By ELI JACE >
The Rolling Stones in the desert again.
Growing up my house had a constant shuffle of rock and roll classics playing. My father, mother and I all have our Venn diagram of favorites. My dad and I love Pink Floyd, John Mellencamp, Neil Young. My mother not so much. My mom and I love David Bowie, Prince, Talking Heads. My dad might make a face. Led Zeppelin shifted my life, but they never had the patience.
The one band we’ve always been able to agree on, though, is The Rolling Stones. They’ve been the musical anchor, the baseline of understanding for family. Mick, Keith, Ronnie, Charlie, Daryl, Bernard, Chuck, are like an extension of that family. So when the Stones announced their 2019 No Filter North American Tour, and Arizona was on the itinerary, my mother, master of ceremonies, scooped up three tickets on the floor, economic future be damned.
Originally scheduled for May, the Arizona date, along with the entire tour had to be postponed for Mick Jagger’s impending surgery to replace a heart valve.
Deep breath. A mere six weeks later, new dates were set and the recovering patient and his cohorts were set to hit Arizona in late August, a brutal time for non-dwellers, much less a couple of geriatrics from London. Proof that the coolest rock and roll band of all time has only gotten stronger with age.
“It’s 120 [degrees] on the tarmac,” Wood said on his Instagram, “We’ve just arrived in Arizona.” One saving grace of this show being rescheduled in August was that State Farm Stadium has a closeable rooftop. The AC was pumping beautifully early on, until for some asinine reason, the roof opened right before showtime letting the day’s heat just fall right in. In addition to being a complete clusterfuck trying to find your seats, the venue was not prepared for the crowd.
This was the Stones’ first show in Arizona in over a decade and they played just as many songs.
Rock and roll may be big business for them now, but there is no denying the pure joy emanating back and forth from the stage. Jagger, still, post-heart surgery, at 76, is the antithesis of a frontman. No one comes close, and long as he’s breathing on this earth he will prove that with all the might of a carpenter ant lifting 20x its weight. Jagger made use of every inch of the stage, left to right, and down the constructed catwalk starting from the lightning bolt opener, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
It’s absolutely astounding. There he is, in tight black pants and black tee, just as he was on the Steel Wheels tours 30 years ago. It’s one thing to play a stadium show of hits for the fans; it’s another fucking level to continuously maintain the energetic output and entertainment value of the past half-century. You cannot find any difference in the moves by Jagger between 1969 and 2019. Tom Jones, Roger Daltrey, Steven Tyler still lay it all out on the stage, but they are nowhere near tapping the energy of their heyday. Jagger, and the whole band, are legends, not only of rock and roll, but of gracefully allowing age in.
Ron Wood leapt around on stage like a teenager who just discovered power chords.
He jumped-kicked and squatted into full-on guitar god stance, rocking to and fro like some insect seconds before an attack. Wood always had a big grin on his face. His graciousness and excitement hurled from the stage. He was on a trip, and how could you not be, when, still inside you’re just a boy from the London Borough of Hillingdon playing guitar for screaming, crying, out of breath fans in a monstrous metal dome in the American desert in a state called Arizona?
After Jagger introduced the band, Richards took over the mic for, “You Got the Silver” from Let It Bleed and “Before They Make Me Run” off Some Girls. Hearing the 75-year-old sing, “I gotta walk before they make me run,” was soberly motivational. Keith played guitar like a drunk child, ecstatic and proud to be on two feet. Richards moved the most carefully of the group, but still stepped into every iconic stabbing riff.
The main foursome, Jagger, Richards, Woods and Watts sauntered down the catwalk, each in deep single shades of silk cloth, for a miniset above the floor crowd.
This has been a staple of their shows for at least the past two decades. It brings them that much closer to the adoring crowd. Armed with acoustic guitars, Wood and Richards eased into two classics, “Sweet Virginia” followed by “Dead Flowers.”
Charlie Watts held it down all night, keeping the engine running while “Midnight Rambler” churned down to a slow palpitation. Whenever Watts appeared on one of four giganto screens his lips curled into a big smile, his eyes closing bashfully.
While their setlists on this tour have been about 60% identical, what’s really a joy are the songs that differ state to state.
Arizona fans were treated to one of their first hits, “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” followed by the opener from an album two decades later, “Sad Sad Sad” off Steel Wheels. Jagger played the guitar like he was chopping wood. The song, from the ‘80s, still shreds.
The vote song was the way-back classic, “Get Off of My Cloud,” from 1965, now reconfigured as an old man punk vamp that could’ve been recorded during Some Girls. Later in the set was the very state-appropriate song, “Paint It Black.” Jagger swiped through the heat that had settled singing, “I wanna see the sun / blotted out from the sky.” Richards’ and Wood’s jangly chords tangled with each other like electric sitars while Watts pounded the snare until the crowd went dizzy.
And of course they played the hits.
“Miss You” broke down into a lurid disco trot with Daryl plucking up and down on the bass. “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Satisfaction,” all the classic raucous anthems erupted. “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Gimme Shelter,” continue to find relevance in the current day; the latter being the most ironic performance for this tour.
The Rolling Stones No Filter Tour, the group’s 47th traveling affair, was forced to reschedule twice due to two different hurricanes developing in the Atlantic. They were caught in it, but continued on. When the rain fell Jagger just spun faster, Keith hammered on, Ronnie yelled louder and Charlie pounded harder. It’s already etched in history, but the Rolling Stones keep proving they are the greatest band of all.