Well, maybe this isn’t the last time. Maybe this isn’t the last tour. Maybe they’ll be around for a few more years at least. And why the hell not? The Stones have still got it, and they’re almost worth the money.
By Adam Ellsworth
“Boston brings back lots of fun memories,” Mick Jagger told the crowd early in the set.
In 1981, he noted, the band rehearsed for their Tattoo You tour in a barn 60-miles or so outside the city in North Brookfield. More famous (or infamous) was the time in 1972 that Mayor Kevin White had to get them out of jail so they could make it to a show at the original Boston Garden, an episode Jagger didn’t elaborate on but still mentioned with a smile.
There were other Boston references throughout the night (June 12), like when Jagger informed the crowd, “We were in Chicago about a week ago. It was very nice. They were doing really well in some game they were playing.”
As the crowd booed, Mick wisely showed where his Stanley Cup loyalties lie and held up a black and gold Bruins jersey with “Jagger” and “50” sewn on the back.
“I hope we bring you some luck tonight,” he added.
(Unfortunately, the Stones didn’t bring enough luck, as the Bruins lost Game 1 to the Blackhawks 4-3 in triple overtime Wednesday.)
As if the Mayor White shout-out wasn’t enough, while introducing the band, Jagger made reference to the city’s current leader and his celebrated trouble with names when he joked (in his introduction of guitarist Ronnie Wood), “As Mayor Menino might say, ‘Mr. Ronnie Roots!’”
But the best Boston reference came during “Midnight Rambler.” As has been the case all tour, the core band of Jagger, Wood, Keith Richards, and drummer Charlie Watts was joined by former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor for the song (the Stones were also augmented throughout the night by two backing vocalists, a keyboard player, trumpet player, longtime touring saxophonist Bobby Keys, and longtime touring bassist Darryl Jones). It was Taylor’s second of three appearances onstage Wednesday night—earlier he’d joined the band to play on “Sway,” which made the setlist after beating out “If You Can’t Rock Me,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” and “You Got Me Rocking” in an online poll. Whereas Taylor’s playing on “Sway” seemed a little rusty, his work on “Midnight Rambler,” especially during his solo, was magnificent: all clean lines and dirty blues. He’s certainly not the most animated guy to have played guitar in the Stones, but for pure fretwork magic, the band has never had anyone better.
The climax though came after the guitar solos, and more than halfway through the 12-plus minute rendition of the song, when Jagger, after teasing the audience with a few shouts of “Everybody in Boston say, ‘Yeah!’” and then provocatively strutting to the front of the stage and turning his palm upwards, figuratively, practically literally, holding the audience in his hand, finally brought everyone to release with “Well, you heard about the BOSTON . . .“
Red lights flashed, Watts and the three guitarists responded with a THWOCK, and then Mick continued, “Honey, it’s not one of those . . .“
“Well I’m just talking ‘bout the midnight . . .”
“Well, the one you never seen before . . .”
THWOCK, THWOCK, THWOCK
“It’s called the hit and run, raper, in anger . . .”
“Or just a knife sharpened, tippy toe . . .”
“Or just a shoot ‘em dead, brainbell jongleur . . . Everybody got to go . . .”
The song managed to go on for another two and a half minutes without ever dragging or letting up, a runaway train that only finished once Mick had declared “I’ll stick my knife right down your throat!”
Compared to the rest of the Wednesday night setlist, “Midnight Rambler” almost could have passed for a “deep cut,” though there were run-throughs of lesser known songs like the aforementioned “Sway,” a cover of Don Nix’s “Goin’ Down” (featuring Gary Clark, Jr. on guitar and vocals. Hardly the most famous guest to play with the Stones this tour, but he proved worthy of the honor), and the new songs “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot.” There were also takes on “You Got the Silver” and “Before They Make Me Run,” both with Keith on lead vocals.
(“All I’ve got to say,” Keith said before starting “You Got the Silver”—which boasted beautiful slide work from Ronni—“is Boston’s strong.”)
The rest of the night though was all hits, including “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” “Paint It Black,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Beast of Burden,” “Tumbling Dice,” and “Start Me Up.”
Crowd participation of course ran high, with 12,000 voices joining in on the “Oooh oooh oooh oooh” refrain to “Miss You” and everyone throwing their hands in the air for the “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, WOOOOOOOOOO!” part of “Brown Sugar.”
Even when the band turned to obvious stagecraft, it added to the performance rather than detracted from it. Take “Honky Tonk Women,” which the band performed while a legitimately hilarious cartoon of a giant woman climbing a skyscraper and being shot at by gorillas flying fighter planes played behind them (don’t question it, just go with it). This being a Stones show, one of the gorillas (which naturally sported big, red lips and a wagging tongue) succeeded in shooting the bra off the giant woman, exposing her animated breasts to the crowd. If you find such things offensive, well, you’ve probably never been much of a Stones fan anyway.
On the rare occasions that the band seemed to be taking their gimmicks a little too far, such as when Mick donned a floor-length, black, feathery coat for “Sympathy for the Devil,” they would always do something to redeem themselves. In the case of “Sympathy for the Devil” and Mick’s coat, redemption came in the form of Keith, who, just as Mick sang “Please to meet you” for the first time and the stage lights flashed bright white, let rip the most vicious of guitar chords. It was so brutal it was actually startling. So startling in fact that it almost made you forget Mick’s silly attire.
Let’s not pick on Mick though. He was, as he always is, a whole show all by himself. It’s the dance moves and constant motion that everyone always talks about, but don’t forget that the man can sing. This was never more apparent than on “Emotional Rescue,” which he effortlessly sang Wednesday night in the same falsetto that he used to record the song more than 30 years ago. His vocal performance obviously had its desired effect, as there were many audible swoons when he sang the line “I’ll be your knight in shining armor.”
The main set closed with “Sympathy for the Devil,” and after the briefest of waits, the Boston University Marsh Chapel Choir took the stage to sing the intro to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” When the Stones themselves reappeared, it was initially only Charlie, Mick, and Keith who took the stage. No Ronnie (who joined the band in 1975), no Mick Taylor (who was in the band from 1969 to 1974), just the three survivors, the only ones who’ve been in the band for the whole 50 years. It was touching really to see the three of them together, but Ronnie is a full-fledged Stone too, so he soon took the stage and ended up treating the crowd to a blistering solo.
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” followed, and then the song that made this whole crazy saga possible, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” closed the night. Keith, Ronnie, and Mick Taylor all traded licks, while Charlie, solid as always, held down the beat. Jagger danced, the crowd sang-along, and nobody minded (or perhaps noticed) that the song references a menstrual cycle. As that good Texan Bobby Keys, who’s been blowing sax onstage with the Stones since the early ‘70s might put it, “Sheeeeeit, that’s rock and roll music!”
When it was all over, the Stones, including Taylor, stood alone at center stage to take the bows that they more than earned.
It was a night of hits, but there was one hit that was conspicuously absent: “The Last Time.” Well, maybe this isn’t the last time. Maybe this isn’t the last tour. Maybe they’ll be around for a few more years at least.
And why the hell not? The Stones have still got it, and they’re almost worth the money.
The Rolling Stones played
Get Off of My Cloud
It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (But I Like It)
Paint It Black
Goin’ Down (with Gary Clark, Jr.)
Beast of Burden
Sway (with Mick Taylor)
Doom and Gloom
One More Shot
Honky Tonk Women
You Got the Silver
Before They Make Me Run
Midnight Rambler (with Mick Taylor)
Start Me Up
Sympathy for the Devil
You Can’t Always Get What You Want (with the Boston University Marsh Chapel Choir)
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (with Mick Taylor)