Can’t get no sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian sat­is­fac­tion

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - ART & MUSIC -

Have some sym­pa­thy for the old devils, writes Barry Egan, as the Stones hit the road again with the tan­ta­lis­ing pos­si­bil­ity of another al­bum

THE most bizarre tale in Nick Kent’s smack­soaked 2010 mem­oir Apa­thy Fo r The Devil i s n’ t a b o u t Led Z e p p e l i n’s tremen­dously tubby man­ager Peter Grant col­laps­ing on to a couch at an Elvis Pres­ley af­ter-show beano and ac­ci­den­tally sit­ting on The King’s fa­ther, Ver­non.

Nor is about the film­maker Ken­neth Anger an­nounc­ing: “I just have to crook this fin­ger and Jimmy Page will au­to­mat­i­cally be turned into a toad.” Or even, when in a Cleve­land ho­tel, Sweet’s thick-as-a-brick singer Brian Con­nolly mis­took jazz god Count Basie for a porter.

The most bizarre story in Apa­thy For The Devil, per­haps pre­dictably, con­cerns the book’s au­thor Nick, in London in 1974, tak­ing heroin and co­caine (“the real break­fast of cham­pi­ons”) non-stop for 48 hours with the leg­en­dar­ily dis­so­lute Rolling Stone Keith Richards. This was un­til the lat­ter stopped mov­ing. And Nick thought Richards had over­dosed, ie was dead. Un­til he woke up. De­cid­edly not dead. If you want to be cruel, you could say that in a sense the sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian Rolling Stones are in a sim­i­lar state — caught, between life and death, and have been for quite some time. Be that as it may, The Rolling Stones are back on the road, hav­ing kicked off their Euro­pean tour in Ham­burg last week­end at the Fest­wiese Stadt­park in front of 80,000 fans.

From the clips I watched, Keith Richards and Ron­nie Wood still share a near tele­pathic mu­si­cal con­nec­tion.

It was fan­tas­tic to see 70-yearold Ron­nie back where he be­longs af­ter tri­umph­ing over lung can­cer. ”It’s like a gift that can’t be bought,” he said of be­ing on­stage with the Stones. “It’s an amaz­ing feel­ing.”

Al­most as amaz­ing was that the Stones played Danc­ing With Mr D (the open­ing track from the al­bum Goats Head Soup) for the first time since 1973, as well as air­ings of ev­ery­thing from Happy to Mid­night Ram­bler to Brown Sugar, Sym­pa­thy For The Devil and It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (But I Like It).

Char­lie Watts, now 76, still keeps the beat quite like no one else. The 74-year-old Skepta col­lab­o­ra­tor Mick Jag­ger and his younger co­hort 73-year-old Mr Richards still per­form like they long for redemp­tion on the older, blue­sier num­bers.

The two skinny di­vas from Dart­ford will have heard it a mil­lion times down through the years that the Stones are a gauche par­ody of them­selves (they will not need to be re­minded that Ex­ile on Main Street was ham­mered by the crit­ics upon its re­lease in 1972 and is now con­sid­ered one of the great­est al­bums ever made).

Clearly, they con­tinue to laugh all the way to the bank at these crit­i­cisms.

And be­sides, as Richards said him­self in 2015: “The idea of re­tir­ing is like killing your­self. It’s al­most like harakiri. I in­tend to live to 100 and go down in his­tory.”

In Ham­burg, they also played Ride ’Em On Down, the Jimmy Reed cover from their last al­bum, 2016’s cov­ers col­lec­tion Blue & Lone­some.

The al­bum’s co-pro­ducer Don Was said that the blues is, for the Stones, the “foun­tain-head of ev­ery­thing they do”. (The afore­said Ride ’Em On Down was, in fact, on the set-list for the Rolling Stones’s very first gig: July 12, 1962 at London’s Mar­quee.)

Some­times you get the im­pres­sion that Jag­ger, Richards, Watts and Wood are at their hap­pi­est in their old age on­stage and in the stu­dio do­ing what the old blues men like Wil­lie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Slim Harpo and Muddy Wa­ters did when they first in­spired them in the early 1960s.

There is tan­ta­lis­ing talk the Stones are work­ing on a fol­low-up to Blue & Lone­some.

Be­ing a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian, of course, is some­thing of a bonus when play­ing old blues num­bers. Ei­ther way, a lit­tle sym­pa­thy for the old devils, please.

Mick Jag­ger of The Rolling Stones per­forms dur­ing the band’s first con­cert of the ‘No Fil­ter’ tour in Ham­burg

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