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After Mick Jagger showed up at a place in Charlotte where no one was expecting him to be — the Plaza-Midwood dive bar known as the Thirsty Beaver Saloon, on Wednesday night — local Twitter users proceeded to lose their collective minds.
And all he had to do was stand there drinking a beer on the patio. Nothing terribly strenuous.
Then, roughly 24 hours later, when the Rolling Stones’ lead singer showed up at a place in Charlotte where everyone was expecting him to be — Bank of America Stadium on the edge of uptown — the 40,000 or so fans in attendance ... well, they had their minds blown, too.
And all Jagger had to do this time was spend the better part of 2 hours and 12 minutes running and skipping and jumping and hopping and dancing and strutting and waving his arms and clapping and punching the air, while belting out some of the most famous songs in the history of rock and roll music.
At age 78.
This is actually a pretty difficult thing to wrap my head around.
I mean, my dad is 78, and although he still takes a long walk every morning, trying to pull off moves like Jagger for 2 minutes and 12 seconds could very well give him a heart attack.
On top of that, my most recent experiences involving watching rockers in their senior years headline large venues include a November 2019 Spectrum Center show during which a then-72-year-old Elton John barely got up from his piano except to take a bow at the end; and a September 2019 Spectrum Center show during which a then-68-year-old Phil Collins, weakened by a string of physical ailments, crashed to the floor mid-set after tipping over in his chair.
Jagger, meanwhile, seemed over the course of Thursday night to cover every square inch of the massive main stage and the long catwalk that jutted out into the center of the field. I wish I could have strapped a Fitbit on his wrist Thursday night. I’d be willing to bet he got in both his 10,000 steps and Keith Richards’, too.
When my eyes drifted up to the images being projected onto the four vertical video towers to the rear and sides of the stage, sometimes — when my eyes came back down to earth — it would take me a couple seconds to figure out where Jagger had run off to this time.
And as if none of that was enough to convince fans he’s in the shape of a man half his age, he periodically would grab the bottom of his shirt and flap it like he was fanning himself, pulling it up just high enough to give a peek at what appear to (still) be washboard-like abs.
But “Mick Jagger remains almost brain-bogglingly spry and youthful” is just one of the headlines worth pegging to this show.
Another has to do with the fact that, after several false starts, all due to COVID, the Rolling Stones finally bringing their rescheduled “No Filter Tour” to Bank of America Stadium marked the end of a looong, concert-less drought for the venue, which hadn’t hosted a standalone music-focused event since June 2012.
Another, albeit a minor one, was that tickets were still showing as available all week through firsthand channels. In other words, the concert wasn’t sold out. Which qualifies as at least a mild surprise. Given that it’s possible the Stones may never be back.
A major storyline, of course, was the absence of longtime drummer Charlie Watts, who died unexpectedly in late August while trying to make a recovery from an unspecified surgical procedure. As many fans know, he had already bowed out of this tour for health reasons, but his passing exponentially increases the air of bittersweetness that hangs over the proceedings.
The show now opens with a montage of video images of Watts that plays to the backbeat of a drum, and it ends 19 songs later with a giant still photograph of Watts — dressed in a suit and tie — looming over the darkened stage.
As it did four nights earlier at the tour kickoff in St. Louis, the band opened with two songs (in Charlotte, those were “Street Fighting Man” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together”) and then broke to pay homage to their late bandmate.
“It was great to see those great images of Charlie up there on the video at the beginning,” Jagger told the crowd, as he and Richards put their arms on each other’s shoulders. “And it always reminds us of all of the times and all the shows that we did together. I’m sure lots of you will have memories of seeing Charlie play as well. And I want to thank you for sharing those things with us, and all the things you’ve said and posted. It’s really great. And this is our first tour without him in 59 years, so we’d like to dedicate this show to Char-LIE!”
Then the Stones launched into the bluesy boogie-woogie classic “Tumbling Dice,” with Steve Jordan — a longtime friend of the band and a member of Richards’ side project, the X-Pensive Winos — sitting behind the drum kit. At 64, Jordan is now the baby of the core group of guys, with Richards coming up on 78 himself and guitarist Ronnie Wood clocking in at 74 as of June.
For those keeping score at home, Jagger mentioned Watts by name only one more time all night, when he formally introduced Jordan. He also steered almost entirely clear of the pandemic, save for his quick introduction of 2020’s COVID-inspired “Living in a Ghost Town” as the band’s “lockdown song.”
But he showed off his familiarity with Charlotte — and with the Stones’ history as it pertains to Charlotte — even more often than he showed off his stomach.
After ending “Tumbling Dice” with a funky dance that made him look a little like a rubber-limbed, goofy-faced string bean taunting an imaginary bull, Jagger held his arms above his head and shouted: “Yeah, yeah, YEAH! It’s great to be back here. Home of the Panthers, right? We were the first-ever band to play here, way back in 1997!”
