After 53 years, Stones still a force on stage

Before the June 3rd Rolling Stones concert at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, people in the crowd kept saying that seeing the “greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world” was a “once in a lifetime” experience.

Yes, each time I was told and overheard this, the cynic in me rolled my eyes. I didn’t quite get it until after a video introduction when Keith Richards led the band on stage in slick green jacket to the first chords of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” An unexpected star-struck moment hit me: That’s Keith Richards (he really is still alive after all he’s done to himself), that’s his Drop D tuning, and that’s the Richards guitar tone, which I did not expect to sound right live.

Singer Mick Jagger followed with all his dancing and jiving flare. For 71, the guy can still move and sustain it over the course of a show. Guitarist Ronnie Wood looked every bit the rock ‘n’ roll bad boy during the set with a T-shirt and a chain of cigarettes, while drummer Charlie Watts was all business.

Despite being in their 70s — except for the 68-year-old Wood — the band put on a clinic of rock ‘n’ roll energy, longevity, stage presence and charisma. Yes, I hope I’m in Rolling Stones shape when I hit 71, specifically Jagger shape.

The 19-song, two hour and 10 minute set featured plenty of hits: “Honky Tonk Women” got the crowd singing and moving, opener Grace Potter sang backup vocals but tried too hard on “Gimme Shelter.” “Miss You” featured a wicked bass solo in an extended bridge, and Jagger danced in a red-feathered cape as flames danced on screen during “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Sure, the group felt a bit tired by the time VocalEssence helped spark them on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” but they provided a final burst of energy for concert mainstay and closer ““(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

Though it was great to hear the hits, the group’s second-tier songs stuck out to me the most. The group rocked on “Midnight Rambler,” and they turned it up a notch during an extended bridge. “Moonlight Mile” changed things up with a softer vibe, and “Bit#$” was a pleasant surprise.

Despite a steady rain stopping just before showtime, the crowd buzzed around TCF and formed obscenely long lines for obscenely priced merchandise.

I’ve had poor luck with outdoor concerts: Almost always, the sound is lacking and dissipates in the open air. But this was the fullest outdoor sound I’ve heard, even though I’ve read others who were critical of the Stones’ sound. It was far better than I expected. They had punch, but they also had that Rolling Stones tone and feel. I was not expecting both.

I have to admit, I was never an avid Rolling Stones fan before jumping at the chance to see them live. I enjoyed the hits and bought their records when I found the essentials.

After I got tickets, I studied up by binge-listening, especially to their ‘70s albums, and by reading Richard’s autobiography “Life.” Through either great planning or chance, I finished the book the morning of the show, which added a historic awareness to the show for me.

Reading the book, you can’t help but like Richards’ gruff, direct, but ultimately likable nature, and seeing him live just added to that: He smiled and ofter and looked like he was having a legitimately good time.

Reading “Life” and then seeing the Stones in person helped me fully understand what everyone was talking about when they said it was a “once in a lifetime” experience. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you can’t find another band that better epitomizes rock ‘n’ roll and we likely never will. They’ve been going 53 years — since the early the years of rock ‘n’ roll — and it’s hard to imagine another band ever sustaining that long with the sphere of influence.

Seeing the band live sent me home with sort or rock ‘n’ roll energy that left me feeling uneasy for the next day. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t focus. I just wanted to listen to music and find another show to attend, realizing it’d be hard to find another with buzz equal to the Stones.

I suspect others felt the same way. After the concert, a group of people broke singing/chanting the “woo woo” from “Sympathy for the Devil” in a wide stair well. A group on the other side of the stairwell answered. The ritual was repeated on the street outside and later in the parking lot.

It was a concert that stuck with you.

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