Hey Man, You Going to See the Stones at the Garden?
When I was a wee lad of thirteen, the only thing I wanted out of life was to see the Rolling Stones perform. I read books, I watched movies, and I bought records, starting with Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out. It didn't take me long to figure out that I'd missed the good stuff by about a decade at that point. As Keith Richards himself recently put it:
That body of work, between those two albums [Beggar's Banquet and Exile on Main St.]: That was the most important time for the band.
They toured in 1981, but I couldn't get tickets. The live album and movie that came out of that tour were embarassing, but I still wanted to see them. They toured again in 1989, so I shelled out the money for scalped tickets to see them in the old Foxboro Stadium. The tickets came with a bus ride which got me and a friend there hours before the show started. We ended up drunk and squinting at a stage that was a long way away.
I saw them again at Giants Stadium. This time, our seats were so far away that it was hard to hear them over the people around us singing along with every song. For both of those stadium shows, I have it on good authority that they sounded great, and were playing much better than their 1981 nadir. But I'll have to take someone else's word for it--I certainly couldn't tell.
Now that I'm old (though still only half the age of the Stones themselves), I'm more likely to try to see Radiohead. But the Stones are back in town, playing the Garden, the site of the triumpant climaxes of their 1969 and 1972 tours (both of which were attended by my wife and her brother) and of their upcoming HBO broadcast. Quite unexpectedly, my brother-in-law offered me a ticket to tonight's show. I'll finally get to see them (admittedly thirty years after their peak) in the best possible venue.
Much has been made of their playing this music at their age, but I don't think that's a real issue. People like Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters have managed to sound great in their sixties and seventies. I think the real problem in the case of the Stones is that their recent tours, however well played, have felt like a cross between nostalgia and a merchandising opportunity. They have tried to do things a little differently for this tour. In with the stadiums, they're playing arenas and even theaters. And they have greatly expanded their repertoire. So far, the reviews have been good. I'm going to cross my fingers, and hope for the best.