For months, I berated the New York Times for its political reporting and outrageous op-eds. But now, the paper has gone too far. Ben Ratliff’s review of the Rolling Stones concert was out of line. I suppose that Ratliff didn’t expect any blowback; the tickets were very expensive and the crowd was older and very sentimental. I attended the gig (my eighth or ninth Stones concert) and thought it was awesome.
Besides the classic masters, what popular songs have reached the iconic status of “Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin Jack Flash,” and “Gimme Shelter?” Maybe “White Christmas.” The music of the Stones is representative of my early years; it is substantive; it brings back the most incredible memories; I love it.
The average age of the band members, as someone pointed out, is greater than SCOTUS. These are old guys who have performed great music over 50 years. When they first gained notoriety, they were a group of raggedy-ass, pot-smoking, English punks. Now, although their costuming is the same, they are like the finest aged wines and cheeses.
Remember, Keith Richards has been playing the same riffs for a long time. Sometimes he drifts away and ad-libs. This does not detract from the music. It makes it richer. Subtle differences that Ratliff nips at are what make the music more appealing. Does Ratliff know what jamming is?
Mick Jagger, who is pushing 70, personifies the physicality of the performance. It was a 2½-hour aerobic workout; he wore sneakers. Jagger danced, sashayed, and teased the crowd. His facial expressions were vintage, and I studied them with binoculars. The energy that emanated from his body was stunning and really appreciated by the adoring crowd.
The band is so professional that it is mindboggling. Each person who performed including Ron Woods, who I met recently and was great, Charlie Watts, and the backup singers and musicians were outstanding. Jagger was the cheerleader-in-chief who cajoled each of them to perform with greater aplomb. There were no missteps. These people have been playing the same music for decades and they don’t make mistakes.
No rock and roll band has achieved the same long-lasting iconic status of the Stones, even the Beatles. Except in rare songs, the latter played pop tunes with simple lyrics. They were catchy, really catchy, but uncomplicated and one dimensional in my opinion. Nevertheless, the comparison is legitimate.
Jagger and company, on the other hand, created music that touches many genres, hard rock, soul, blues, country, psychedelic, and so on. Simple lyrics, hardly. They are complicated and meaningful representing the periods and the problems of the times when they were created.
I saw the Stones for the first time in 1969 in Chicago (Note: Ratliff was born in 1968). Jagger was in his “Omega Man” phase then, whatever the hell that meant. I was blown away at the time just as I was at the Barclays Center this past weekend.
When the band played “This Could Be the Last Time” I nearly lost it. The 50th year tour could very well be the last time I see the group. Save up, cash in securities, do whatever you must to see the Stones before it is too late. I promise you will love the music and the performance.