Friday, May 28, 2010

Rolling Stone Stories, part 2

Hello again.

This one just came through the pipeline. We'll call this one a younger generation's take on the Stones. Keep em coming!

Rock on,

Aaron Snook


I saw the Rolling Stones on October 11, 2006 at Soldier Field. It was 30 degrees and windy. Really that should be all I have to say about this particular concert.

But they were great! I've seen them three times now and although I think the Stones are amazing and I will forgive them anything (the lame new songs, the funny hats, the turquoise for chissakes) the concerts are pretty much a light show with a skinny guy running around a lot singing some songs that you know. In fact, my boyfriend put it best when he said it's like seeing a Rolling Stones cover band except that it's actually the Rolling Stones. So, okay, fair enough. They're old, they're bajillionaires, and they frankly don't need to do anything but phone it in every night because even if they suck they're still the fuckin' Stones man. Yeah!

Except on this cold windy night snuggled up on the lake shore in the not in any way cozy confines of Soldier Field, they sorta didn't phone it in. And I think, looking back on it, it might have been my favorite concert. There are the obvious incongruities that made it neat: the muted sound of thousands of gloved hands clapping, the realization that this may be the only time you'll drink hot chocolate at a rock concert, and the wonderful crazy ridiculousness that made us all spend upwards of a hundred dollars to sit in a bad seat and watch senior citizens on a giant TV. So there's all that. Which was weird and fun and totally worth it as a notch on the belt of fandom if nothing else. But the coolest thing was that I got to watch my favorite band shivering onstage right along with us. All the between song banter was about how friggin' cold it was and how they appreciated us coming out. And I sorta believed it. I watched Keith blowing on his hands so that he could rip out his solo in Sympathy for the Devil and I suddenly felt actually connected to them as people for the first time. Not just as these icons that I've always heard playing in the background of my life, and not as these classic rock signposts of my late adolescence. (Sidebar: I have very distinct memories of when I finally realized what a lot of their songs are about. It's like when you're ten years old singing along to Like a Virgin and then one day you realize what you've actually been singing. With me, I had that with Brown Sugar. And I totally remember the first time I realized that one of the lines in Start Me Up is "You make a dead man come." Nice.) On this night I saw them as humans and it made it mean so much more to me. They really seemed to be trying to do their best to put on a great show instead of just relying on the lights and the inflatable tongue. They did some longer versions of a couple of classics, they got a little country on some older songs, and they thanked us for being there after every tune. And there were moments of actual greatness: Mick wailing on his harmonica for an extended Midnight Rambler, Ronnie backing up Keith with some pretty beautiful acoustic guitar work on You Got the Silver (one of my favorite songs which I've never heard live), and the huge crowd pleaser Start Me Up, which, you know, say what you will about the Stones, but I don't think there's a song that sounds better in a huge stadium with thousands of people shouting along.

So yeah, they don't sound as good as they used to, and the show is far more about the show than it is about the music, and god knows that the weather is probably the least of Keith's problems, but they're still pretty great. Living legends and all that. And by the end of the night everybody was finally on their feet, momentarily forgetting about the cold and just basking in whatever immediate nostalgia happened upon them.

Given their ages, I may have seen them live for the last time. Of course I'll be sad if that's true, but I'll also feel pretty content. Yeah, I'm out two hundred bucks for the tickets, and I was sore the next day from shivering. But the whole thing was so ridiculous and wonderful and subdued and quirky that I would have paid more and stayed longer for them that night.

--Nick Lewis, New York

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