One of the summers’ most eagerly anticipated concert tours is the 15-city Rolling Stones Zip Code tour which opened in San Diego’s Petco Park on Sunday and makes its only Texas stop in Arlington on June 6.
In recent years I have become an admitted concert junkie mostly because the artists I like have rounded the proverbial third base of their careers and I don’t want to miss an opportunity to see them while I can. I saw the Stones in 2013 and had no plans to see them again until a friend in San Diego promised “really good seats.” How could I pass that up?
The stadium had the feeling of a World Series game, with large crowds — many wearing T-shirts from previous Stones tours — eagerly waiting hours before showtime. On the way to my seat, I passed the mayor of San Diego and basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton to land in the second row — just at the end of the 60-foot catwalk.
At around 9:30 p.m., after a rousing set from Austin native and bluesman Gary Clark. Jr., a voice bellowed, “introducing the Rolling Stones, ” and a flashy montage of past performances and pictures appeared on two three-story screens as the roar grew to missile- launching levels when the Stones took the stage in bright color coordinated outfits and opened with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”
For the next two-plus hours and 20 songs, the iconic band played their greatest hits non-stop, including three lesser-known songs from their 1971 album, Sticky Fingers.
For the next two-plus hours and 20 songs, the iconic band played their greatest hits non-stop, including three lesser-known songs from their 1971 album, Sticky Fingers — “Bitch” (joined by Gary Clark Jr.), “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and “Moonlight Mile, ” which had a mystical and haunting tone.
Keith Richards seemed a little more muted than in past concerts letting Ron Wood play a more prominent role. Richards, smiling frequently and acknowledging the crowd, sang “Slipping Away” from Steel Wheels and “Before They Make Me Run” from Some Girls.
My favorite moment was Lisa Fischer and Jagger digging deep with the intensely haunting “Gimme Shelter.” They have been doing this song together for at least 30 years and it never seems old or loses its rawness and intensity. With a catalog as deep as any band in history, they were bound to leave out a few jewels. I missed hearing “Get Off My Cloud”, “Wild Horses,” ” Beast of Burden” and “Paint it Black.”
As the concert continued, I came up with several observations:
Mick Jagger can still make you laugh
Jagger mentioned that the Stones were the first band to play the stadium after it was named for Petco (a company that makes pet products). “The Petco people were kind enough to provide backstage catering, including chicken and venison in a tin,” he said slyly.
He also pronounced San Diegans so many ways that I actually thought he had an Alabama drawl. I’m not sure that the crowd picked up on the humor.
Long term relationships are the best ones
I, like others, have tried to figure out the secret of the Stones' longevity. Much of it is similar to any successful business. The leaders surround themselves with the best and keep them. Not only have the four main players been performing together for 50 years but their accompanists have been with them for decades. Lisa Fischer and Bernard Fowler as backup vocalists along with Chuck Leavell on keyboards, Tim Ries and Karl Denson on saxophone seem to function so seamlessly and each could be a star in his or her own right.
Mick Jagger is still super-sexy
There are those who say the Stones have lost a step or two. They could not be more wrong. Jagger and his bandmates have lost none of their swagger or ability to enrapture and mesmerize their audience. Whereas other bands bring in back-up drummers and additional singers, that is not the case with the Stones. Jagger mentioned that he trains for his shows by doing ballet. It shows. He is graceful, rhythmic and sexy — he struts, sways, dances and even runs the length of the 60-yard runway.
And he played a mean harmonica in “Midnight Rambler.”
Mick makes more costume changes than Cher
By my count Jagger made at least six costume changes — mostly coats and jackets over black jeans. He opened in a sparkly purple jacket and changed to a turquoise blue shirt later in the set ending up in a shiny burgundy jacket with tails for “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” The colors ensured that he could be seen even in the nosebleed seats and will make for good TV for the documentary being filmed of the concert.
The rest of the band didn’t make the costume changes though Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards color coordinated beautifully with blue and yellow outfits. And who wouldn’t want Wood’s ruby red tennis shoes? Charlie Watts, as typical of his style, was resplendent in his navy T-shirt and pants.
The band still creates fireworks
After an extended rousing version of “Brown Sugar” the band made their exit and returned quickly with the Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir from Cal State University, Long Beach to launch into the sacred sounding “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” before Jagger brought the audience to their feet in a show-stopping crescendo.
The band closed with "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction" with a dazzling fireworks display. Although the show was clearly over, the audience cheered for another five minutes clearly hoping for just a little more satisfaction but realizing they, in fact, can't always get what they want.