Live Pre­views

It’s only rock’n’roll? Don’t you be­lieve it.

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Ian Fort­nam Pho­tos: Kevin Nixon

Must-see gigs from Amer­ica, Tre­monti, Su­per­sonic Blues Ma­chine, Big Big Train and No Hot Ashes. Plus full gig list­ings – find out who’s play­ing where and when.

While it’s pretty pre­pos­ter­ous to imag­ine that the Rolling Stones might ac­tu­ally be get­ting bet­ter as they march in­ex­orably to­wards their 80s, on all avail­able ev­i­dence pre­sented here tonight it ap­pears to be so, for this is a vin­tage show.

Iron­i­cally, loyal long-time fans are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ner­vous of pur­chas­ing tick­ets for gigs that could po­ten­tially leave a bit­ter af­ter­taste. It’s widely rea­soned that we’re near­ing a time when

The Great­est Rock ’N’ Roll Band In The World™ will sim­ply cease to de­liver to the stan­dard ex­pected of their rank; that fin­gers will seize up, synapses snap a lit­tle too slowly to keep per­fect time and that all-im­por­tant lar­ynx at cen­tre stage sur­ren­der to the in­evitable rav­ages of time. And no one wants their fi­nal ear­ful of the live Stones to be a dis­ap­point­ment, to echo in their mem­ory as the night they should have stayed at home.

There were vis­i­ble, if for­giv­able, hair­line cracks on dis­play at Hyde Park in 2013, for those sober enough to de­tect them, and that was five years ago. So where are we now? Are the Stones as eter­nal as the Mount Rush­more mon­u­ment their stoic de­meanour re­calls?

The ease with which all con­cerned ca­su­ally de­liver re­laxed and in­tu­itive per­for­mances (in what can be one of the most soul­less mu­sic venues on earth) would seem to sug­gest that there’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing lack­ing in to­day’s Stones. They re­tain their al­most su­per­nat­u­ral abil­ity to tes­sel­late like no other en­sem­ble on earth in or­der to serve up a time­less, crowd-pleas­ing whole that still far ex­ceeds the sum of its – or any­body else’s – parts.

Spool­ing back 42 years, when tick­ets for the Stones’ Kneb­worth show of 1976 went on sale, ru­mours were rife that it could be their last stand. New boy Ron Wood had barely set­tled in, but these peo­ple were in their thir­ties – how much longer could they pos­si­bly go on? How times have changed. Yet one thing re­mains con­stant: though the doubters may doubt, the Stones keep Rolling.

The 2018 Stones’ con­stituency is broader than one might imag­ine. Ob­vi­ously there are more 50- and 60-some­things in at­ten­dance than you’d ex­pect to find at the av­er­age rock show, but the Stones made a lot of new friends when they played their first Glas­ton­bury in 2013, both in the field and, as it went out live, on the af­ter-pub couch.

In the in­terim, Keith Richards’s role as the na­tion’s favourite in­cor­ri­gi­ble un­cle has only ex­panded, thanks to the Pirates Of The Caribbean fran­chise and his week­end let loose as BBC2’s late-night pro­gram­mer. And Mick Jag­ger? The po­tency of his al­lure re­mains one of the won­ders of na­ture. As he wig­gles his hips sug­ges­tively, I’m sur­rounded by women in their mid-20s who are, quite lit­er­ally, whoop­ing. Mick Jag­ger is 74.

Prior to these wild scenes (that sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian men should prob­a­bly not pin too much wild hope on), we have a sup­port slot from Liam Gal­lagher to con­tend with. Mar­mite turns prob­a­bly don’t come much more broadly di­vi­sive. His swag­ger­ing ar­ro­gance-as-at­ti­tude, jut­ting chin, match­less wardrobe, short fuse, ex­cel­lent hair and that voice are all present, but in­creas­ingly, you re­ally have to won­der what it is he’s so an­gry about. Bullish ag­gres­sion was al­ways a ma­jor part of Oa­sis’s ap­peal, yet while it played well to a footie-weaned Brit­pop yob­berati, to­day’s Liam has dis­tilled it to a car­i­ca­ture of ma­cho fury that both de­fines and hand­i­caps his vo­cal per­for­mance. He’ll need to rein it in if he’s ever to re­claim his finest form, but for tonight, a short, sharp, Oa­sis-heavy set (with Paul ‘Bone­head’ Arthurs guest­ing on Some Might Say and Cig­a­rettes And Al­co­hol) is more than enough to please a tough crowd.

Tonight’s main at­trac­tion ex­plode onto the stage with a forth­right as­sault on Street Fight­ing Man that al­most goes by un­no­ticed. The first min­utes of any Stones show are all about the vi­su­als. There’s an in­tro­duc­tion, a riff, and as the Stones and sup­port­ing cast hove into view, it’s as if a charisma bomb has been det­o­nated on stage. Time slips out of phase as necks crane, eyes squint, huge screens flicker into life and sud­denly there they are. Larg­erthan-life dots on the hori­zon ca­per be­neath 50-foot close-ups. Hy­per-re­al­ity en­gages as Jag­ger pirou­ettes, preens, darts, bumps, grinds, flips, flops and flies. His en­ergy’s ex­haust­ing, his voice ut­terly ex­tra­or­di­nary. No one sings like Jag­ger. No one would dare.

Keith and Ronnie: corvine, lean as junk­yard dogs, ca­sual in their dual de­liv­ery of a shared magic; in­ter­twin­ing, im­pro­vis­ing on iconic themes with an in­stinc­tive in­ge­nu­ity all their own, they shrug from ‘what-the-fuck’ loose to tight as a drum in the time it takes Char­lie Watts to de­ploy a Chicago shuf­fle.

And Char­lie? Char­lie’s ev­ery­body’s dar­ling, sharp as a ra­zor, re­li­able as taxes, and com­ple­ment­ing his pre­cisely creased blue shirt with scar­let socks.

By the time your brain’s fin­ished pro­cess­ing the ut­terly be­daz­zling fab­u­lous­ness pe­cu­liar to any in-the-flesh Stones en­counter, the band have favoured our ears with It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll, Tum­bling Dice and Paint It Black. It’s awe-in­spir­ing stuff.

Jag­ger re­calls play­ing the blues and see­ing his first skin­head “near ’ere at Dal­ston Baths” as he in­tro­duces Blue & Lone­some’s Ride ’Em On

Down, be­fore shin­ing bright­est on Black And Blue’s rarely aired Fool To Cry. As strato­spheric falset­tos punc­tu­ate a truly stun­ning vo­cal per­for­mance, you can fi­nally for­give the song its schmaltz.

Af­ter Keith does his bit, it’s a set-piece-packed romp to the fin­ish: Sym­pa­thy For The Devil, a mag­nif­i­cent Miss You to show­case bassist Dar­ryl Jones, taut psy­chodrama Mid­night Ram­bler, Start Me Up, Jump­ing Jack Flash, Brown Sugar. As glo­ri­ous as it’s pre­dictable, the Stones’ set-list is peer­lessly strong, and as they en­core with Gimme Shel­ter and an up­roar­i­ous Sat­is­fac­tion, it’s hard to see an end in sight for this most mag­nif­i­cent of all rock bands.

As they pre­pare to take their fi­nal bows, no one wants to say good­bye, least of all them.

Street fight­ing men: Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards. ‘It’s hard to see an end in sight for this most mag­nif­i­cent of all rock bands.’

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