Soldier Field, Chicago, 21/6/2019
published: 6 /
Lisa Torem got her share of 'Satisfaction' as the World’s Greatest Rock N’ Roll Band resume their postponed tour at Soldier Field, Chicago.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” according to the song, but if you tried really hard, you could have been one of the 60,000 excited fans that greeted the The Rolling Stones on the first of two rescheduled concerts at the space-aged, football stadium Soldier Field.
Fans were especially grateful, because only a few months earlier, Mick Jagger’s usually stellar health took a turn and he had to undergo an emergency heart valve replacement. Chicago would have been the last stop on the original tour, but suddenly, it became the first. But then again, hasn’t Chicago earned that right? After all, it was here that the Stones befriended blues stalwarts Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters, from whom they culled their band name. It was here that they committed to early recordings at the legendary Chess Records.
Early on, Jagger gave our city a shout out. “We loved Chicago so much, we decided to start the tour here, instead of Miami.” Not only was the front man being politically astute, he was reliving the band’s immutable history. That said, there was no mention of their recent ‘Blue and Lonesome’ album, and no additions from the release on the set list, yet few tears were shed over that omission.
Suffice to say, fans waited with bated breath when the frontman pranced onstage. Was he genuinely up to the task at hand? One could sense a collective sigh of relief moments later, as there was not one minute in this two-hour show that the fit showman exhibited any sign of fatigue or stress.
Mick had done his homework on the local scene, lamenting that he still hadn’t tried Chicago’s delectable Italian beef. He was also quick to welcome brand new mayor Lori Lightfoot.
He left no area of the huge arena without a deep footprint, preening like a cockatoo in heat, during their decades old, hits-friendly set list.
Keith Richards’ riffs have always been central to their shows, although tonight his friendly personality took a while to emerge, but when it did, there came a burst of sunshine. Typically, stone-faced drummer Charlie Watts at one point couldn’t hold in a laugh, but consummate showman Ron Woods didn’t miss a trick, flaunting his extroverted self-confidence on several impressive solos. His interaction with bandmates was the best part; Richards and Wood faced off during ‘Before They Make Me Run’ in an unforgettable display of unity.
The seven-piece band included backing singers Bernard Fowler and newcomer Sasha Allen, who had huge shoes to fill. After all, the famed ‘Gimme Shelter’ solo originated by Merry Clayton, then followed up by dazzling Lisa Fischer, requires a unique voice and the ability to work closely with Jagger under pressure. Allen did not overshadow Mick or otherwise disappoint, when she had her moment.
Long-timer Bernard Fowler handled percussion, when not harmonizing and keys player Chuck Leavell’s sterling runs and accents continue to thrill.
Charlie Watts continues to be an enigma. Though he is probably better or on an equal par with other contemporary rock drummers, he shies away from the spotlight. Never demanding an all-eyes-on me-solo, his jazzy, brush strokes and smart, swinging embellishments have always kept band members on their toes.
Mick meanwhile rarely stopped moving. He preened across the elongated runway, only stopping for air on the second stage. When Chicagoan Darryl Jones, “Southside’s finest bass player,” according to the singer, plucked out the choice notes of ‘Miss You’ and appeared larger than life on one of the prominent video screens, all hell broke loose.
Lest we forget that Jagger is an all-around performer, he reminded us first with his blissed-out return to the blues harp and when he bounced onstage, strumming a Fender Telecaster.
Not to be missed was his grand entrance and flailing arms on ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ where his dramatic costume change and unbridled confidence created goosebumps. That and the psychedelic brainchild, ‘Paint It Black’ really stirred up memories and got multi-generational fans screaming along.
Fans of all ages rocked to the repertoire, though the boomers had the upper hand when it came to the sing-a-longs. Still, the teens did their best to join in on the simple refrains.
There were surprises, as when the Stones launched into ‘Sad, Sad, Sad’ from Steel Wheels, released in 1989, which came off especially crisp, as the alliterative phrases rolled off Jagger’s rough-hewn tongue.
Other highlights occurred when the pace slowed down. On the heartfelt ‘Angie,’ Richards’ keen timing, Jagger’s pleas and the tender lyrics came together majestically. Keef’s garage band shredding on ‘Start Me Up’ and ‘Tumbling Dice’ were show-stopping. Wood’s triumphs were many, but he especially wowed when it came to slide guitar acumen on the latter. On the other hand, Richards’ easy-going vocals on ‘Before They Make Me Run’ were a welcome reminder that he’s a multi-talent too. When the pair unplugged for ‘You Got the Silver,’ giving Mick a well-deserved break, you could have heard a pin drop.
Mick’s raucous blues harp on ‘Midnight Rambler,’ followed by the Americana-tinged ‘Dead Flowers’ provided another cool contrast. Elsewhere ‘Honky Tonk Women’ may have begun with the hollow ting of a cowbell but by mid-song it had exploded with energy, as Jagger, Wood and Richards huddled together on the more intimate stage, like a band of brothers, followed by Keef’s gift of an outro.
Typically, the Stones query fans for a request prior to a concert. This time around, aficionados suggested ‘You Got Me Rocking,’ where again, Wood stunned with his slide bravado.
The evening ended with ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ which found Jagger staging a classic, sonic tantrum, as Wood and Richards egged him on.
Photographs by Philamonjaro