It had been a while since we went to a big Rock show. It was hard to believe The Stones were coming again, but I did crave another blast of live Stones. The Fifty Year Anniversary was too good for Mick and the boys to pass up. Could we get off the train even if we wanted to? Did we really have a choice?
We didn’t get tickets when they first went on sale, but we rarely do. Ticket brokers bought many tickets and tried to sell them for double the face price. Ads online promised “cheap Rolling Stones tickets.” For four hundred dollars.
Maybe The Stones had finally gone too far. They say they don’t profit from the scalper’s prices, but I have to wonder. Mick is known to be a control freak involved in all parts of the operation. It’s hard to believe they don’t know what’s going on with ticket scalping.
They had played a few shows to test the waters. How much would hard core fans pay for their last chance to see The Stones? The veteran fans on Stones fan sites (Shidobee.com, IORR.org) said that the previous shows in London, New Jersey and Brooklyn had tickets available at the last minute. You could walk up and buy a ticket on the night of the show. There could be tickets around for those with the nerve to wait.
As the date of the show arrived, prices did come down. My sister Joan persevered and got tickets from Craigslist. We paid $200 a ticket about a week before the show. We were glad to have tickets in hand, or at least the computer print out. There’s always doubt when you don’t have a ticket.
It was a bit surreal going to the show. It was hard to believe we were really heading to another Stones show. This would be show number forty for me. There was some pre-Stones angst. This could really, really be the last time. There was a different kind of urgency. We told tales of former tours.
We got in line to enter the Oakland Coliseum, now the Oracle Arena. Most of the crowd were obvious Stones veterans. There was about a half hour wait, and then we made it through the metal detector. This could be normal in Oakland now for all I know.
Our seats were in the rafters, but that was fine with me. I was content to watch the awesome spectacle from upstairs. The stage took up space, but it wasn’t as huge as the stages used at outdoor shows. A large ramp in the form of the Stones tongue logo circled the area in front of the stage. Inside the ramp was “the pit area.” Posters on Shidobee said that seeing The Stones from the pit was a once in a lifetime experience. The original face price of pit tickets was $1,000!
We were cut off from some of the huge screens overhead, but that was all right. I usually want to see them, not the screen. The sound was great. There was a little “bounce” off the ceiling, but it was worth it to see them in a relatively intimate (17,000) arena.
The crowd was settling in. It’s not as surprising to see wild looking geezers using canes to get to the seats in the upper reaches. This was an old demographic. There were very few kids. With these ticket prices no one was taking a gamble that the kids might be bored.
There was no opening act. Considering the price, you’d think they’d have put someone onstage. It must solve the problem of what was once called the toughest job in show business: opening for The Stones.
It’s getting near show time. The giant screens show us clips of super celebrities paying homage. Johnny Depp, Iggy, Martin Scorsese, Pete Townsend, Lars Ulrich. (The Examiner said Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett was there in a floor seat.) Among the sound effects before they hit the stage was a bass heartbeat that rattled chests. They still know how to build the tension. They burst onstage about 9:15 with Get Off My Cloud. It’s a great opening song. We know we’re in for something special. We were in the orgasmic bubble that is The Stones. It’s clear from the start that no matter what they look like, they rock!
They follow with a series of hits: It’s Only Rock And Roll, Live With Me, Paint It Black. The intensity seemed to go up a notch for Gimmie Shelter. Lisa Fischer was amazing on what is now her signature song. She has an amazing voice.
Fischer is in the film “Twenty Feet from Stardom.” We saw it at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It’s a great documentary on the back up singers of the Sixties and early Seventies. The night we saw it, Tata Vega and Mary Clayton came out after the film and sang! It will be in theaters in June.
I’m not big on the surprise guests. It can be a waste of precious Stones time. The show in Los Angeles had Keith Urban and Gwen Stefani. The Stones are trying to connect with another new generation. Tonight’s guest is more in the spirit of The Stones: Tom Waits joins them for Little Red Rooster. It’s a great touch. Waits growls with the band on the old Blues song that was on The Stones’ first album.
It was hard to understand anything they said onstage. Mick did ask, “How many here are really from Oakland?” He said he walked around Fisherman’s Wharf and Golden Gate Park. Imagine turning a corner and running into old rubber lips playing the tourist. Keith mentioned being in “Frisco.”
They do some Country and Western for the East Bay crowd, Dead Flowers. Next is Emotional Rescue. It’s not one of my favorites, but it is something different.
During On Down the Line overhead screens were filled with shots of music icons. We see pioneers of Rhythm and Blues and Rock and Roll. Chuck Berry, Etta James, James Brown, Ray Charles. If anyone else did it, it would be considered blasphemy. It’s a reminder of The Stones place in the pantheon.
Mick doesn’t sprint around the stage like he used to, but he still covers a lot of ground. His stamina was amazing as the show went on. Truly amazing at any age.
Stones shows seem to have their own pace. Next were two new songs: Gloom and Doom (Mick on guitar) and One More Shot. Gloom and Doom is a great new Stones song, but the crowd seemed underwhelmed. There does have to be new songs.
It was back to the classics for Honky Tonk Women. The screens showed a great animation sequence behind the band.
Mick did the band introductions and it was time for the Keith segment. There wasn’t the usual exodus to the powder rooms. Ronnie Wood hammed it up after Mick announced him. They look old, but Keith and Ronnie are still the lunatic hoodlums.
We got Before They Make Me Run! Keith has sounded sharp and crisp. It’s a very friendly, smiling Keith tonight. He really looks like he’s getting off on being onstage and touring again. The second Keith song is Happy.
Mick Taylor joins for Midnight Rambler. His return to the band has been well hyped. He doesn’t look like the angelic choir boy who escaped The Stones in the Seventies. It’s interesting to see him back with the band. Too bad he’s only onstage for one song. Mick goes nuts!
Miss You. Always a big crowd favorite.
A great version of Start Me Up.
Brown Sugar. We’re in the big windup that will feature “the old war horses,” the Stones biggest hits. Veteran fans would prefer some more obscure songs, but The Stones have to satisfy the more casual ticket buyers.
Sympathy for the Devil. Great solos by Ronnie and Keith.
They leave the stage for a short while and the San Jose State choir sets up on opposite sides of the stage. They do an uplifting You Can’t Always Get What You Want. The choir’s singing sounds so good I start to wonder if it’s been taped. What a thrill for members of this choir. They can always say they were onstage with The Stones.
Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Mick and Keith wander the tongue ramp around the pit. They almost bump into each other at one point.
Satisfaction. It’s another grand finale, maybe the last one.
Mick Taylor comes out with the boys for the final bow.
I wouldn’t be that surprised to see them come back again. Keith says that when a tour starts, it builds a momentum of its own, and it’s hard to stop. How long can Charley keep drumming? How long can anyone keep playing the drums? Some Jazz drummers have played into their eighties. Charley, like the rest of The Stones, is in largely uncharted territory.
It was certainly worth it for me. The tickets were expensive, but The Stones are still inspiring, maybe more inspiring than ever. It could be the last time, but we’ve heard that before.