock star whose legendary stature as one of the greatest rock characters of all time came from his “I don’t care” behavior.
The Stones therefore have personalities. And then there are the songs. From the opening of “Street Fighting Man” to the finale “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, a Stones concert in 2021 is a walk through classic rock history.
Looking at the social media posts in the days following the show, it was remarkable how many people chose different songs as the best song ever. And the diversity of these selections. For some it was the astonishing ballad “Wild Horses”, a song so tenderly beautiful that it is almost impossible to imagine that it came from the same group that wrote the dark and hard-hitting “Sympathy For The” Devil “.
The two stood out that night, as did the song “Beast Of Burden”, the arsonist “Jumpin ‘Jack Flash”, the sinister “Paint It Black”, the blues “Midnight Rambler” and the merry “Start Me Standing.” “
For me, the centerpiece of this show, as it is with all Stones shows, is the incomparable “Gimme Shelter”, hands down one of the ten best songs in rock history. When “Gimme Shelter” is performed live, it is a fascinating, electrifying and intoxicating experience from which you cannot look away.
Then you could say that about every song from the Stones live. There is a swagger, an aura of invincibility that they possess on stage, which makes them different from any other musical performance. “The greatest rock and roll band in the world?” As always, it is up for debate. What is not debatable is that the Stones are the greatest rock showmen we have ever seen. And that’s why every tour feels like an unmissable event. Because it is.