Photos & Review by Matt Louderback
If you’ve decided not to see the Rolling Stones on tour this year, please, listen up and listen good… you’re making a big mistake!
The band that invented rock ‘n’ roll nearly sixty years ago is not simply still out on the road, they are putting on without a doubt the greatest show in music today.
The sheer scale is awe inspiring! The band invests heavily in production, and it shows, in every way. The stage is nearly the size of a football field, backed by a series of four towering high-definition screens that alternate between live shots of the band and custom content that creates a perfect complement to the music.
Notably missing, of course, is the Wembley Whammer, Charlie Watts. The show begins with a touching tribute to Charlie, and the towering screens above the stage fill with images of one of rock and rolls greatest drummers. Notably, the footage is not of flashy intricate drum solos, but of Charlie in his familiar and essential role as the heartbeat of the band. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood came together at center stage following the second song to honor Charlie and to dedicate the show and the tour to his memory, and then later in the show Jagger shares with the audience that Charlie had told them that the show must go on… and so it did.
A phenomenal cast of supporting musicians accompany the Stones on stage and help to keep their sound as rich and vibrant as ever. The backing vocals of Sasha Allen are soulful and soaring, Karl Denson is funky and lively on the sax, Steve Jordan does an admiral job of filling in for Charlie Watts on drums, and Darryl Jones is instrumental both in anchoring the band in their blues-rock roots and an absolute joy to watch engaging with the Stones on stage. Musical director and Georgia musical legend Chuck Leavell provides the sweet southern soul on the ivories.
Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards both clearly know their rolls, and they are phenomenal! Contributing searing guitar licks and explosive solos, both were lively and dynamic, and best of all were clearly having fun. Wood’s solo during “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was a standout moment, and his performance on the slide guitar during “Let It Bleed” was a real treat! Richard’s seems to embody a touch of the mystical, moving about the stage engaging with the other musicians, leaning into a number of tremendous solos, and throughout the evening showing what felt like a brotherly affection and a definite appreciation for Jagger and his ceaseless antics. During Jagger’s short break, Richard’s was playful and engaging with the audience on lead vocals during “Before They Make Me Run” and during “Slipping Away” was nothing short of soulful.
Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood have a confident casual presence, even on an arena stage, sauntering ambling rock gods, they create the perfect counterbalance to the full throttle non-stop performance delivered by Jagger.
Front and center for nearly the entire show, somehow everywhere all at once, Jagger is the quintessential front man. He is a born performer blessed with the rare combination of natural talent, an unrivaled work ethic, and a passion that is mesmerizing. To say he moves well for his age would be as unfair as it is ridiculous… precious few people at any age, even in their prime, have the endurance or agility displayed by Jagger at 78 years old! His command of the stage is as unique as it is complete, he moves like a jungle cat, struts like a peacock, and is in a word transcendent! If it were revealed tomorrow that Jagger is something more than human, I would not be at all surprised.
It is hard to imagine the Stones embarking on another tour after this one but, at the same time, it may be even harder to imagine them choosing to stop while they still draw breath.