Rolling Stones, Dodger Stadium 11/22/06

They can’t get no.

I can no longer say that I have not seen the Rolling Stones in concert.

Partly I was motivated to attend this show out of generational duty: I don’t want my grandchilden to one day say to me “What, you were on the planet at the same time as the Rolling Stones and you never went to see them?”  Partly, I was curious as to how a group of multimillionaire sexagenarians (emphasis on sex, tee hee) could possibly get up on an enormous stage in a huge stadium in front of tens of thousands of people and play songs where they rail against the establishment, pine from unrequited love, celebrate substance abuse, loose women, serial murder and Satanic worship, and, of course, complain about a lack of satisfaction in their lives.  What could such a show possibly mean?

Turns out, they sidestep the question of sincerity by their mere presence.  Sure, they’re singing songs of sex and drugs and rock-n-roll written by twenty-five-year-olds, but they’re singing them here and now, old men, performing with the energy and enthusiasm of men half their age.  They can’t possibly mean hedonist, sybarite songs like “Honky Tonk Women” or “Sympathy for the Devil” — what they’re celebrating is their ability to keep performing anything at all.  But sweet hopping Jesus do they perform, and with great authority and abandon.  More than once my wife cringed, worrying that Mick Jagger was bound to pop a knee joint or slip off the stage.  There was not a trace of boredom, rote performance or forced bonhomie on stage.  When Mick went into a wild, spastic dance that sent him jittering across the stage, it wasn’t “part of the act,” it was what he genuinely felt like doing at that moment.  And we cheer and sing along not because we worship the devil or get crazy on drugs every night, but because we are inspired by the Stones’ refusal to stop playing.

And you know, they’re not just enthusiastic, they’re humble.  The Stones weren’t just glad to be there tonight (Keith thanked his brain surgeon, who happened to be in the audience), they were genuinely humbled that so many people were nice enough to come out to see them.  Mick would sing a song about getting high or  a woman torturing him through her indifference and then say something to the audience like “What a nice group of people you are tonight.”  They went through a terrific, drawn-out version of “Midnight Rambler” and right after Mick threatened to “stick a knife right down your throat,” he politely thanked the audience for their patience (the show got started late, after having been moved from Saturday because of Mick’s throat infection) and then actually apologized for the traffic.  It kind of undercut the whole menacing-serial-killer vibe, but like I say, menace didn’t really seem to be the point of the show.

Even though they’re in a stadium, tiny figures on a gigantic stage, they perform as though they are in an intimate club playing for the hell of it.  There is very little spectacle in the show and the emphasis is on music, the, god help me, subtle interplay of guitars and drums and band camaraderie.  They blow notes, goof around, crash into each other.  There’s nothing flashy on stage to distract from mistakes, the sound is sometimes muddy and there are no apologies made for fluffing.  To solidify the “club” atmosphere there is a section of the show where the middle of the stage breaks off and moves slowly from center field to home plate, and suddenly the biggest band in the world is playing on a tiny stage in a sea of faces, careening around and grinning like idiots.

This evening they played two songs from their new record.  Otherwise, there was nothing from after 1983 (“She Was Hot”) and very little from after 1974 (“It’s Only Rock n Roll”).  That means 22 years of their discography was completely ignored, and yet they still found 20 or so terrific songs to play, not a dud in the bunch, and not to walk through but to genuinely play, play like they would honestly not rather be doing anything else at that moment.

Early on, Bonnie Raitt came out to sing a verse of “Dead Flowers” and I remember thinking “Gee, you know, if that was your only hit song, you’d still have a pretty impressive career,” but it was probably one of the least well-known songs of the evening.  (“Dead Flowers” is also one of the few songs that sounds better as the singer gets older — when Mick was 30 he was being snide and ironic, now he sounds sincere and sadder-but-wiser.)

So, Mick might no longer feel as though he has been crowned with a spike right through his head, and he may no longer see a red door and want it painted black, and he may no longer feel that it’s absolutely necessary to call him the tumbling dice.  But he and the others have found a way to keep playing those songs after 40 years and still make the performance mean something, even if the meaning is mainly in the act of performance itself.  The songs celebrate bad behavior, loose morals and throwing one’s life away, but their performance celebrates perseverance, longevity and a life well-lived.


