Cost Benefit Concert
Rolling Stones justify astronomical ticket prices: Ageless Mick Jagger still seduces with satisfaction
CHICAGO — Sometimes a routine business trip can turn into magic — especially when Mick Jagger is involved. I happened to be in the Windy City Tuesday when the Rolling Stones kicked off a three-night gig for their “50 and Counting Tour.” Tickets were not cheap, with a face value of up to $800 each. Yet, when one became available, especially for this concert junkie who had never seen the Stones, how could I pass on the opportunity?
But, I wondered, would it be worth roughly $4 a minute?
The capacity crowd of 23,500 at United Center was definitely older. My first clue was observing how many of them had to borrow reading glasses to read the small print on their ticket to find their seats. But while they might be old, they came to rock out, sporting their best vintage rock clothing and gear — think T-shirts from the 1994 tour. And it was not just middle-aged concert goers, but a nice mix of hip young adults as well. I admit I prefer the middle-aged reminiscing rockers to screaming pre-pubescent Beliebers.
The stage setting was simple — a backdrop of a huge pair of red lips with a semi-circular ramp extending from the stage, called "the tongue." Fifty lucky fans got to stand inside the tongue as the band performed many of their songs from this extended stage.
First, it should be said that Mick Jagger looks good — damn good — for a 69-year-old who has lived a rather decadent, or perhaps demanding, life.
Finally, at 8:50 p.m., the lights lowered — no warm up act for Mick and the boys. A film montage unfolded of people’s reactions to the Stones over the years as the suspense built. Suddenly the band walked out launched into a rousing Get Off My Cloud, quickly followed by It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll (But I Like It), Paint It Black and a bring-down-the-house rendition of Gimme Shelter with longtime backup singer Lisa Fischer.
For the next two hours and 23 minutes (remember, I’m judging this concert by the cost per minute), the Stones belted out one hit after another. First, it should be said that Mick Jagger looks good— damn good — for a 69-year-old who has lived a rather decadent, or perhaps demanding, life. Sure, when the camera went for the close up, he has more lines on his face than the local H-E-B does on a Saturday afternoon. But he is lithe and limber, continually shimmying, swaying, prancing, pointing and seducing the crowd, until he and the crowd had given it their all.
And while Jagger didn’t go for the dramatic costuming of an Elton John, he still wore several sequined jackets and shiny shirts that he took off and twirled, seemingly tempted to throw to the crowd — but only tempted.
In addition to being in good voice, the Stones have not lost any of their showmanship, giving the crowd the feeling that there was no place they would rather be. Jagger mentioned that the stage would be dismantled after the concert for game seven of the Chicago Blackhawks-Red Wings playoff series Wednesday night before the Rolling Stones returned for their remaining gigs on Friday and Sunday nights.
At each concert the band takes a request via Twitter, and on this night it was Rocks Off. Special guest, veteran bluesman Taj Majal, who accompanied the Stones during their 1968 film, The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, performed a rousing Six Days on the Road.
The hits kept coming with newer songs Doom and Gloom and One More Shot, and then back to old favorite Honkey Tonk Women. After introducing the band, Jagger receded into the background as Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood huddled together with acoustic guitars to sing an intimate You Got The Silver and Before They Make Me Run. One throwback to their '70s roots was when Wood lit a cigarette on stage and took a few drags before his songs. Does anyone do that anymore?
One throwback to their '70s roots was when Ronnie Wood lit a cigarette on stage and took a few drags before his songs. Does anyone do that anymore?
When Jagger returned to the stage, former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor appeared to thunderous applause as he performed a 10-plus minute version of Midnight Rambler, with Jagger on harmonica, bringing down the house. The crowd was adulatory and almost frenzied, and the applause deafening. I don’t believe that one person in the audience sat down the entire concert.
I can’t review the Stones without a shout out to drummer Charlie Watts, who turns 72 this weekend. What he’s lost in power he makes up for in timing.
The regular set ended with Sympathy for the Devil, with a remarkable solo from Richards, followed by a three-song encore, leading off with You Can’t Always Get What You Want with the local Roosevelt Conservatory Chorus in accompaniment, Jumpin' Jack Flash, and a rousing Satisfaction — again with the beloved Taylor, who at one point performed sitting on stage with his legs crossed while Jagger sang with an unforgettable intensity.
Yep, you just can’t put a price tag on seeing one of the best bands ever — in 1963 or today. I realized I wasn’t paying for a concert. I was paying for a piece of history.
Sad news for Houstonians as the Stones are making no Texas stops on this brief tour. They perform in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. next month before heading to Europe.