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Hazlehurst creaks with the Stones

OK, let's face it: We resent/don't like/are mad at the Rolling Stones.

Why?

Because they're a bunch of geriatric centimillionaires who've somehow managed to convince their deluded fans that there's something cool about listening to a 60-year-old man belt out 30-year-old songs. And far from being gently solicitous of their aging fan base, the Stones treat 'em like so many human cash registers -- charging hundreds of bucks for lousy seats at their dreary retro concerts.

That's the P.C. view of our elderly rock gods; and, until Saturday's concert, it was mine.

A confession: I've been a fan. Most folks my age are sorry that they missed Woodstock. I'm sorry I missed Altamont. I've been to a bunch of Stones concerts -- I've loved 'em all. But ... I thought maybe the time had come for the geezers to hang up their guitars, cultivate their gardens and dote on their grandchildren. I didn't bother to get seats until the very last moment, and I was totally prepared to be disappointed. After all, Mick Jagger's voice, never that great anyway, isn't much more than a hoarse shout nowadays. And as for Keith ... how is it that he's still alive, much less performing?

As usual, the opening act went on too long. Our fellow cheap-seaters (we were in the "obstructed view" section, just behind the stage, which was actually great) started exchanging wisecracks ("they're waiting for the Geritol to kick in").

And then the Stones came on stage, and the arena went crazy, and the familiar first chords of "Street Fighting Man" floated off Keith's guitar.

Some observations:

Average Age: 58.5

Average Body Fat: Less than 5 percent

Hair: Silver and thinning: Charlie Watts. Thick and bushy, without a trace of gray (hmmm?): Mick, Keith, Ron Woods. Mullet: Mick.

Energy Level: Phenomenal.

Let's face it, most guys in their late 50s can barely stay awake after 9 p.m., let alone do a furious, nonstop, two-and-a-half-hour rock concert. They were as good as they've ever been, intense and powerful, ripping through the old standards as if they'd been written yesterday. And they gave their fans what they'd come to hear: "Gimme Shelter," "Sympathy for the Devil" (imagine 17,000 backup singers screaming whoop-woohoo), "Brown Sugar," "Honky-Tonk Woman," "Start Me Up," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Satisfaction" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash."

Yeah, the Geritol kicked in big time -- Mick strutted and pranced, Keith and Ron laid down fiery blues licks, and Charlie, gray and ghostly, never missed a beat. It was all good -- and some of it was good beyond imagining.

On "Gimme Shelter," backup vocalist Lisa Fischer joined Mick at front stage, and then took a long solo turn. Fischer's voice is big and powerful; think Aretha Franklin. Combine that incandescent voice with the driving, hypnotic beat of that great song and ... well, the audience went berserk, on its feet, screaming and cheering.

And maybe it wasn't just an oldies act, after all. Remember the words to "Gimme Shelter"? "If I don't get some shelter, I'm gonna fade away/War it's just a shot away/ it's just a shot away."

--John Hazlehurst

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