One of the many reasons I haven't posted much lately is that not only have I been busy at work, but also busy in my outside life as well. For instance, Sunday night and last night I found myself spending a few hours inside the Giants Ballpark To Be Named Later watching a band of a certain ancient and now rather rare vintage. Yes, I admit it -- I'm a Rolling Stones fan, and have been most of my life. So when they come out to play, I spend the money and time to watch.
Of course I realize that it's been many years since they were vital and cutting edge. They haven't released a really good album since Tattoo You
in 1981 (though the new one, A Bigger Bang
, is not bad), and haven't put out a truly great album since 1972's Exile On Main Street
. They long ago sold out, in terms of letting their music be used to advertise products and having major corporations sponsor their tours. Mick Jagger has been knighted. They're all freakin' 60 years old
, give or take a few decades -- except for Keith Richards, whose age is measured in geologic time -- and should, by all rights, be long retired and living in the south of France enjoying games of dominoes and bouncing grandchildren on their knees.
But you know what? They haven't lost it yet. Most, if not all, of their contemporaries have gone by the wayside -- The Beatles are long gone, Led Zeppelin (which didn't even form until the Stones were already well-established as the Greatest Rock and Roll Band Ever) couldn't survive the death of drummer John Bonham, The Who is now just Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey and an assortment of sidemen, The Kinks have been MIA for years... the only other artist of that era who is still consistently producing material and touring is Bob Dylan, and he's just one guy, not an entire band. Plus, while his recorded work is still high-caliber, his voice in concert is shot.
The Stones have survived -- and thrived, even -- calamities that would have long since destroyed a lesser group of musicians. Back in the early, early days, they were Brian Jones' band. Brian, good-looking and ultra-talented musically -- that's him tootling soprano saxophone on the Beatles' Baby, You're A Rich Man
-- was the focal point of the group before Mick (and, to a lesser extent, Keith) asserted himself. A tragic figure, he left the band over differences in direction and personality conflicts, and died of aquatic misadventure not long after. The Stones rolled on, though, replacing him with Mick Taylor. After a good, near-ten year run with them, Taylor decided he had better things to do and split, never to be heard from again. Ron Wood, late of Rod Stewart and Faces, joined up, and is still considered the new guy. Original bassist Bill Wyman long ago decided he'd had enough of touring and retired to marry some very, very young women.
Through all of this and more (drug arrests in England and Canada; Keith getting his blood changed to escape heroin addiction more than once; Altamont), they have just kept on rocking. As I mentioned above, it's been some time since they put out a truly great album; but there was a period back in the late '60s and early '70s when they created a run of five albums that could all arguably be called the greatest ever, and that still stand the test of time. Starting with Beggar's Banquet
and going through Let It Bleed
, Get Yer Ya-Yas Out
, Sticky Fingers
and Exile On Main Street
, they produced some of the greatest rock songs ever recorded. So when they decide they want to go on the road and play some of those songs, I sure as hell will spend the money to listen.
Thus it was that some 60,000 of my closest friends and I enjoyed the two shows Sunday and Tuesday nights at the Ballpark Formerly Known As Pac Bell/SBC. The music was loud and the song selection was good (how could it not be?). Every show, it seems, there's a nice surprise for me. Sunday night it was Live With Me, All Down the Line and Sweet Virginia. Last night it was As Tears Go By and a blistering Midnight Rambler. Not to mention Tumbling Dice, Honky Tonk Women, Sympathy for the Devil, Jumpin' Jack Flash, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Brown Sugar and Satisfaction.
At one point, Keith took the mike and did a couple of his solo numbers. I remember thinking, as his wizened visage filled the huge video screen and the shot went from color to black and white, that if someone driving up 280 into the city were to glance over and not know what was going on at the ballpark, he or she might think that it had been converted into a drive-in theater that was showing Bride of Frankenstein
My pal Marty took some pictures while he was there; here are his Sunday night pictures
, and here are his Tuesday night pictures
. The picture at the top of this post is from Tuesday night.