Of all human experiences, I think we will all agree that there is one in particular that ties us all together most perfectly: that time you were young and an older person told you to look out the car window or at some pile of rocks or some signpost by a scenic overlook and was like “this is important—you need to look at this because it’s history and you might never see it again.”
And we probably rolled our eyes and pretended to look, already dying to get back to whatever much more important thing we had been doing.
This week I stopped by my own volition to look at that pile of rocks, so to speak, and they did all the rolling so my eyes didn’t even have to. The history of my love of music is short, so I’m still learning and still mostly catching up to the cooler kids. For years, I have quietly been thinking about the twilight years of rock and roll’s golden age cast of characters, or at least the silver age maybe, and how hard it was to ignore the urge to see them before they are gone forever. And I kept coming back to a band I hadn’t paid much more attention to than catching their hits from classic rock radio—I kept coming back to The Rolling Stones.
There are some who believe the world is made of two types of people: Beatles People and Stones People. In high school, because I had bought the compilation album of their number one hits when it was released, I was a Beatles Person. They were clean, told interesting stories, had goofy early fun years and rich lyrical later years, and they were a band parents approved, which mattered to me for some reason. To my young, ignorant ears The Rolling Stones sounded unrehearsed, loose, like they still played in garages, and like they might get a little drunk and stab me if I wasn’t careful. Some people are born with the gift of music criticism. I would like to be one of them in my next life.
I came close sometimes to full-out loving a handful of those unrehearsed, loose, knifey, garage hits; “Paint It Black” and “Sympathy for the Devil” always caught my attention when they came on, and in college my roommate Steph introduced me to the heartfelt and gentle “Wild Horses”. But the wild horses of my snobbery and fear of losing control kept dragging me away from being a fan.
I come back again and again to the theme in my life of Apollo and Dionysus—the philosophical mascots of order and of chaos, respectively. It’s the Order Muppet/Chaos Muppet idea I wrote about last time, of needing structure or needing flexibility. While people don’t really worship them as gods any more (strangely, Apollo is the classical god of music, though I don’t think he’d be caught dead in a muscle shirt and pumping his fist to Nazareth), we do worship the ideas of them, and they both demand sacrifices. Whose altar do you spend the most time at, and what do you put up in smoke in order to appease the idea that looms above it? I think about that a lot.
We offer our time, mostly. We have a strict allowance of how much we can spend, and maybe while I was busy in my counting house counting all my minutes like a good Apollonian boy I saw my meager fortune and got a little scared. My time is slipping away, the time of others is slipping away—it’s overwhelming. I am believing more and more that the time is now. So I grabbed a hefty stack from my literal counting house and burned it at the altar of chaos because, let’s face it, The Rolling Stones might never come back to Minneapolis again. It’s nice to no longer need an imagined adult to remind us to pay attention as sights whirl past us on the great road trip we’re all on. I’m thankful for that.
The Rolling Stones are the ones playing at all of Dionysus’s house parties, obviously.
The day of the concert poured rain, and while I had prepared myself with vision of Woodstock-scale mud fights, and while I had prepared myself with the least rock and roll looking outfit of all time (see also: sweatshirt and bright plastic rain poncho—possibly the kissing cousin of black socks and sandals) but I didn’t even care. I would have watched the show in a Big Bird costume if it was either that or having to stay at home. The people standing behind me would understand, I’m sure.
But after Grace Potter opened, the skies closed and everything dried out. And then the band took the stage. Earlier in the tour, they had played through Sticky Fingers in its entirety, and I was bracing for the greatness of “You Gotta Move” and of course “Wild Horses,” but they wandered through their catalog in no particular order and hit most of the great ones along the way.
They opened with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” which has the special honor of being judged in Don McLean’s “American Pie”, in which it’s sentenced to sit on a candle stick along with a lot of other 60s rock and roll. They ran next into “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and it could not be more obvious that they all still like it. Mick Jagger is 71. My grandparents have been 71, and they sometimes had a little trouble walking from the car to the front door, but this dude ran, jumped, skipped, danced and pranced with the body of a 19 year old with a voice to match. His face tells the story of his years and maybe his drugs, but his spirit tells a story I paid closer attention to.
Love—what this blog is all about—is the fountain of youth. Why was Dick Clark the World’s Oldest Teenager? Why can Mick and Keith and Ronnie and Charlie stay up past even my bedtime and put their heart into it like it’s still 1965? They gather no moss, unlike people tolerating jobs that bring them no joy, who get hunched and paunchy and old before their time. There are some that would sneer at these people who still get up on stage like they are young, but why would you mock someone who is so joyful? I’m going to solemnly swear to try to never do that again.
Also, Mick Jagger is legit ripped. Keith looked a little tired, but all things considered that’s not as bad as his battle damage could have been. He did take the mic for a couple of songs, and he livened up then. Maybe he was focused the rest of the time. To his credit, he did take a knee a number of times during solos, and could rise without help or much visible strain. This man is in his seventies. Seventies. I’m going to keep saying it because I have to. Seventies, when most people roll over and wait for moss or for death. On a related note, Ronnie and Charlie celebrated recent birthdays, and we all got to sing for them. Ronnie was the very image of happiness.
I think it’s okay to be the World’s Oldest Teenager. I think it’s okay to be doing the thing you started when you were fourteen because you’ll never stop. I hope I can find that thing, too.
Okay, back to the more concrete, actual details of the show. At one point, a darkened stage was illuminated by flames on the projector screens, and the percussion kicked in to welcome Mick wearing a red furry robe and knocking “Sympathy for the Devil” clear out of the park and all the way to Jupiter (he even let us do the “woo woos”). “Miss You” was jaunty and fizzy and fun (and again we got to add the discoesque “ooh oohohohohooo”s). Grace Potter joined them onstage for a duet of “Gimme Shelter” (awesome). “Honky Tonk Woman” hit the spot (like it always does). The encore began with a backlit choir, and the crowd’s frenzy was almost too loud to catch the opening of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (superbly, mind-meltingly awesome).
They closed with “Satisfaction”, and it needs no comment on its perfection.
Do what you love and live forever.