18 Responses to “Rolling Stones, Dodger Stadium 11/22/06”
  1. ghostgecko says:

    It should be kind of sad to see old men singing young man songs, but I just hope I’m that lively at their age (actually, I’ll be lucky if I’m even around, but, you know, even if I am). You’re lucky. My favorite band disbanded 95 and I never got to see them live.

  2. greyaenigma says:

    I can still say I’ve never seen the Stones perform live, so neener neener — heywaitasecond.

    I’d really like to hear their new take on Dead Flowers, and I’m jealous you got to hear Bonnie Raitt in there as a bonus.

  3. veedub says:

    lovely review.

    i’m beginning to know how it feels doing my young-woman things with the sincerity of age. Yeh, maybe a few things have slid south, but you gotta dance all the way home, otherwise it’s a waste.

    (obviously, my main talent is mixing metaphors, but what the hell, i’m glad to still be around to be in the mix.)

  4. serizawa3000 says:

    I remember watching The Tonight Show and, more often than not, Jay Leno would mention in his opening monologue about how the Stones were on tour again, and inevitably he’d say something about how the stage would have to be wheelchair-accessible or whatever…

    I’d get so annoyed by that…

    Of course I wonder if the Stones themselves might have thought that was funny…

    Myself, I’d never heard “Emotional Rescue” until recently… I dare say it was something of a revelation to me…

    • mr_noy says:

      Emotional Rescue might be my favorite Stones song. They played in town last month and I was too broke to see them. It’s a shame, who knows if I’ll ever get another chance.

      By the way, I literally just finished watching Gojira and couldn’t help but wonder if your username was inspired by the character of Dr. Serizawa.

      • serizawa3000 says:

        By the way, I literally just finished watching Gojira and couldn’t help but wonder if your username was inspired by the character of Dr. Serizawa.

        Um, yes, actually. 🙂 You’re probably the first to inquire about it.

        • mr_noy says:

          It was one of those funny coincidences. I probably would have never noticed if I literally hadn’t finished watching the movie 30 seconds before I read your comment. It’s not every day I see the name Serizawa twice. It’s a good obscure username; I just hope you don’t have to wear an eyepatch!

          • serizawa3000 says:

            Nope, no eyepatch, but there are some other coincidences of interest, such as Dr. Serizawa and I having the same initials (Daisuke Serizawa, Duncan Shea), and my birthday happening to also be the DOB of Eiji Tsuburaya, the FX man behind many a Godzilla movie…

            Believe it or not. 😉

    • Todd says:

      Twenty years ago, Keith Richards said he’d be doing this when he was eighty and in a wheelchair.

      There was a great piece in the Times the other day about how AARP is sponsoring James Taylor’s new tour. Think of that.

  5. yetra says:

    Amen! I was lucky enough to be taken by my brother to see the Rolling Stones for my 16th birthday, and remember being amazed by many of the same things you commented on here. About how their energy and enthusiasm was just overwhelming. I was horribly impressed. And that was… oh god, 17 years ago? And they are still kicking it with style? Well done.

    The one other performance I saw like this that surprised me and blew me away was Depeche Mode last year. I’ve always liked Depeche Mode, but not in a huge way, and wouldn’t have gone to the concert if someone hadn’t offered me a free ticket and ride. But man oh man. My biggest impression was that David Gahain had apparantly been taking lessons from Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and Elvis Presley. The way he commanded the stage with raw sexuality, cockiness, mischievousness, oh man. I still get a little flushed just thinking about it.

    Yay for getting old with grace and power and ooomph.

  6. eronanke says:

    I saw Voodoo Lounge with my mom. I loved it.

    I know, sadly, too, that my children will, most likely, never see them play.
    It’s become a generational thing, since my father has seen them since, like, 65.
    I also adore what Tom Wolfe once said- “The Beatles want to hold your hand, but The Stones want to burn your town”.

  7. urbaniak says:

    Wow. The last stadium concert I saw was Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour in 1988. I should get out more.