The Rolling Stones are a musical institution. They are a band that has been together longer than I have been alive and I am 50! They have been shaping the musical landscape since the early sixties and influenced many artists along the way. They have spent the last two years celebrating their 50th Anniversary, touring Europe and the US on their ‘50 and Counting’ tour.
The current ‘14 On Fire’ tour was going to be my first ever 'Stones' experience and I was eager to see what these septuagenarians had to offer. Often lauded as one of the biggest bands of all time, I was keen to see if they could still live up to all the hype.
With news that the Hanging Rock concert had been cancelled due to Mick Jagger having a throat infection, we feared the Sydney concert was destined for the same fate. As a virus had affected most of the crew, we expected the worst. Fortunately for us Sydney-siders, the show went ahead but was Mick really well enough to give us his best? I need not have worried. Not only had Jagger, and the band, recovered but they were, literally, as the tour name suggests, "On Fire", and there was no cooling the flames.
The show ignited with "Jumping Jack Flash" and the seated, multi-generational crowd jumped to their feet with rapturous cheers and applause when their idols Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts took to the stage. They then fired into "It's Only Rock and Roll" and "Respectable", that electric charged energy setting the standard for the night. The camaraderie on stage was genuine and we were witnessing true legends in action. With over five decades to hone their skills, they were masters of their craft and didn't miss a beat.
For a group of men in their 70's, they played with more stamina and enthusiasm than bands I've seen half their age or younger. I waited for that energy to subside but it didn’t. They truly seemed to be enjoying themselves and the audience could sense it. You would not know that Mick had been ill only a few days earlier by the way he strutted and danced around the stage with his trademark moves, encouraging the audience to clap, sing and participate. That distinctive Jagger voice was in fine form and the music sounded crisp and clear; those familiar guitar riffs a treat for the ears.
Naturally, they played many of their hits but, with such a huge back catalogue, it must have been a difficult task to determine which material to actually play!
Keith Richards performed a trio of songs including ‘Before They Make Me Run’ and ‘Happy’ and, do you know what? The man has a great voice and grinned like a Cheshire cat most of the night. This was apparently his first three-song set since 2006 and he was loving it!
Something unique to each venue was an online vote where the audience were asked to select one song the band would play from a list that was broadcast on the big screens; showing that even 'The Stones' had embraced online media and taken advantage of audience participation in a modern way. ‘Sweet Virginia’ was Sydney's winning song and although Jagger said ‘It's been a while since we played this", it was brilliant and great to hear live!
They had a special guest guitarist in Mick Taylor who was a member of the band between 1969 and 1974; his superlative guitar skills adding an extra dimension to the show. The backup singers and musicians also added an element to the performance, making this a superb evening of entertainment that most of us will remember for a very long time.
Jagger announced he had over 100 ‘rellies’ in the audience; his connection to Sydney a close one as his mother was born here.
Classics like 'Tumbling Dice', ‘Paint it Black’, ‘Miss You’, ‘Honky Tonk Woman’, 'Gimme Shelter', ‘Start Me Up’ and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ made up the main set, which concluded with ‘Brown Sugar’.
The first song of the encore was ‘You Can't Always Get What You Want’ which was accompanied by the heavenly voices of the Sydney Philharmonic Choir. The evening ended on a high, with a song first released way back in 1965; a timeless piece and a hit synonymous with The Rolling Stones: ‘(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction’.
As we left the venue, I couldn't help but think what an amazing and diverse legacy of music they have presented to the world. It was easy to see why they are regarded as a phenomenon and have carved their place in the history books. They are not a band that rests on their laurels. They are constantly touring, writing, creating and deliver a live show that is simple yet spectacular. With three more dates left on this tour, it would be well worth the effort to get out and see them; you won’t be disappointed.
With no signs of slowing down, The Rolling Stones are definitely one band that proves you are never too old to rock 'n' roll and I can't wait to see what they do next!
by Paul Bartle