The Take

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - CONTENTS - TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

Our crit­ics on the best to see and do this week­end and be­yond

Whether we love, loathe or are in­dif­fer­ent to them, The Rolling Stones are the sole rem­nants of the first wave of world-dom­i­nat­ing Brit­pop that in­cluded The Bea­tles, The Who and The Kinks. The band are also the old­est of their kind and stature. From their for­ma­tion in Lon­don 56 years ago, they have dis­carded one orig­i­nal mem­ber (Bill Wy­man) and seen an­other one trag­i­cally die (Brian Jones).

Yet the core trio of Mick Jag­ger, Keith Richards and Char­lie Watts did the clever thing by adding an­other 1960s gui­tar hero – Ron­nie Wood – to their ranks in 1975. Forty-three years later, Wood has at­tained bona-fide band mem­ber sta­tus by not only look­ing al­most as ragged as Keith Richards but also by his mu­si­cian­ship, which weaves as tra­di­tional a rock’n’roll spell as any gui­tar fan could wish for.

Now that we have the his­tory an­gle sorted, let’s talk about age and do the math. Jag­ger (74), Richards (74), Watts (76) and Wood (70) have a com­bined age of 294. For some peo­ple, the sight of four wrin­kled, leath­ery 70-some­thing men per­form­ing a bunch of songs – most of which, it is fair to say, have stood the test of time to be­come clas­sic pop/rock tunes in their own right – is un­seemly. This makes per­fect sense in many ways. For starters, you don’t ex­pect your favourite band to last more than ten years max­i­mum, so when they get past 50 or 60 it’s odd to think they still have reserves of en­ergy, the de­meanour, and the im­age to get out on stage and belt out the hits in as ap­peal­ing a way as they once did.

As for the money, un­like other, younger bands, es­pe­cially those on the lu­cra­tive 1980s nos­tal­gia cir­cuit, The Rolling Stones may not need it, but they cer­tainly want it. Jag­ger is worth an es­ti­mated $300m (¤252m), Richards less so (Watts and Woods even less, but nei­ther will ever have to wait for their gov­ern­ment pen­sions to land every week in or­der to pay the heat­ing bills).

This irony is surely not lost on a band whose pre­vi­ous tours have grossed hun­dreds of mil­lions, but there is method in such ob­vi­ous busi­ness pro­ce­dures. Sim­ply put, it’s about bal­anc­ing out the loss of earn­ings from record sales with rev­enue made not only from tour­ing but also that ever cru­cial fis­cal side­line, mer­chan­dis­ing.

The band’s reg­u­lar tour­ing has, alas, lit­tle to do with ever need­ing (let alone want­ing) to be rel­e­vant again – the days when a Rolling Stones song aligned it­self with any­thing as­so­ci­ated with the zeit­geist was 1971’s Street

Fight­ing Man. Un­like U2 (whose mem­bers will have reached their 60s when they take the 30th an­niver­sary of Ach­tung Baby out on tour in 2021), it seems The Rolling Stones don’t have a burn­ing am­bi­tion to write orig­i­nal songs (they haven’t re­leased a stu­dio al­bum of orig­i­nal songs since 2005’s A Big­ger Bang) or any in­ter­est in the music charts, such as they are th­ese days (they haven’t had a Top 10 sin­gle since 1981’s Start Me Up).

What you’ll get at Croke Park next Thurs­day night won’t be a band mulling over their child­hood, teenage in­flu­ences, and re­la­tion­ships (ala U2’s Songs of In­no­cence/Ex­pe­ri­ence shows and al­bums, which, what­ever way you re­act to them, at least have some thought to them) but an el­derly and not so creaky ma­chine de­liv­er­ing up­wards of two dozen songs that will have 100 per cent fa­mil­iar­ity. Not Fade Away? It’s All Over Now?

The Last Time? Don’t ex­pect th­ese song ti­tles to proph­esy any­thing, is our ad­vice.


The Rolling Stones (from left, Mick Jag­ger, Keith Richards, Ron­nie Wood and Char­lie Watts)

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