Today the Rolling Stones announced their 2013 tour schedule (see below). Between that Rolling Stones news and the work the Curatorial, Exhibitions and Collections staff have been doing to get ready for Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Satisfaction, a feature exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opening May 24, I've been immersed in the "world's greatest rock and roll band" for several months. Among other things, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit will highlight the Rolling Stones touring during the last half century, years of concerts that have made them one of the best – if not the best – live rock and roll acts in history.
I was lucky to grow up in Detroit, Michigan, at a time when music was everywhere and radio was vibrant and meaningful. That city produced so many extraordinary musicians – Hank Ballard, Jackie Wilson, the MC5, the Stooges, Bob Seger, the entire Motown roster – it’s nearly impossible to comprehend. Detroit gave rise to some of the genre's best. It was there I became captivated by the Rolling Stones.
I first heard the group listening to CKLW, the legendary Canadian AM radio station. Detroit was also the home of some of the best FM rock stations and the Stones were staples there, too. I was very fortunate to have a musical mentor when I was a kid. David Riggs was my sister’s boyfriend at the time, and he made it his mission to enlighten me on great music. With Dave as my guide, I learned to hear and appreciate the intricacy of Keith Richard’s rhythm playing on “Turd on the Run,” and the distorted, driving reggae pulse of “Luxury.” I’m forever indebted to him for dragging my teenage ass to see Muddy Waters perform. Not that I was opposed to the idea, but I don’t think at the time I would have made a point of going. The Rolling Stones were our bonding point, and I devoured their catalog. My intense fandom led to many spirited discussions among my then contemporaries as to who was a better band, the Stones or Kiss? Guess which side I took? (I believe the point has been settled.) [pictured, left: Keith Richards' 1963 H1270 12-string acoustic guitar, to be featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Rolling Stones exhibit.]
Timing and opportunity meant I'd missed my first real chance to see the Rolling Stones when they performed at Detroit's Masonic Hall in July of 1978. It was one of several small hall shows on that tour and tickets were beyond my reach. Three years later, when the group embarked on their American Tour in 1981, promoting the Number One album Tattoo You, the itinerary included two shows in Michigan: November 30 and December 1 at the Pontiac Silverdome.
The announcement sent a shockwave of excitement through the collective psyche of my friends and I. We were bubbling with enthusiasm and anticipation at the opportunity to actually see the Stones play live, in person. It was really going to happen. Then there was the small issue of procuring tickets. The only way was mail order. You purchased a money order and sent it off with a self-addressed stamped envelope and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually, two envelopes arrived at my house with general admission tickets for each show. I was in, and I was elated.
The concert had two great opening acts: hometown boy Iggy Pop and Santana. I don’t think Iggy had the local support he should have, because he was pelted with cups and shoes and booed off the stage both nights. I’ll never forget the sight of him being escorted off the stage by one of his crew and him saying of the debris hurled at him, “Hey! There’s some cool stuff up here.” Santana fared much better. Sixty minutes of hits and the crowd was fired up. [pictured, right: Ron Wood's c.1978 Tony Zemaitis electric guitar, to be featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Rolling Stones exhibit.]
The Stones' set launched with Keith Richards playing the opening notes to "Under my Thumb," as Mick Jagger exploded on to the stage from behind a curtain, dancing wildly, running to and fro in a neon yellow jacket. The stage and ramps were massive, and Jagger ran and sang all night, displaying an amazing physicality. The set list charged through a mix of Stones originals, including "Let's Spend the Night Together," "Shattered" and "Beast of Burden," which encompassed their entire career. As always, they added some very tasteful covers, which included their versions of two Motown classics, the Temptations' "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" and the Miracles' "Going to a Go-Go." The Rolling Stones know how to win over a crowd.
Jagger, Richards, Ron Wood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, along with keyboardists Ian McLagan and Ian Stewart, and sax player Ernie Watts, performed more than two dozen songs that night. Reading the setlists again elicited vivid feelings of the excitement and energy that made me love the Rolling Stones. Since then, I've seen the band play more than 20 times, in many places. I cannot wait to experience them again in 2013.
So, what's the best Rolling Stones concert you've ever been to?
The Rolling Stones 2013 "50 and Counting" North American Tour Dates:
TBA – Los Angeles, CA @ Staples Center
05/05 – Oakland, CA @ Oracle Arena
05/08 – San Jose, CA @ HP Pavilion
05/11 – Las Vegas, NV @ MGM Grand Garden Arena
05/15 – Anaheim, CA @ Honda Center
05/25 – Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
05/28 – Chicago, IL @ United Center
06/12 – Boston, MA @ TD North Garden
06/18 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center