June 23, 2018
It seems very jaded to continually refer to the age of the Stones in a review but frankly it was quite inspirational the way these septuagenarians ran around the large stage bringing every classic song to life with their energy. Such is the contemporary nature of the performance that you can nearly forget, that in terms of curators of popular music over the last 50 years, they are a phenomen.
This concert at the home of England rugby union, Twickenham, was described as a homecoming. It is around these parts of west London that the Rolling Stones got their initial residences in the mid 1960’s at small venues and the rest, as they say, is history.
The 50,000 who turned up paying vast sums for Black Market tickets along with those who paid the face values of £90 ($120) were treated to a blistering two hours of songs encompassing their whole catalogue. The 19 song set kicked off in daylight with “Street Fighting Man” from their 1968 Beggars Banquet. Jagger strutted, Wood and Richards exchanged licks with smug sly glances between each other and Charlie Watts kept immaculate time with an upright posture that you could imagine a 1950’s midwife would adopt as she propelled her heavy bicycle to the next delivery. Stadium rock comes with giant screens and this is how you keep up with the action. Predictably the cameras concentrated on the original members and it took a slot where Jagger introduced the band to get images of the other stalwarts who in the case of Chuck Leavell (keys) and Darryl Jones (bass) have been in the band decades. In fact Ronnie does well to get the ‘original’ accreditation having only been in the band 43 years.
“It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll” followed and Richards resplendent in bandana, green shirt and matching shoes showed his chops with some guitar passages. Next was a track off Exile On Main Street, namely “Tumbling Dice”. Woods took most of the guitar responsibilities and unfortunately the comments that Woods was technically inferior to Mick Taylor always comes to mind when he plays these parts. Apparently Taylor left the Stones as the drug fuelled madness started to threaten his wellbeing. The large screens caught the subtle nod that Richards gave Watts to bring the song to a close. Inevitably Jagger was probably 50 metres away from the band at the front of the extended stage.
Jagger introduced the 1966 classic “Paint It Black” with the quip “A nice cheerful number for you!” And so the hits kept coming but also the blues. From the sublime 2016 Blue & Lonesome we got Jimmy Reed’s 1955 “Ride ‘Em Down” that just made me wonder how marvellous a Stones gig would be with them just playing the blues.
Into all lives a little rain must fall and in the case of a Stones gig it is where Jagger exits for a long costume stage and Richards gets to play a couple of songs. The crowd had loads of love for Keef but the boy could barely sing a few decades ago and his two numbers meandered by with an increasing level of chatter noise or people fetching that next drink. For all the missteps then in fact his first song, the 1969, “You Got The Silver” had some fabulous acoustic slide from Woods.
Normal service was resumed as Jagger ran back on stage and we continues through the decades. “Miss You” surprised me by being more than the faux disco number I had long discounted. Jones bass lines were thunderous and matched the party atmosphere of the crowd who leapt to their feet and gyrated with their plastic glasses aloft.
So on the last lap we ended with “Brown Sugar” after a memorable rock blues workout on “Midnight Rambler” with Woods truly unleashing some incendiary guitar. No one made a move for the exits because the encore was to come. In this case we finished with “Satisfaction” but special mention must go the the highlight of the penultimate song “Gimme Shelter”. With Sasha Allen taking on Merry Clayton’s heart rendering and soul drenched vocals. The lady sang her heart out in front of Civil Rights graphics whilst Jagger cavorted around her.
A few bows and they were gone. This is my third Stones concert (1983 and 1995) and time doesn’t diminish the pleasure in terms of the spectacle or hearing the catalogue. Let’s not have any debate: they are still the world’s greatest rock ‘n roll band.