Centuries from now, historians will stumble upon footage from a 2000s-era Rolling Stones concert and gape.
"How old are those dudes?" they'll wonder, refusing to believe that a bunch of guys ranging from 68 to 74 years of age were capable of such visceral showmanship, such heartily performed songs, such unbelievable stamina.
But yes, as we’ve witnessed every few years for the past couple of decades, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts – the Core Four of Stones Inc. – hit the road with a package of muscle and might and OK, a few more wrinkles.
It’s what they know. It’s what they love. And the most striking thing about their performance at Bobby Dodd Stadium on this “Zip Code” tour (30332 for those wondering), is how much they still care.
Even though you know Richards is slicing through the signature riff of “Start Me Up” – Tuesday’s opening salvo – for the thousandth or so time, and that Jagger has hopscotched hundreds of miles down the catwalk that juts halfway down the field, they still make it look and sound effortless.
For their first Atlanta appearance since two performances at Philips Arena during the “A Bigger Bang” tour in October 2005 and February 2006, The Rolling Stones presented a set list that commendably shuffled the gotta-play classic rock radio darlings (a deeply funky “Miss You,” a loose “Tumbling Dice”) with hardcore fan favorites that thrilled most in the crowd of 40,000-plus.
The reissue of “Sticky Fingers” arrived Tuesday as well, and, as they’ve done throughout the tour, the band paid homage.
Serrated guitar from Richards – as well as a charming smirk that spread into a giant grin as he played – coated “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” (“That’s about as close to jazz as we get,” Jagger joked at the song’s end). Richards then strapped on an acoustic guitar to stroll through Mississippi bluesman Fred McDowell’s “You Gotta Move,” with Jagger stretching his mouth to enunciate every lyric.
While the Stones have achieved a reputation for stadium spectacle – this is their first time playing North American stadiums since “A Bigger Bang” – their presentation is relatively clean in his enormity.
Full-length vertical video screens flanked the stage, while a horizontal screen behind the unflappable Watts, Georgia-strong keyboardist Chuck Leavell, rugged bassist Darryl Jones and the brass section of Karl Denson, Tim Ries and Matt Clifford (also on keys), broadcast close-ups of the rockers’ with startling clarity.
The first singe of fireworks came with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and atmospheric smoke billowed from the stage, shrouding the crowd in an eerie fog to match the sinister vibe of “Sympathy for the Devil.”
It was all appropriately ahhhh-worthy, but really, the focus never strayed from the music and Jagger’s incomparable presence.
The charismatic CEO of this organization is still sexy, even with his deeply lined face and toothpick physique (really, who else DOES move like Jagger?). Within minutes of taking the stage, he shed his layers of Vegas-lounge jacket and black satin shirt to race around in a form-fitting purple pullover that soon sported a hole from his jittery activity.
Watching Jagger bounce on air, you get the feeling that he’s like the coolest of cats. He’s stealthy and confident and doesn’t make a sound when he moves. While Jagger’s voice was impressively robust throughout the two-hour concert, he provides so much visual stimulation that it’s easy to stop listening.
His display during “Midnight Rambler” was epic Jagger when he stutter-stepped down the catwalk, boxing with an invisible opponent as he shimmied, pounced and thrust in a mesmerizing display of feral energy.
His eternal foil, the shaggy guitar god Richards, looked like a human package of Skittles – red shirt, zebra-striped headband, teal sneakers – and presented himself with his usual delightful combination of mischievousness and surprising lucidity.
“It’s good to see you guys!” Richards boomed as he took center stage for a hearty version of “Before They Make Me Run.” Then he chuckled. “It’s good to see anybody!”
With a stellar supporting cast behind him – including ace backup singers Bernard Fowler and the underappreciated Lisa Fischer – Richards and buddy Wood ripped into “Happy.” Wood, a lighted cigarette dangling from his lips, sizzled on lap steel guitar as Richards strummed the neck of his instrument. If you didn’t know they were gazillionaire superstars, you’d think these two were a couple of brothers jamming in the basement.
While fans will always relish the easy-to-sing, easy-to-air-guitar show closers “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” a Rolling Stones concert is epitomized by “Gimme Shelter” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”
The dark, woozy songs – the former introduced by Fischer’s haunting vocals and the latter by Watts’ swinging groove peppered with Leavell’s bluesy piano – escalate with different styles of intensity. Fischer and Jagger vocally spar with gut-clenching anguish on “Shelter,” while they, along with Fowler, lead a call-and-response as the fade-out of “Devil” that would almost feel jaunty if it were attached to another song.
But that’s the type of enigmatic potency that makes the band arguably the greatest in rock ‘n’ roll history.
In our recent interview prior to Tuesday's show
, Leavell commented that Richards often says that The Rolling Stones don't have an expiration date because there is no blueprint to follow.
Realistically, this can’t last but so much longer.
But, as history will one day attest, what this band is currently doing – and the level at which they’re doing it – is simply extraordinary.
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Follow this link to check out more photos from the concert.
The folks at Georgia Tech have shared this cool blog of show set-up and event photos. Credit to Danny Karnik / Georgia Tech Athletics.
The Atlanta set list:
Start Me Up
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)
All Down the Line
Doom and Gloom
Can't You Hear Me Knocking
You Gotta Move
Honky Tonk Women
Before They Make Me Run
Jumpin' Jack Flash
Sympathy for the Devil
You Can't Always Get What You Want
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction