On The Record: The (Still!) Rolling Stones

  I wasn’t going to go. I was going to shield my bank account from the ticket distributing sites and have a relaxing early summer weekend; perhaps drink a glass of chilled wine on my fire escape. But when my mother called last week to inform me that she had mistakenly purchased an extra two tickets to a particular concert, a blunder that cost her a pretty penny, I tossed the idea around. Selling the tickets back would have eased some financial pressure off her, it would leave my weekend free to settle into a new internship I was hoping to land, and it would keep me off the dreaded eight-hour Amtrak trip home. But ultimately, I couldn’t bring myself to say no.

   This kind of inner turmoil can only mean one thing: The Rolling Stones are out on tour again. Do I go? 

   Here are the pros:

  1. All members of the band seem healthy, active, and extremely excited to be out on the road. Nothing but good vibes. 
  2. They’re playing my hometown of Buffalo. This is particularly important because although Buffalo’s music scene has upheld a consistent reputation for being a gracious host, we are almost always skipped over for the bigger cities in the northeast, like Toronto or Philadelphia. (The Rolling Stones have, thankfully, given us some recognition over the years, including a lyric in “Rip This Joint” that goes “dig that sound on the radio, then slip it right across into Buffalo.”)
  3. It’s the first weekend in June: prime outdoor concert time.
  4. The band will, as anyone who has been to a Stones concert will tell you, put on a good show. They are the opposite of Bob Dylan, who doesn’t care whether you like the new versions of his songs and frankly won’t even acknowledge that he has an audience at all. The Stones want to play it loud and have fun. They are reliable, if nothing else.

   Here are the cons:

  1. It’s at the Buffalo Bills football stadium, where I have never been to a game, but I have been to one other Stones concert in 2015. The acoustics at a venue like this are shockingly awful. 
  2. By this point, The Rolling Stones are going through the motions. They play their usual hits (“Paint It Black,” “Satisfaction,” etc), the crowd goes crazy, and everyone gets more than a little wild. But there isn’t a whole lot of room for experimenting with new arrangements or digging into deeper cuts, which, for people like me, is a little disappointing. Every member of the band has always possessed a remarkable amount of talent; if only they had the ambition to be a bit more creative with it on stage. Give me an acoustic version of “Start Me Up,” try a jam-band-style rendition of “Midnight Rambler” … what do you have to lose when you’re the greatest rock n’ roll band in the world?

   These aren’t really cons, but they are sacrifices you have to make when you see a band as iconic as the Stones. When I told a friend that I planned on going they said, “Good, you should. They’re gonna die anyway.”

   People have been saying that for years, and we all know that given the lifestyles they lived, The Rolling Stones probably should have been dead around 40 years ago. But they’re not, and if I’ve learned anything as a classic rock fan, you have to grab these tickets while you still can. I saw Tom Petty live a mere few months before his death. Rock n’ roll may never die, but the guys who got its gears turning sure will. 

   So this week I spun what is perhaps amongst my top five Stones albums: Some Girls, released in 1978. It is their most successful album in the United States, and includes hits like “Beast of Burden,” “Miss You,” and “Respectable.” It’s also the first Stones album in which Ronnie Wood plays as full-time member of the band.

   I could tell you that Some Girls is the record that you should start out with if you’re a new fan, or that the songs are some of the best that Jagger and Richards ever wrote, but my personal advice for you New Yorkers is to turn “Shattered” way up loud. An ex-boyfriend once told me “the only way the volume knob should go is up,” and I thought it was silly at the time, but now I realize that there are some songs that insist require that they be played at full blast. 

   “Pride and joy and greed and sex,

   That’s what makes our town the best

   Pride and joy and dirty dreams and still surviving on the street!”

   Maybe part of the reason the Stones have been around for as long as they have is because us fans have absolutely refused to let go of them. They embody the exact characteristics that we’ve always envisioned rock n’ roll people to have. They’re hard, tough, messy, and reckless. And even when they grew older, those things stuck with them. There will never be another textbook-definition rock band like The Rolling Stones. It’s only rock n’ roll, but after 50 years, we still like it.