If you ever told me I’d be part of an audience in Brooklyn, New York, blocks away from the place of my birth (402 Ocean Parkway ), rocking out and bringing the house down watching the Rolling Stones celebrate their 50th anniversary, I would’ve have bet against it, said highly unlikely, if not declaring the idea an outright fantasy.
Or if you’d suggested that with thousands of other hard-core fans, I’d find it easy to get to this show, grab a subway from Union Square in Manhattan, (no tail gating in the lot this time!) exit the train station, go up a few steps and be blown away by one of the planets’ great new venues….Barclays Centre…in my old neighborhood, that would’ve seemed a remote possibility too, but it happened too.
The show the Stones put on Saturday night, December 8th, 2012 was one of the greatest rock events I’ve ever witnessed and been a part of and I’ve been to many. Not because it was filled with dramatic visuals, or over the top explosions, or scantily dressed blow up dolls that undulate or even sentimental indulgences about 50 years of music, no, none of that at all. The anniversary was mentioned twice only and briefly at that. Rather, the night was amazing because it was stripped down, spare, bluesy, perfectly executed, heart-felt rock and roll by the guys who do it best.
With about 18 thousand other people I experienced what many thought was a just a lark by the Stones – an indulgence, they were just too old to rock and why were they doing this anyway, they didn’t need the money.
Some thought the band felt they something to prove and well, they did. Once again the Rolling Stones demonstrated how they earned and retained their title as the “world’s greatest rock band”. Indisputably I would argue!
The star of the show was without doubt the music that Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ron (and the spirit of Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor too, and current support by Chuck Leavell and Darryl Jones) have created, the incredible body of work that exists, the genius of it that for me, still sets the standard for the rock and roll we hear today.
One hit after another, yes it was! And one great song after another, everyone up on their feet for hours! And when you thought the ecstasy could not get better, Mick and Mary J. Blige on Gimme Shelter shocked the audience because the walls didn’t melt during their duo, its’ power was so primal and urgent. And how about Mick’s harmonica solo on Midnight Rambler; or when Keith was introduced and the thunderous applause and shrieking wouldn’t stop for 5 minutes and he seemed modest and slipped back to his comfort zone, holding his axe near Ron.
Mick is lean, sinewy, muscular and with oh, zero percent body fat. All the Stones are fighting fit. Charlie elegant and erect posture on drums – a cool cat; Ron and Keith in a duet in their own world; and Mick well, words don’t do him justice. A force of nature, you can’t take your eyes away from him.
I had a front row seat, the ramp the band members ran around , in front of my eyes literally. I took nearly 300 pictures and maybe only maybe, 10 came out because this band doesn’t hold still. They are whirling dervishes, and none more than Mick. Timeless. Fifty is just a number.
From my $5 Stones ticket in 1965 to this one, which I’m too embarrassed to discuss the cost, I’ve never been disappointed in their shows…. only excited and satisfied. I’m so grateful that they’ve been part of my life, all our lives, it’s so clichéd, I admit. I’m even in for the pay per view when it comes around, wanting more. ..or as the audience said in unison with the band as the lights went up on cue, “I know it’s only rock and roll but I like it! ” Make that love it.