29th May 2018
Age is just a number when you’re a Rolling Stone. And yes, probably every review written in the last ten, twenty, or even thirty years will start off waffling about the age of the band, but that’s because it really is incredible what The Rolling Stones do considering how old they are.
But before we delve into the gig itself, a mention to The Vaccines (one of the only ‘modern’ guitar bands who’s music is genuinely worth more than three minutes of your attention) who filled the difficult role of The Stones’ support. They are essentially a more versatile, less pretentious version of The Arctic Monkeys, and whilst some of their more recent music doesn’t sound as brilliant live as it does on the record, their early songs- packed with endless energy, gutsy guitar riffs and lovelorn lyrics- had the crowd going wild, and provided a perfect foil to the blatant blues of some of the headliners’ material.
And yet, once The Stones took the stage, it was obvious who was the band that really knew how to command the attention of the 35,000-strong audience. And it’s hardly surprising considering the fact that they’ve been touring over fifty years (although, as Mick Jagger revealed, the last time they played Southampton was at The Mayflower Theatre back in 1966!).
Jerky, hyperactive and skinny-legged as ever, it was of course Jagger who stole the show, prancing and parading (and at one point even sprinting) across the stage, even occasionally being brave enough to mention Southampton’s football team in not exactly a favourable- but generally jovial- light.
Behind him stood the ever-present, ever chisel-faced Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards, the former apparently having earned the nickname ‘twinkle toes’ due to his lithe movements and sparkly converses, and the latter blasting out guitar riffs with the ease, confidence and of course utter acceptance that he is a rock ‘n’ roll legend- whilst still maintaining the roll of the consummate professional.
In terms of band members, as well as two backing singers, a keyboardist/French horn player, a bassist and a saxophonist, there was also of course Charlie Watts on the drums, powering through the set with his customised Stones kit and even occasionally cracking a smile! Surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) he is looking the most fragile of all the ‘original’ members, but it certainly does not affect his ability to play.
As readers can probably tell, I am choosing to focus more on the performance of the band themselves here because the setlist was generally what you’d expect- tracks like ‘Start Me Up’ (kicking off the proceedings, of course), ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, ‘Paint It Black’, as well as many more, were all in there. I for one was hoping they would play their debut single, ‘Come On’, which would definitely have fitted in with some of the shorter blues-ier numbers they played, but although this didn’t happen there was a nice middle section where Richards sang a few acoustic-style tracks, which more than made up for it.
One or two songs did drag on perhaps rather longer than necessary; ‘Midnight Rambler’ for instance must have ‘rambled’ on for about fifteen minutes, and as good a track as it is, I think even hardened Stones fans were wishing the band would move onto something else by the time they’d hit the ten minute mark.
Then again, being who they are, The Rolling Stones have more than earned their right to self-indulge every once in a while. Not that they are unaware of this fact, of course. The gig finished with fireworks- literally!- as well as an extended (again, perhaps a little bit too extended...) version of ‘Gimme Shelter’, and the inevitable ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’.
Unfortunately I am not able to say that I saw the band back in their ‘heyday’, so I cannot judge how good they are now compared to the 1960s and ‘70s. What I can judge, however, is the performance that I saw last night and, despite their age, knowing almost exactly what the setlist is going to be, and remarks from others prior to yesterday evening such as ‘The Rolling Stones? Surely they’re not STILL going?!’, the gig was nothing short of absolutely incredible.