Okay, So I'm A Fan
It was held in the Sun Bowl, which against all reason has very little parking. I spent 45 minutes circling the stadium amid a swarm of equally bewildered motorists before I managed to find a parking place at the local credit union. I must have been one of the lucky ones, because people kept pouring into the stadium for more than two hours after the show actually started, which it did 45 minutes late, to a stadium less than half full. (Eventually everyone found parking and the stadium filled up nicely.)
The opening act was the Dave Matthews Band. DMB is one of those groups that I've always had the feeling that I'd probably like if I ever really listened to them, but for some reason never have. Possibly it was because every other band in the late 90s was trying very hard to sound just like them, and I got so very tired of the sound.
Matthews badly needs to shoot his sound guy, preferably after torture. Matthews' vocals were mixed at a lower volume even than his acoustic guitar, and though I occasionally heard a word or a phrase, for the most part he was completely inaudible. That forced me to spend my time listening to the music, and the music by itself was not very interesting. Presumably one listens to DMB for the incisive lyrics, not the snappy tunes, which sort of aren't there. For the most part the band just filled in behind the simple chords Matthews was playing on his guitar, though occasionally Boyd Tinsley would cut loose with a fiddle solo. Papa John Creach he ain't.
All a great pity, because the Giant Matthews Head on the huge DiamondVision screen seemed to be putting on a spirited, passionate performance, just one that his fans couldn't hear.
The Stones come with an enormous stage show, which featured the huge DiamondVision screen, several smaller screens, and seven-storey-tall streamlined silver structures on either side of the stage, like the superstructure of an ocean liner as designed by Raymond Loewy. Fans could pay lots of extra cash to sit in these structures and view the concert, though I'm not sure how they could expect to hear anything. Apparently few people actually shelled out the bucks for this, so they gave away most of these seats as doorprizes to people already in the stadium.
The tour is called "A Bigger Bang," so of course it opened with explosions and fireworks. During the course of the concert, there were enormous gouts of propane fire, explosions, a large inflatable lips and tongue, some impressive CGI on the DiamondVision, and a quite respectable fireworks show at the end.
None of which overwhelmed the music. Keith Richards shambled out first, playing the opening bars to "Jumping Jack Flash," and then Sir Mick skipped onstage, prancing, spinning, gesturing, making faces, a tiny little figure behind which this enormous fifty-foot DiamondVision Jaggerman capered. The gestures, dances, and persona were all so familiar from years of film and TV that for the first part of the concert I had to keep reminding myself that I was seeing it live, not on tape.
These old boys haven't lost anything. (Well, except the ability to write memorable songs.) They're still a tremendous concert band, and they're not an oldies band because they include (however uninspired) new material.
Keith Richards looks more than ever like the Portrait of Dorian Grey. He wears a kind of combination turban/sweatband, and likes to play bowed down, as if he were no longer to summon up the energy to lift the guitar. The guitar's about on the level of his knees.
Still, he sings quite well. (Was I surprised!) And I could hear him because the Stones brought along a competent sound guy. And because of that sound guy, I could hear Dave Matthews when he sang a duet with Jagger on "Let It Bleed." It was the only time I heard Dave Matthews all night.
As for Jagger, he was all over the place, using this huge set as his personal jungle gym. What I didn't know from the various videos was how good he is at working an audience. He's not above asking them to clap or do sound effects or sing along. (Well, they were going to sing along anyway.) He actually did patter. He chatted in Spanish to those who had come over from Juarez. He took out an acoustic guitar and sang Marty Robbins' "El Paso," to the astonishment and delight of all.
He is in terrific physical shape. He wore short tops and low-slung pants, and at one point I thought, "This is a 63-year-old Knight Bachelor from England, and he's flashing me his midriff, and I don't think it's gross!"
The biggest special effect of the evening was when a chunk of the stage broke away, and carried the entire band to the other end of the stadium, where they played a few songs for the people in the cheap seats. Later on, Jagger sprinted the entire distance, flanked by a pair of much younger security guards who had a hard time keeping up. This was after he'd been singing for an hour. Then he sprinted back.
Fucking great genetics, the lot of them.
Or a deal with the Devil. Your pick.