I first saw the Rolling Stones in fall 1989 on their Steel Wheels tour. At the time, being an adolescent punk rocker, I didn’t give a shit about “corporate rock” like the Stones. My dad, who loves the Stones, had tickets for the show at the old Foxboro Stadium. Someone had cancelled last minute so he had an extra ticket for the show and asked me to go. I weighed for a second like any moronic teenager whether to continue skateboarding or see the Rolling Stones. The deciding factor was that I liked their new single “Mixed Emotions” and even a jaded teenage punk had to respect Keith Richards. I loved the show and ever since the Stones have been my second favorite band of all time. The Stones were considered old and washed up in 1989, so surely 30 years later they might as well be the Egyptian pharaohs, right? Here is the thing with the Stones: They may wrinkle but they don’t get old.
The No Filter tour hit Gillette Stadium, right next door to where I saw them 30 years ago. It started ominously for sure when it had to be delayed a month because Mick Jagger had to have heart surgery. Heart surgery for the lead singer would put any band on the shelf, but when the singer routinely runs about 5 miles during the course of a show and oh yeah… is in his mid-70s — one would think that was the end. But this isn’t your average band; this is the Rolling Stones. The show kicked off in a blaze of ragged glory with Richards hitting the opening riff of “Street Fighting Man” and Jagger dancing and a-prancing in an outfit that I’m guessing might have been a nod to either Becky Lynch or the Bruins between the black and gold? Why else would anyone wear a black leather jacket in the heat that was still hovering in the high 70s at this point? I say ragged because out of the gate the Stones were sloppy as they tried to find their groove through standards “It’s Only Rock “N’ Roll” and “Tumbling Dice.” By the time the Stones got to “She’s So Cold,” chosen (allegedly) by an online poll, the band started to lock in. I say allegedly on the song vote because outside of Stimbot, who is going to vote for “She’s So Cold” over more deserving songs in the poll like “Live With Me” and “Out of Control”? Not to mention as far as the Stones temperature girl songs from the ’80s, “She Was Hot” wipes the floor with “She’s So Cold.”
The Stones brought out the opener Gary Clark Jr. to do an old blues cover “Ride Em On Down,” which showcased some fine guitar work, but to me was more of a snore. The highlight of the show was when the Stones came out to the middle of the arena to do a couple acoustic numbers where the song selection could not have been better. They did a mind-blowing version of “Play With Fire” followed up with “Dead Flowers,” which is about as good as it gets. The two-song, Richards-fronted set of “Slipping Away” and “Before They Make Me Run” were really the last surprises, but who really wants a surprise from a band that is 57 years in? The only surprise with the Stones would be if they ever stopped.
The rest of the night was hits galore with “Paint It Black,” “Miss You,” and the ever iconic “Gimme Shelter” reverberating through the night. Post-heart surgery, Jagger still runs all over the place while Richards and Ronnie Wood trade slashing riffs looking like giddy half dead pirates. Charlie Watts is still a one-man engine room on the drums, powering the mothership. As for the ship analogy — the difference between Stones and the Titanic, is when the Stones hit the iceberg, the iceberg sinks.
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