Friday, May 31, 2013

Gotta Move While It's Still Fun

Tuesday night, I saw the Rolling Stones live at the United Center.  It is their 50th anniversary tour.  Predictably, it was an awesome show.  They played a nice mix of standards –- including "Satisfaction," "Get Off My Cloud," "Tumblin' Dice," "Wild Horses," "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll," "Gimme Shelter," "Sympathy for the Devil," and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (complete with a choir) –- and some deep cuts, like "Rocks Off" and two of my favorite Keith-fronted songs, "Before They Make Me Run" and "You've Got the Silver," not to mention "Midnight Rambler," featuring former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor (who still has great chops).  (For a full set list, click here.)

Here are a couple shots of the stage, before the show, during the first song, and, very fuzzily, at some point later when Mick was walking around the giant tongue-shaped platform that protruded into the crowd.

You can't help but marvel at how much these guys rock, given that they are past retirement age for most adults.

Mick, who turns 70 in July, struts around stage like a rooster in his prime.  His waist is smaller than most runway models' waists, and his voice sounds the same as it did 40 years ago.

While Keith is also almost 70, he looks like he's 175,000 years old, and his liver probably is, but he still plays and sings like he's 20.

At 71, Charlie essentially looks the same as he did fifty years ago, except with gray hair (and a little less of it) and a few wrinkles.  He always looks so proper, so distinguished, so British.  The man can still play the drums too.

As the young pup of the gang (turning 66 Saturday, and hopefully celebrating at Mayfest in Lincoln Square with me), Ronnie still looks the most like a boy, although his face has seen better days, and he'd probably tell you the same, laughing as he goes home to his wife who is younger than me.

As much as you don't want to think about it, when you're watching these guys perform at this age -– in between the fits of euphoria that come with seeing the Rolling Stones live -- you inevitably think "this may be the last time" (pun intended), and for one reason or another, I was asking myself if it will be saddest when Mick, Keith, Ronnie, or Charlie dies.

Don't get me wrong, it will be sad when any of them dies, since the Rolling Stones will effectively die as well, but I think it will be the saddest when Charlie dies.  If you think about it, he's been the constant rock for the past fifty years.  While everyone else in the band has had well-publicized drug problems, arrests, encounters with groupies, and various relationships and marriages, Charlie has been faithfully married to the same woman since 1964 and remained out of the spotlight that has followed his band mates' nefarious doings.  Mick may marry another model, Keith may fall out of a tree, and Ronnie may go back to rehab, but Charlie will always be there, sitting in back, keeping time with that debonair nonchalance.  He's the glue. 
While he's far from a normal human being –- given that that he's the drummer for the fucking Rolling Stones -- he always comes across as just a normal guy, balancing out his band mates' rock star personas and wardrobes.  Mick prances around stage in capes and spandex, and, obviously, has the most interaction with the crowd.  Keith dresses like some sort of junkie pirate that just rolled out of bed and always has that smirk on his face like he's pulling one over on the world.  Ronnie wears sleeveless shirts and tight black jeans, and has hair reminiscent more of a cockatiel than a sexagenarian. Then there's Charlie, sitting in a solid red t-shirt and pressed khakis, with well-groomed hair and an unwavering stoic expression on his face as he pounds away.  He could very well be your retired grandfather, the lawyer (or barrister, as it were). 
Maybe that's it.  He's not flamboyant and doesn't act like a "rock star," which gives him more of an everyman appeal and shows people that you can do extraordinary things without being a freak or strung out.  Just do your job until you can't do it anymore, and look good doing it. 
Here's to hoping I'll be saying the same thing in another ten, twenty, and thirty years.  And yes, I fully expect them to be doing this when they're 100.

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