Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Rolling Stones - September 28, 2002

In 2002, the Rolling Stones granted their fans a huge treat with a 2-disc greatest hits package. This set was rare in that it not only featured a disc of their recent hits combined with four brand new songs, but it also contained a disc full of their early smashes (previously only available on Decca Records). This was a fan’s fantasy collection. The set was entitled Forty Licks. Shortly after its release, the band announced they would embark on a world tour in support of this phenomenal double album. A tour behind a greatest hits package could only mean one thing---greatest hits being performed live.

As part of this tour, the Rolling Stones were offering a very unique opportunity. For the right price, which if memory serves me was $400, fans could actually sit on the stage where the Rolling Stones were performing. While that was a tempting offer, a hard working lad such as I, could not afford the experience. Thus I was relegated to getting the best possible tickets that were not on the stage.

This concert arrived at a surreal time in my life. I was a divorced guy who had just split up with my first post divorce girlfriend. Life was strange. I wasn’t dating anyone, nor seeing anyone, and the girl I was interested in had a boyfriend. Not having anyone to go the Stones concert with, I purchased two tickets in anticipation that someone would want to attend the show. Honestly, I was hoping it would be the girl I was crushing on, and that’s probably the real reason I bought the tickets.

I was also at a low point in life. As mentioned, I was divorced and had recently split up with my girlfriend. I had a crush on a friend who was in a serious relationship and only wanted friendship, and I was working at a job I did not like and was not excelling in. On top of that, I was living with my grandfather and most of the friends from my youth had moved out of state. It was an odd time to be me.

After asking several people if they would like to attend the concert, and subsequently receiving a lot of “no, thank you” responses, I wasn’t sure what to do. This was the Rolling Stones! Living legends! And no one wanted to see them with me. I couldn’t understand it. I recall telling one woman that I had an extra ticket for the Rolling Stones and she said that she might want to go…“as a friend.” I wasn’t asking for marriage! However, I suppose she didn’t want me to get the wrong idea. Needless to say, she did not attend the concert.

Who did end up going? My ex-wife. I bought two tickets to see The Rolling Stones in concert figuring that someone would want to go on a date and I got to take my ex-wife. These were strange times, indeed.

Having answered the question of who would attend the show, Nancy (my ex) and I went to Giants Stadium to see the Rolling Stones. Nancy and I still got along, having dissolved our marriage on the fact that we married too young, but I still viewed it as a personal failure that I had to take my ex-wife to the Stones. It put me in a depressive state.

I started wondering if I wasn’t date worthy to any of these girls that I asked. The fact that I was asking the wrong girls (one had a boyfriend for six years, one was my cousin’s best friend, and one was a woman that I worked with) never entered my mind. Add in the fact that I was confused about my job and not certain that it was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and it summed up to one big hot mess. Yes, that was me driving to the Rolling Stones concert with my ex-wife in tow.

We laughed about the situation, but it didn’t help me feel any better. It’s hard to sob to your ex about how you’re having trouble finding a date. It just creates an awkward, uncomfortable situation. By the time we arrived at Giants Stadium, I tried to shake it off and enjoy the night. I was going to see the Rolling Stones, for crying out loud. This would only be my second time watching them perform live and knowing that they would play nothing but the hits had my anticipation running wild.

Once we found our seats and settled in for the evening, I immediately noticed something. The seats that fans paid $400 for the honor of sitting on the stage were awful. I was under the impression that if a seat on the stage was purchased, it was literally a seat on the stage. Close enough that you could jump in with the band if desired. While the seats were technically on the stage, they were far from what I had imagined. On the stage, behind the band, were what can only be described as giant rafters that the fans on the stage sat in. The below picture provides clarity. If I had paid $400 for those seats, I would have been pissed off!

The Stones kick started the evening with a roaring and rocking version of one of their biggest hits, Brown Sugar. Mick sounded incredible. Ron Wood looked great. Keith was as crazy as ever, having a grand time on stage, and Charlie Watts was the coolest man in the stadium. The Rolling Stones had come to play, celebrating 40 years of greatness. It’s Only Rock And Roll came next and was followed with a rousing Start Me Up. Three songs in and I was a madman, enjoying the inconceivable performance that was the hits of the Rolling Stones.

That night I became a huge fan of Keith Richards. While I had always appreciated his guitar and songwriting ability, I never found Keith to be the greatest member of the band. All of that changed when it was time for Keith to perform lead vocals on a couple of “Keith” songs. He opened his two song soliloquy with Slipping Away, a slow, jazzy number from Steel Wheels. I always felt that Slipping Away was an underrated Rolling Stones tune. The music is fantastic and Keith’s vocals are spot on for the love ballad song. He sounded great that night and the live performance only helped cement my love for the track.

Next up, was the much beloved (and crowd favorite) Happy. This was the moment when I became a permanent Keith fan. Seeing the vast amounts of happiness that erupted from this man’s soul onto the stage, well, I couldn’t help but to be happy. My sorrows were lifted and tossed aside. Keith was the healer to those of us that were hurt, upset, and unsure about life. Keith was the grand fixer of all things upsetting. And he did it with the simple play of a song. By the end of Happy, I was euphoric. Keith had ailed my blues.

The hits kept coming for the rest of the evening. Sympathy For The Devil, Miss You, Gimme Shelter, and of course (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. All of them sounded crisp and ageless. The Rolling Stones performed a phenomenal concert and thanks to the magic of Keith Richards, I left the show feeling better than I had in years. I was optimistic about my future and no longer bothered by the weight of my worries. The Rolling Stones showed me that all would be right in the world, I just had to roll with it and enjoy the moments I was in, regardless of what was going on in the world around me. Keith showed me how to enjoy life that night, and I’ve been heeding his advice ever since.

Brown Sugar
It’s Only Rock And Roll
Start Me Up
Don’t Stop
Tumblin’ Dice
Undercover Of The Night
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Monkey Man
I Can’t Turn You Loose
Slipping Away
Sympathy For The Devil
You Got Me Rocking
When The Whip Comes Down
Miss You
Gimme Shelter
Honky Tonk Women
Street Fighting Man
Jumping Jack Flash

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