Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Start Me Up! Rolling Stones 50 Years and Counting
The Rolling Stones blasted into town in mid-December as part of their 5-concert 50th Anniversary Gorilla tour. After two gigs in London just after Thanksgiving, they sang two songs at the 12-12-12 event at Madison Square Garden and then did one full show at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn followed by two shows at Prudential Center in Newark. Lucky Jean and her hubby scored two nosebleed seats at the 12/13/12 Prudential Center show and she's still raving about it. Jean says: If you're not a Stones fan, you can stop reading now. And if you are a fan, please indulge me as I gush uncontrollably about the best Stones concert I've ever attended. Ever. Hands down!
Here I am outside the center, barely able to contain my glee, in front of one of the many Official Merch stands which were doing a booming business. I was sporting my black nail polish in goth homage to "Keef"!
This huge banner greeted us as we entered the lobby of the Prudential Center (home of the New Jersey Devils hocky team - currently on strike with the rest of the NHL) as fake snow wafted down on the crowds from above.
I have a special affinity for the Prudential Center. On October 15, 2008, when I was on my way from the PATH station to a business meeting in Newark, I witnessed Nik Wallenda (of the famous Flying Wallendas who walked across Niagara Falls on June15, 2012) ride a bicycle on a high wire connecting Prudential Center (where the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was appearing) to a nearby crane. Having been in Puerto Rico several decades ago when his grandfather made his fatal attempt to cross the Condado, my heart is always in my throat whenever I watch tightope walkers perform. Not only did he make it, Nik broke the Guinness World Record for longest distance (235 feet -- uphill) and greatest height (135 feet in the air)! But, I digress...
Here we are just before we joined the crowd funneling into the venue. Needless to say, this was one of the few places where we were decidedly NOT the oldest people in the room. The joint was packed with lots of silver-haired sexagenarians and septuagenarians. And no, I didn't wear a hat. (One never wants to interfere with any rabid fan's view of his or her favorite Stone.)
Big lips and a stuck out tongue are the iconic Stones logo, which morph over time. This image on the big screen of these animated big pink python-skin lips and tongue was truly unique.
Before the show began, they projected several stars and celebrities like Johnny Depp talking about the Stones' reaching the big half-centry mark. Iggy Pop, one of my all-time favorites, made several appearances on the video. He's living the good life in Florida these days. Nice to see it hasn't mellowed the Iggster any.
When Pete Townshend appeared on screen, everyone in the place roared! The Who looked and sounded swell at the 12-12-12 concert at MSG. The crowd at Prudential Center was starting to get a little restless. It was 8:45 PM and the show was supposed to start at 8 PM. (Yeah, right.)
We were seated stage left, overlooking the tongue-shaped stage. You can see the bright red top lip and just glimpse the white front teeth beneath it centered over the main stage. One of the signs as we entered PRU Center directed those with floor-level standing room in the "tongue pit" to use certain doors to access that area.
At 9 PM, the place was packed, the arena went dark and as the lights gradually came up, about 100 drummers clad all in black wearing gorilla masks streamed in single file on the floor level from both sides of the stage, pounding jungle drums in unison in what sounded vaguely like the starting riff from "Sympathy for the Devil", but wasn't. They circled the tongue-shaped stage and even pounded on the metal railings. The sound got louder and louder and louder. Suddenly, they turned and filed out, still drumming. It was mesmerizing.
Then the opening cords of Get Off of My Cloud rang out, the Stones took the stage and the crowd erupted.
Mick sounded great and was "in" it right out of the box. Pianist and keyboardist extraordinaire Chuck Leavell, who appears to the left of Mick, was simply superb. A member of the Allman Brothers Band back in the 1970s, Chuck has played with the Stones for years, but also has played and recorded with Eric Clapton, John Mayer, George Harrison and Govt. Mule.
The Stones sang "The Last Time", followed by "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)". The entire area vibrated and everyone stood up through the next two songs: "Paint It Black" and "Gimme Shelter".
The crowd took their seats as John Mayer joined the band for a great rendition of "Respectable". He came out, played the heck out of his guitar, took a simple bow and left the stage.
They were all in amazing form. Ronnie was so psyched. Even Keith took several turns around the circular tongue out into the audience. "Keef" did two solos while Mick left the stage to change costumes and return with Mick Taylor. In his first solo number, Keith sang "Before They Make Me Run". His voice was spot on and his playing was awesome. He is a force of nature.
Ronnie was literally bouncing up and down on his stool as he played the guitar on the stand.
For his second solo number, when Keith did "Happy", he owned that arena, and he knew it.
Mick Taylor flew in from London to sit in for one song -- "Midnight Rambler". My California friend David Russell said he did the same thing when he saw them appear last month in London. (Hate him!)
Ronnie, Mick and Keith were definitely at their best fighting weight. Lithe as greyhounds, each one of them moved around the stage effortlessly, as they played and sang beautifully. The precision was astounding. No missed cues, no false notes.
One of the highlights of the evening came when Mick announced that they were singing "Around and Around" as the result of some fan call-in contest to choose a song for them to sing. Monsieur Russell informs me that this was the first time they've performed it in public since El Mocambo on March 5, 1977! Wild. While they played, black & white photos of Hank Williams, BB King, and the images of lots of well known and lesser known blues guitarists flashed on the screen, to the delight of the audience.
Ronnie Wood was in rare form. He and Keith were totally in sync. It was beyond entertaining to just sit back and watch them play together.
Here's Mick tossing off his black coq feathered cape as he gets going in "Sympathy for the Devil". Did I mention the lighting? The color saturation was incredible. It was as if the air itself were infused with color too. Blue, yellow, green, red, stark white.
Mick picked up the guitar and played for two songs and acquitted himself quite well. It is no small feat keeping up with Keith and Ronnie.
In "Jumpin' Jack Flash", they brought down the house. Everyone was on their feet, singing along at the tops of their lungs.
Mick sang and danced his a** off. Everyone brought their "A" game.
Ronnie and Keith played off each other, feeding the frenzy.
Thick as thieves.
It was the most flawless and at the same type the most energetic concert of theirs I've ever seen. They moved like teenagers full tilt for about 2 1/2 hours! I remember actually thinking to myself half-way through: If I suddenly keel over and konk, I would die totally happy. They ended the night with "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". It brought back vivid memories of dancing barefoot in a circle with about a dozen of my girlfriends from high school in the Pier Ballroom on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland in the summer of 1966, singing this song at the top of our lungs. Utter perfection.
Here's the play list:
Get Off of My Cloud
The Last Time
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)
Paint It Black
Respectable with John Mayer
Around & Around (first since El Mocambo March 5, 1977)
Doom and Gloom
One More Shot
Honky Tonky Women
Before They Make Me Run (Keith)
Midnight Rambler with Mick Taylor
Start Me Up
Sympathy For The Devil
You Can't Always Get What You Want with The Choir of Trinity Wall Street
Jumpin' Jack Flash
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
P.S. Our Canadian friend Shelly Long aka The Forest City Fashionista was so taken by this posting, it inspired her own "take' on the whole Rolling Stones experience. Check out her 12/28 blog post:
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And we have to give a special thanks to MICHELLE ROCK, who joined in our silliness and signed up as follower number 555! And we have to give an equally special thank you to SUSAN, who signed up as 554, opening the way for 555.