Did The Stones Perform For The Last Time?

While most Floridians were tying to avoid Dorian last Friday, Ali and I tempted fate and flew directly into the teeth of the storm to see the Rolling Stones perform their version of geriatric rock and roll in Miami.

 

I was born in a cross-fire hurricane
And I howled at the morning driving rain
But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas
But it’s all right. I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash
It’s a gas, gas, gas.

 

Hard Rock Stadium was filled to the rafters with young and old rockers wearing tee shirts with red tongues. The average age of attendees has been going down in recent years even as Mick and company (and the writer) get older.

I saw my first Stones concert in 1969 while I was in college. Jagger was in his Omega Man mode. I was flabbergasted 50 years ago and have continued to be blown away at each of the 12 (or so) subsequent concerts I attended. Note: I’ve seen the band play in every decade since the 1960s.

What’s most incredible is that Jqgger is 76 years young and the other three Stones are in their mid to late 70s. And, Mick had to delay this concert tour to have a stent inserted into his aorta. It didn’t stop the old rocker from bringing down the house on every concert date.

My wife and I risked life and limb because this may very well be the last time the Stones perform. We didn’t want to take any chances, so we had to attend this last stop on the current tour. How long can the band rock on? The Stones seem intent on pushing the boundaries. Note: Last night Ali and I attended a Who concert. It’s been a rocking weekend. Don’t even ask me which band reined supreme.

What drives these old guys? It can’t be money. Jagger and Richards are purportedly worth in the hundreds of millions. An extra million or five certainly isn’t going to change their lifestyles.

No, it’s something else. For Jagger it’s got to be playing to and receiving the adulation of 50-100,000 rabid fans. And they are not all 60 year-old coots. There were many young people in attendance at the stadium. Keep in mind “Satisfaction” was released in 1965. That’s 54 years ago. It’s still a popular denouement to every performance along with “Gimme Shelter,” which was released in 1969.

So long as people around the world are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to see the Stones perform, and pay exorbitant prices for tee shirts and other paraphernalia, the Stones will persevere.

Back to the concert. Jagger (age 76) was not as spry as in other concerts I’ve attended. He still undulates and dances across the stage, but it’s with a tad less athleticism. Note: For an older guy, he is in remarkable physical condition. He still gets high marks for turning on the crowd. The more he gyrates sexually, the more the fans respond. Mick always seems to get particularly sexual during his duet during “Gimme Shelter.” Unfortunately I don’t have the name of the woman who performed last Friday. But ever since Merry Clayton played Jagger’s foil, it’s been a great moment at every concert. Guest singers have been numerous including Fergie a few years ago. Check it out on YouTube. It’s amazing.

Keith Richards (age 75) was solid as a rock, or should I say a stone. He was in the background most of the time, but he continues to be one of the all-time great rock guitarists. In the past concerts there was tension between Jagger and Richards. I saw none in this performance. After about 60 years the two mega stars have learned to live with and appreciate each other. One thing is that Richards is still trying to prove he can sing. Every concert has him doing a couple of songs. I think he should stick to his forte, just play guitar, Keith.

Ron Wood is the youngest Stone at 72. I met Ron and chatted with him at a New York restaurant a while back. He was very cordial and polite. Wood is still trying to live up to being a Stone. He’s been awarded a few songs where he is lead guitarist. It’s a futile mission playing second fiddle (I mean guitar) to the best rock showman of all time and a man who is one of the greatest guitarists in the world.

Charlie Watts, at 78, is the old man of the group. He’s quiet and content in his role as drummer. There seems to be great affection towards this excellent musician by the band.

In a nutshell, Ali and I had an amazing journey. We took a chance and everything worked out. The Stones changed the performance date from Saturday to Friday because of Dorian. I’ll bet not many of the original ticketholders missed the show.

Will the Stones play again? I hope so. If they do, be sure to attend.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody Is A Fitting Tribute To Queen And Freddie Mercury

While the country was voting, I took an exhilarating journey down memory lane. I went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the new movie about Queen, the British rock super group, and Freddie Mercury, its flamboyant and controversial lead singer.

The film had a number of interesting storylines. The most important was the tribulations of Mercury’s lifestyle. This included the problems he had gaining acceptance from his father, sexual confusion throughout his life and his musical genius that led to significant issues with his band mates.

The movie began in 1970 when Freddie joined the group. During a 15-year period, Queen developed into a rock and roll force by experimenting with different concepts, and challenging its movie company supporters with innovative strategies that involved both music and the relationship with audiences. [As an aside “Bohemian Rhapsody” was six minutes long, and was shunned by many in the music business before becoming a gigantic hit.]

The saga ends just after Freddie is diagnosed with AIDs, which was a death sentence in the mid 1980s. The denouement was the band’s extraordinary performance in 1985 at Wembely Stadium in London as part Live Aid.

Rami Malek, acclaimed for his role in “Mr. Robot,” looks remarkably like Freddie and was expert in portraying the outrageous attitude and overt sexuality of the man. Malek’s Freddie was totally believable as he transitioned from heterosexuality to homosexuality. It was a painful journey, which resulted in great heartache and frustration for Mercury who continued to love his girlfriend, Lucy Boynton, even during his dangerous sexual exploits that ultimately led to his demise.

The real treat was the music that overwhelmed all other aspects of the film. Most of Queen’s famous songs were performed over the course of the show. They were totally awesome. Even if you are not old enough to fully appreciate Queen’s impact on rock and roll, you will walk away acknowledging that the band greatly influenced the music business.

It was an act that superseded four men singing songs. Freddie acted out each and every lyric while onstage. I couldn’t help feeling cheated by the short tenure of the band, 15 years, versus 50+ for the Stones, The Who, The Beetles and Bob Dylan.

The finale was the band’s performance at Live Aid. Bob Geldof, the organizer of the concert, allotted each performing group 20 minutes. During that short time, Queen solidified its place in rock and roll history. 100,000 adoring fans sang with Freddie. It was interactive rock and roll on the grandest scale.

Mercury was a swashbuckling, sexually charged performer. He experimented and played upon the sensitivities of those who adored him. But, he was never shy or embarrassed by his proclivities. His unbridled dalliances in real life ultimately were the cause of his death.

I doubt the film will win any Academy Awards, but I really enjoyed the show. It was highly entertaining and heart breaking. Go see the flick.

Most people are overwhelmed with the presence of Freddie. The fact is that his band mates were equally talented musicians. They include Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Beacon. The group sans Freddie played at Mercury’s memorial concert, which was another incredible event. The part of Freddie was performed by a number of different rock and roll legends.