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The Rolling Stones No Filter Tour At Metlife, August 1st, 2019, Reviewed

I first saw the Rolling Stones in 1965. At that point, they had progressed from the small clubs they started in to playing theaters. Arenas and stadiums were still a few years in the future. When they graduated to arenas in the late ‘60s, I stuck with them. Even when they moved to stadiums in the 1980s, I was there because, for the most part, the shows remained exciting and at the stadium level, epic. In fact, the Stones were the only band I would see in a stadium on a consistent basis because being the larger than life characters they were, they were the only band that could truly fill a venue of that size and manage to reduce it to a more-or-less intimate scale.

My first Stones stadium show was at the Orange Bowl in Miami in the late ‘80s. When I moved back to NJ, I caught them on the Voodoo Lounge tour in 1994, the Bridges to Babylon tour in 1997, and the I don’t know what it was called tour in 2005, all at Giants Stadium. So the show at MetLife Stadium last week was my first Stones show in almost 15 years. It was likely to be my last.

Let’s start with the sound because it was so atrocious from my seat in the upper deck that it subverted anything the Stones did or. could have done on the stage. Whoever was responsible for that mess should be ashamed of themselves, but they won’t be. All the blame can’t be laid at the feet of the sound company, however. The Stones themselves deserve some of it too. Concert-goers from earlier on the “No Filter” tour had nothing but praise for the band and the amateur videos seemed to bear that out. So I’m willing to concede that it was simply an off night for the band, but it was the show I was at so I can only give my opinion on what I saw and heard.

It took the Stones 45 minutes from the time that the opening band, the Wombats who played a very fine set in a thankless slot, finished. There were no apparent technical problems. Crew members had long since left the stage and everything was set for the Stones. But we waited. And waited. There was never an explanation, and there never will be. I wonder whether this unacceptable delay was something that is happening every night on this tour or whether there was a good reason for it. The Stones seem to have forgotten that the vast majority of their audience is in their 50s and 60s and doesn’t want to wait until 9:30 to see their heroes.

When the Stones finally did emerge, it was obvious from the opening chords of “Street Fighting Man” that it was not going to be a good night. The terrible sound immediately made that clear but it also seemed as if the band was struggling to wake up. Hey, I know they’re older but they’re charging people good money to come to their shows and that comes with a responsibility to their audience. From there the Stones managed to sleepwalk through “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Tumbling Dice,” and “She’s a Rainbow.” The latter was the winner of the fan vote for the show and I was excited to hear it … until I heard it. Yes, I got chills when I heard the French horn on the opening of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” but they faded quickly as turgid sound kicked in.

Next, it was off to the acoustic stage for terrible versions of “Sweet Virginia” and “Dead Flowers.” When they returned to the main stage there was a pretty good version of “Sympathy” which gave me some hope that the Stones had emerged from their slumber and “Honky Tonk Women” wasn’t too bad either. Then it was time for Keith’s two songs. I stand second to no one in my love for Keith but no, neither “Slipping Away” or “Before They Make Me Run” managed to light any spark on the night. “Miss You,” “Paint It Black,” “Midnight Rambler,” and “Start Me Up” followed and were better but still far from the high standards set by the Stones over the years.

The highlight of the show for me was the double gut punch salvo of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Brown Sugar.” Here, at long last, was the band I’d come to see. But it was too little, too late. A suitably eerie “Gimme Shelter” began the encore and an over-the-top “Satisfaction” closed it. If not for the fact that at that point I realized that I might never see the Stones again and I wanted to see the four core members take that final bow, I would have been out of there before the last song ended.

A couple of observations: Mick is a freak of nature. His level of physical activity during the show was remarkable for a man of 75, or even 55, and that’s not even taking into account the fact that he underwent heart surgery a couple of months ago. The problem, however, is that Mick has a nasty new habit of singing around the beat, ahead and behind, instead of singing on it. Never the greatest singer in rock, his strength has always been his ability to find the groove. It proved elusive on this night. And Keith, dear Keith, well Keith has slowed down. He restricts his movement these days and there are no more knee drops. I’d like to think it’s because he has decided to put the focus on his guitar playing on this tour after his skills were called into question by some after the last tour. From what I could hear, and again, hearing anything good was at a premium, his playing is more precise than it has been in recent years. So, mission accomplished, at least in one respect.

Before you go throwing rocks at me, consider what I said at the start. I saw my first Stones show more than 50 years ago and I’ve continued to support them over the years. I love this band. I didn’t get a media pass to see them, I paid for my ticket. Knowing that it might be my last chance to see them I was so hoping that it would be a great show. I’m sorry, but it just wasn’t.

 

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