Later, following a 12-minute rendition of “Midnight Rambler” that saw him playing the harmonica, wildly twirling one of his many colorful jackets as if he were going to throw it into the crowd (but then not actually throwing it), and skipping around the stage, the singer announced that the Stones “first came to this lovely city in 1965, at the Charlotte Coliseum.”
The concert poster for that show was briefly displayed on the screens behind the stage. If you were quick enough to catch it, you would have seen that admission prices ranged from $2.50 to $4. Tickets for Thursday night’s show, if purchased at face value, cost anywhere from $65 to $495.
At one point, a Christian McCaffrey jersey made its way onto the stage, and Jagger sized it up by holding it in front of Wood’s chest; at another, after a performance of “Sympathy for the Devil” that featured yet more skipping and yet more jacket-twirling by Jagger, the frontman nodded to the Panthers yet again.
“How you doing, Charlotte? Are you feeling good?” he bellowed. “We’re gonna keep pounding! Keep pounding!”
Oh, and yes, he totally gave the Thirsty Beaver another very big shout-out.
“I went and (saw) a little bit of Charlotte last night,” he said. “A little bit. Not too much. You know, early night for the show. Had a beer at the Thirsty Beaver, and saw a few banker bros. I sucked down some pimento cheese. Mmm.”
Now, I’m realizing I’ve gotten all this way without giving a clear impression of how the Rolling Stones sound these days.
The answer, in short, is ... they sound incredible, all things considered. Just like Jagger doesn’t seem to have lost a step with his moves, both Wood and Richards sound pretty close to as tight as they do on studio recordings that were rendered in wax 40 years ago. If you put a live recording of Jordan’s drum part on, say, “Gimme Shelter” up against an old live recording of Watts doing the same song, I’ll bet you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
And although Jagger might not be able to do falsetto for songs like “Miss You” they way he used to, vocally that’s the only shortcoming I can lay a finger on — and backing vocalist Sasha Allen covers very nicely for him.
Allen, by the way, had a hand in one of the night’s biggest showstopping moments: With just the right amount of swagger, she stepped out of the shadows and onto the catwalk — first by herself and then joined by Jagger — to repeatedly and beautifully wail “Gimme Shelter’s” haunting refrain: “It’s just a shot away / It’s just a shot away...”
The biggest headline of all, however, might just be the fact that, after the 457-day wait (this show was originally supposed to take place July 1, 2020), everything fell into place perfectly on Thursday night.
There were no embarrassing production delays, like the one that plagued J. Cole’s concert up in Greensboro on Wednesday night and caused him to not go on stage to start his show until 11:40 p.m. I heard no reports of traffic nightmares like the ones you hear about fairly regularly at PNC Music Pavilion in north Charlotte. There was no threat of rain.
In fact, the weather was so perfect that I almost didn’t notice the weather. There was barely any breeze, the humidity was far lower than normal, and the air temperature was so ideal that at moments I forgot I was even outdoors.
As a result, I was able to fully focus my attention on enjoying a night with the Rolling Stones.
And yes, absolutely — even as the guys push their way deeper into their 70s, they are still worth paying close attention to, still well worth buying tickets to see.
It remains to be seen whether the band will make its way back here again before it’s, um, too late.
But if they’re up for another go-around, so am I.
Two quick postscripts:
1. The blues-rock band Ghost Hounds opened with an energetic and sonically pleasing 45-minute set that left lead singer Tre’ Nation — who, like Jagger, has a hard time standing still — drenched in sweat. A well-earned support slot for the groovy Pittsburgh-based sextet. Read more about them here.
1. If you were lucky enough to score a physical ticket (a way cooler memento than a screenshot of an e-ticket), you may have noticed that the words “ProtectedIncome.org” stand out on it even more than the words “The Rolling Stones.” FWIW, that’s the website for “No Filter Tour” sole sponsor Alliance for Lifetime Income, a nonprofit “that creates awareness and educates Americans about the value and importance of having protected lifetime income in retirement.” I mean, the Stones are in their 70s, and a lot of their fans are in their 50s and 60s ... so, why not?
The Rolling Stones’ setlist
1. “Street Fighting Man”
2. “Let’s Spend the Night Together”
3. “Tumbling Dice”
4. “19th Nervous Breakdown”
5. “Trouble’s a’ Comin’”
6. “Let It Bleed”
7. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
8. “Living in a Ghost Town”
9. “Start Me Up”
10. “Honky Tonk Women”
11. “Before They Make Me Run”
12. “Slipping Away”
13. “Miss You”
14. “Midnight Rambler”
15. “Paint It Black”
16. “Sympathy for the Devil”
17. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
18. “Gimme Shelter”
19. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”