Donned “The Greatest Rock and Roll Band of All Time,” The Rolling Stones did nothing but prove that correct with original members Mick Jagger, 71, Keith Richards, 71, Charlie Watt, 73, and Ron Wood, 67, performing nothing short of a magnificent show this past Saturday at Heinz field, Pittsburgh.
After a torrential downpour amongst the tailgate parties prior to the show, the rain stopped just in time for the crowd to file in and appreciate the black and gold stage set-up on the Steelers’ home turf. This is the first Stones show in a decade in Pittsburgh, and the eighth in the line-up of their “Zip Code” tour.
Without having a new album to promote, the Stones timed this exclusive tour with the recent reissue of their 1971’s Sticky Fingers album. Homage was given to Burgh native Andy Warhol who designed the memorable zipper-clad album cover, and rumor had it Ron Wood was at the Andy Warhol museum the night before where the original artwork for the cover is on display.
Exploding into the night with the ripping riff of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” we all knew we were in for an exceptional evening. Although some soaked and some damp, while others dry and fully clad in ponchos, the crowd received the Stones with amazing grace and awe as Mick finger-wagged and shimmied across the stage like it was 1968, just with some (okay, A LOT) wrinkles.
Ron Wood and Keith Richards are amongst two of the most seasoned and partnered guitar players in the rock and roll world, and watching them dance with their strings while sharing smiles and just as equal respect for one another was an absolute highlight of the evening. Their teaming duel on the bluesy, and one of my personal favorites, “Midnight Rambler” proved that these two aren’t stopping any day soon and Keef’s tele still held that indicative sound we grew up to know and love. The sound wasn’t necessarily the best for the field with some equalizing issues, but overall did it best to please the crowd in the 65,500 seat stadium.
Giving Mick a break on vocals, Keef, the unparalleled rock god, hit the mic solo for a raspy “Happy” and “Before They Made Me Run,” in which Ron pulled lap steel guitar duty, and perfectly so. Charlie Watt, the precise and always dapper drummer, shared some spotlight of the evening with his eagerly present yellow and black socks to show his support of the Steel City’s colors. Mick was dressed in his ever-eye catching sparkling blue shirt and black pants that hugged his wiry body in ways people half his age wish they could.
This is the first time I have seen the Stones, and therefore walked in without expectation due to the obvious day in age. However, amongst the “older” acts I have seen in my day, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul, the Stones by far proved there was nothing lacking in energy with these men. Mick pranced, danced, and strutted across that stage like he was 25 years old, putting shame to many of the bands I have seen that are two decades his youth. Sure, his voice may not sound like it did 50 years ago, but the high notes were hit in such songs like “Moonlight Mile,” and still touching on “Exile on Main Street.”
Sax players Karl Denson and Tim Ries provided the sultry accents in the song “Bitch” while bassist Darryl Jones laid down an unexpected yet eccentric solo during “Sympathy for the Devil.” Lisa Fischer stood ground soulfully with her vocals on “Gimme Shelter” providing another highlight of the evening. The internet fan-voted request “Paint it Black” had the crowd standing (if they weren’t already) and cheering like it was Super Bowl 43. Mick’s voice was savage on “Start Me Up” while the whole band took us back to 1969 with the playful antics and performance of “Honky Tonk Woman.”
The encore was a haunting delight hosted by the Penn State Concert Choir on backup during the forever classic, “You Can’t Always Get What you Want,” followed by the closer of the evening, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
The Rolling Stones never called themselves “The Greatest Rock and Roll Band of All Time,” but with every ounce of energy that could possibly remain within an average age of 71 amongst the four, time is clearly on their side.