The Rolling Stones visited Soldier Field last night. 63,000 showed up to welcome them. Someone remarked that they had been together for 55 years..crazy!
Actually, based on the details I read off the back of a worn tour shirt two rows down in front of me, they have been making music for 57 years.
It is not surprising that they are here, despite their frenetic flight path. The secret is, they make good music. Music that lasts and spans generations of fans.
I know this by their choice of “support” band that played for 40 minutes before the Stones. The warm up band, which will remain anonymous, came from a different generation.
Brought up from Texas, they are labeled as a southern rock band. They served up about 8 songs which were excruciating. Loud, atonal, angry, scowling and screeching, viciously hammering their guitars, they daisy-cut the audience. Not that the audience mattered, because they never noticed we were there. Even their soft song was strident and angry. When they strode off the stage the applause was one of acknowledgement of the effort, and thanks…for getting off the stage.
But back to the Stones. Lest we forget, they have been an item since 1962, so they are audience-tested, and found worthy. Last night they packaged the evening with a controlled energy that never quit.
They played for two hours, delivering 25 songs. The sound system was the same as the warm up band, but the product was superbly better, which might be the genius of the Stones. They showed us how good rock and roll can be, with considerably less effort and volumes more goodwill.
The music was real music: recognizable melodies obviously, but prepared so elegantly.
Keith Richards subtly picked his iconic riffs without raising a sweat. Ronnie Woods rippled across the frets, and smiled to the audience like a proud chef building a plate. Charlie Watts at the age of 78 worked the drums for two straight hours without pause. You would expect he had forearms like Popeye, but no, he is a smaller, diminuitive man who executes with precision and focus, but not brute force.
And of course, Sir Mick danced across all of our heads smiling, exhorting, cheering us and the band on. We were his pets for the evening. It’s amazing what a heart valve tune-up can do for the soul.
It’s every rocker’s wish that the Stones will keep on delivering. Maybe for the concerts, the community, the culture, but mostly because they have continued to produce good, clever, memorable music–a formidable and treasured body of work over 57 years. It’s loud, but not abusive, rhythmic but not staccato, well played, and best of all, you can sing along, which we all did.