I may not be the Rolling Stones’ biggest fan, but when a good friend of mine gave me a call offering me a free ticket to see the Stones at the Wachovia center, I damn sure said, “Give it here!” Having never seen the Stones live before, I didn’t know what to expect. One hell of a performance and decibels upon ear-drum damaging decibels later, I must say that the Stones arguably do live up to their reputation as the greatest rock and roll band in the world.
First of all, our seats rocked. Section 115, row 10, we were about thirty feet from the left edge of the stage. Two walkways jutted out from the main stage on our side so that a strutting Mick Jagger or shambling Keith Richards could literally come within feet of the audience, and they did. It was pretty cool, but enough about the seats, on to the Stones.
The Stones are thinner and older than you would think possible. My theory is that heroin, in addition to being the greatest pain killer known to man, is also a preservative. Either that or the Rolling Stones have crossed over into undeath and are now mummies without wrappings. Seriously, I know it’s a tired joke that’s it’s a scientific mystery how Keith Richards is still walking and talking, but I’ve got to say, after seeing him in person, I wonder myself. Screw Atkins, I’m going on the Keith Richards diet: cigarette smoke, a secret mixture of heroin and cocaine, and unintentionally inhaled glitter from my many frilly scarves and headbands.
The good news is that, despite their corpse-likeness, the Stones put on a rock show as good as any you are going to see. Maybe Mick wasn’t quite as frenetic as he was twenty or thirty years ago, but he did not disappoint. He worked the entire stage and the entire audience, taking only a short break to let Richards sing a couple of songs. Richards’ and Ron Wood’s guitar playing was decent, if a little sloppy. Charlie Watts, the oldest looking Stone, did his job as well. But this show wasn’t really about individual performances.
Sometimes I forget how many truly great songs the Stones created. There are very few acts that can boast a litany of classics like the Stones, and even fewer who are actively touring. The first highlight of the show was You Can’t Always Get What You Want in which the crowd participated as much as any of the band. Soon after, they broke into an excellent cover of The Right Time by Ray Charles that had the entire stadium screaming. Finishing up the show, they played Sympathy for the Devil, Paint It Black, Honkey Tonk Women, Brown Sugar and, my personal favorite of the night, a ripping version of Jumping Jack Flash.
Most of the bands I’ve seen live in concert considered themselves successful if they broke even on their last tour. I’d never seen a bona fide rock anthem performed live by the original artist before experiencing the Stones perform hit after hit last night in South Philly. I was almost embarrassed at how much I sang along.
The songs and the performances were great, but what I’ll remember most about the show was how much positive energy the Stones were able to create, and how much each of them clearly loved doing it. Even while performing such dark classics as Sympathy for the Devil and Paint it Black, love was in the air. The fans loved the Stones, the Stones loved being on stage, and we all loved the music. Mick Jagger and company get to live that magic year in year out, lucky bastards. I consider myself lucky for having been given a free pass to experience it for just one night.
Heck, maybe the next time they tour, I’ll actually buy a ticket.