October 1, 2021
Sixty years ago, rock ‘n’ roll was thought to be something that would be forever confined to youngsters’ radios and record collections. Many never thought the genre would become the multi-generational gathering place the Rolling Stones have proven it to be.
How is it that a bunch of blues-loving college students outlasted the British Invasion, psychedelia, Woodstock, soft rock, yacht rock, disco, the eighties, and still play to full stadiums? How many 78-year-old lead singers can pose for a photo in front of the Thirsty Beaver and have the whole region and national media lose its collective mind?
Opening for the Rolling Stones can be both the best gig in the world and the worst. Ghost Hounds, a band from Pittsburgh touted by Mick Jagger, didn’t seem to be fazed by that prospect. Their mix of rock, soul and gospel hit all the right notes with the audience. Singer Tre Nation moved constantly around the gigantic stage, engaging the crowd and earning the respect of the concert-goers eager to see the headliners.
As the near sold-out crowd awaited the Stones– who hit the stage around 8:45 p.m.– the person that was on the minds of many was longtime drummer Charlie Watts, who passed away in August. Charlie’s presence was everywhere, from the video tribute at the beginning of the show to his photo that loomed over his bandmates when the Stones took their final bows.
Now in his place is Steve Jordan, who first joined Keith Richards in the X-Pensive Winos in the late ‘80s. Playing his second gig with the Rolling Stones on this tour, Jordan seemed locked in with the rest of the band. Richards and guitarist Ron Wood turned to face Jordan with sloppy grins on their faces that said, “Yeah, this feels good. We’ll be fine.”
While Charlotte did not hear “It’s Only Rock & Roll,” “Under My Thumb,” “Wild Horses,” and “Happy,” which were played in St. Louis a few nights earlier, we did get the Stones’ first-ever performance covering Chicago soul quartet, Chi-Lites’ “Troubles a’ Comin,” which is featured on the band’s upcoming Tattoo You 40th anniversary collection. The band also played “Let It Bleed” as the evening’s special request, a welcome addition for those of us that like our countrified Stones.
Charlotte and North Carolina also got special mentions. Reminding everyone of his stop at the Thirsty Beaver on the previous night, Jagger also talked about the band’s first visit to Charlotte in 1965, with the show’s poster displayed on screen before “Paint It, Black.” When asking who was from Greensboro, Raleigh, Asheville and other surrounding cities, Jagger followed by saying, “Is anyone here actually from Charlotte?” Referring to them as “unicorns.”
For a band that has been playing for over fifty years, the most striking observation about the evening’s show is that it didn’t feel well-worn. It felt alive. Keith Richards seemed genuinely moved while singing “Slipping Away,” smiling out at the crowd while clutching his guitar. Clocking in at twelve minutes, “Midnight Rambler” still feels like a group of musicians enjoying the groove. Even with the pyrotechnics and the colossal light and stage show, they feel like a band that just wants to play rock ‘n’ roll, and have a good time doing it.
On an evening with impeccable weather, the Rolling Stones delivered what many of us have been missing for a while: good live music. From the first strum of Richards’ guitar, the crowd sang together, laughed and reminisced as the group played from their vast collection of music. The fireworks show after the finale, “Satisfaction,” put a cap on what was indeed a communal celebration fulfilling our rock ’n’ roll concert fantasies, with a storied band.
Check out the remaining 2021 tour dates for The Rolling Stones.
“Street Fighting Man”
“Let’s Spend the Night Together”
“19th Nervous Breakdown”
“Troubles a’ Comin” (The Chi‐Lites cover)
“Let It Bleed”
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
“Living in a Ghost Town”
“Start Me Up”
“Honky Tonk Women”
“Before They Make Me Run”
“Paint It, Black”
“Sympathy for the Devil”
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”