I have seen the Rolling Stones live three times – twice at Madison Square Garden and once at Brendan Byrne Arena. For their current No Filter tour, the band is playing MetLife Stadium for their NY area concert, so I had to decide if I wanted to see them in a stadium after having already experienced them in arenas. How far away would I be? How big would the screens be? An arena is not intimate but a stadium is even worse because you are forced to watch the screens instead of the stage. But I had enjoyed myself a lot when I saw Paul McCartney at the same venue, so I decided to take a chance. rtb bought several tickets for the two nights and I took one for the first night. peg was also at MetLife but in a better seat and rtb, her sister, and mollyT would be seeing the Stones on the August 5th.
We did not even know if the show was going to happen after the band had to cancel so that Mick Jagger could have heart surgery. But that went well and he recovered quickly and he danced for all of us to The Wombats’ “Techno Fan” on Instagram and Twitter. The North American tour was back on.
My seats were good for how far away I was. The train ride to the stadium was easy and not crowded (it was also very easy getting home). I got something to eat and settled into my seat and listened to the songs they were playing over the sound system. At one point, they even played a Replacements’ song, which I was not expecting. The crowd skewed older but there were still plenty of younger people there. A lot of people saw this as an opportunity to get as drunk as possible before the show started. Sometimes I wish people my age would stop trying to relive their youth and instead just sit back and enjoy the music.
At 8pm, The Wombats came out. They are an indie band from Liverpool and were playing to a very small crowd. They had flown out from Liverpool just for this gig and I wish more people had given them the same attention they would be giving the Stones. After all, the Stones chose them to open for them. But Stones fans have a history of not respecting the opening acts. I still remember the stories out of Los Angeles when Prince opened for them.
The band is good but definitely not stadium-ready. On one song, lead singer/guitarist Matthew Murphy was off-key through most of the song. Dan Haggis plays drums and Tord Øverland Knudsen is on bass guitar. At one point some wombats came out to dance. Here’s their set list.
For the longest time the seat next to me was empty. An older man and teenager were obviously waiting for someone or two. Then two drunk women showed up. At first, I still had the seat empty next to me but then the four of them had to move one seat left because they had taken one wrong seat.
The older drunk woman could not get over the fact that I was there alone. Did I work for the venue? Did I get my ticket for free? Why else would I be alone? Then she asked me if I liked the Stones and I just looked at her as if she was crazy. Finally, I found my voice and told her I had seen them a few times. She had seen them 10 times. And, as skinny as she was, she managed to take up half my space. Every two minutes she had to go into her purse and her elbow would bang against my chest. Her leg was over on my side and I had to keep pushing my leg to keep her in her own chair. Normally I would say something but she was drunk and I knew a “wrong” comment could turn her from my best friend (she kept touching me and telling me how great the band was and trying to engage me in conversation but I kept ignoring her as best I could) to my worst enemy. Drunks turn on a dime. But I was there to see the Stones and I decided she was not going to ruin my night, so she did not.
We had to wait a long time for the band to come out. At least 45-minutes, maybe longer. What looked like black paint flowed down the front of the screens and covered the tongues. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones!”
I had been looking at previous set lists and saw that they were changing it up every show, which was nice, so I would not know what to expect as the opening number. When the opening chords of “Street Fighting Man” were heard, the crowd went crazy. Then they played “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Tumbling Dice,” so this was going to be a very nostalgic night. When Mick started pointing, even though I am very familiar with his dancing and love it, I kept thinking of that SNL sketch. Maybe for some he is a caricature but for me he is Mick Jagger.
For every show, the fans voted a request. For this night the request was “She’s a Rainbow.” Mick played acoustic guitar and the funniest part was when they finished and Mick’s face was pure, “Phew, we got through that.” The song was written in 1967 and who knows the last time they played it. Then they finished that set with “You Can’t Get Always Get What You Want” with a lot of audience participation.
While they were playing I could see the crew setting up a half-kit for Charlie Watts at the B-stage on the end of the runway. There they performed acoustic versions of “Sweet Virginia” and “Dead Flowers.” During this set, many of the audience drunks ran to get more beer while the drunk next to me kept shouting for the Stones start rocking. I hate that people do not know their history enough to understand what blues and country mean to this band.
When they got back to the main stage and the drums were beating for “Sympathy for the Devil” the drunks woke up. Mick had changed into yet another jacket and had added a hat.
After “Honky Tonk Women,” Mick introduced the band ending with Keith Richards, who sang lead on “Slipping Away” and “Before They Make Me Run.” Again, the drunks thought this was the time to get more beer. These are thoughtful songs, especially the latter, which was written when Keef was facing serious jail time in Canada for drug possession. I am a big fan of Keith’s solo work – much more than Mick’s solo albums that came out at the same time. But the first thing you realize listening to their solo albums is that Keith gives Mick rhythm and Mick gives Keith melody, which is why Keith’s songs with the Stones are even better than his solo stuff.
The last band member is, of course, Ronnie Wood (still the new guy for a lot of us), and the touring members are Chuck Leavell (keyboards/backing vocals), Bernard Fowler (backing vocals/percussion), Darryl Jones (bass/backing vocals), Matt Clifford (keyboards, French horn), Tim Ries (saxophone, keyboards), Karl Denson (saxophone), and Sasha Allen (backing vocals).
Mick mentioned that this was their 90th show in the tri-state area. He also said that they had stopped at the Tick Tock Diner, where they had Taylor ham, disco fries, and Sloppy Joes. That, of course, played very well to the North Jersey crowd. Maybe not so well to those from Philadelphia or South Jersey. The people from New York and Connecticut did not really care.
For “Miss You” I did not get to scream out loud for the line about a “Puerto Rican girl that’s just dying to meet ya,” because Mick changed the line. Then they played “Paint It Black.” When I heard the notes for “Midnight Rambler,” I sighed while the crowd cheered. Back in HS and college, one of the Stones’ early greatest hits/live albums had an album side that was only this song. And when the boys would get stoned, this would come out and discussions would happen and I was bored to tears. I managed to get through it, even though I think that song is performed for longer than it should be. I did like when Mick threw in “You better come on in my kitchen, it’s goin’ to be rainin’ outdoors.”
They redeemed themselves with “Start Me Up,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and “Brown Sugar,” which ended the set. Since they had not yet performed “Gimme Shelter” and I noticed that Sasha had changed into a very sparkly dress, I was hoping that would be included in the encore. I was not disappointed. They ended the night with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and a fireworks finale.
Street Fighting Man
Let’s Spend the Night Together
She’s a Rainbow (fan request song)
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
2120 South Michigan Avenue (on tape over sound system)
Sympathy for the Devil
Honky Tonk Women
Before They Make Me Run
Paint It Black
Start Me Up
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
By Carene Lydia Lopez