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ADN sports columnist breaks from the woods and water to take in Rolling Stones concert

  • Lead vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones perform with the band during their No Filter Tour at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, in Foxborough. Robert E. Klein/Invision/AP

  • The Rolling Stones perform during their No Filter Tour at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, July 7, in Foxborough, Mass. From left are Ron Wood, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards. Robert E. Klein/Invision/AP

  • Lead vocalist Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones performs with the band during their No Filter Tour at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, July 7, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass.  —Robert E. Klein/Invision/AP

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 7/10/2019 9:50:14 PM
Modified: 7/11/2019 12:33:23 PM

In 1970, this writer was a college freshman who was a huge Rolling Stones fan. The first album that I had ever purchased was the Stones’ “Between the Buttons” and some of my college money went to purchase the new live album entitled “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!” Side one began with the announcer introducing the band at a concert by declaring them to be “the greatest rock n’ roll band in the world” as they launched into “Street Fightin’ Man.”

Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, they also opened with that same driving rock anthem and, based on the performance they put on, they still are the greatest rock n’ roll band in the world! That notwithstanding the fact that lead singer and driving stage performer Mick Jagger, at age 75, is back performing just 12 weeks after returning from heart surgery where he had a heart valve replaced. From that first pounding number, he was in constant motion from one end of the stage, which stretched from sideline to sideline, to the other. Strutting, prancing and jumping, while never missing a note, he was a marvel to watch on the four six-story high LED video screens. There was also a catwalk that stretched to the 30-yard line, giving me at the 50-yard line a clear and unobstructed view of the living legend strutting as well as ever. Tom Brady, with all his TB12 training, would be hard pressed to stay with Jagger, who remained a dynamo throughout the two-hour and 15-minute show.

Gillette boasts more than 60,000 seats and the place was packed. Included in that crowd was a high percentage of gray-haired folks, like me, who had been fans over 50 years. The people-watching was great and the standard uniform at a Stones concert is a concert T-shirt, proving you had been there before. There was even one from a Stones concert in Montevideo, Uruguay. There were folks from all generations, but the people were there for that same hard, pounding rock n’ roll, with that distinctive blues influence, that has been the Stones’ style all these years.

The set list, which included 20 songs when you add in the encore, concluded just one minute before the eleven o’clock Town of Foxboro curfew. Almost all were the familiar hits and included “It’s Only Rock’n Roll,” “Tumbling Dice,” and “She’s So Cold” after the opening tune to set the tone. Opening act Gary Clark, Jr. then came out to play guitar and sing with Jagger on “Ride ‘Em Down,” a blues number by the late, great Eddie Taylor. The images on the big screens featured background images that were right on all night and the faces of some of the great blues men who had such a great influence on the Rolling Stones’ music were featured during the song.

The “No Filter Tour” is now four shows old and will include 15 stops. It is hard for me to find anything about Sunday night to criticize. That may be because this is the first time that I have gotten to see the band that has been my favorite since puberty, and that is a while. Most of my writing career has involved outdoor writing with well over a thousand “Sportsman’s Corner” columns under my belt but I feel that I have legitimate music reviewer credentials. After graduating from Mahar Regional in June of 1969, my group of friends set out that summer to experience as much of the great music being made at that time as we could. We went to the Newport Jazz Festival (the first time there were electric instruments) and traveled to see The Who and Jethro Tull at Tanglewood. I caught Leslie West and Mountain, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and then topped the summer off by traveling in the family Chevy van to Woodstock, where some of the greatest acts in the history of rock music put out epic performances to the throng assembled at Max Yazgur’s Farm.

In recent times, my concert activity has once again picked up. A couple of recent performances by The Who, and shows with Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn, and The Zac Brown Band have provided a chance to listen to different styles and teams of great musicians working hard together to produce exceptional music. To me, live music is both a complex musical performance, where the sounds of instruments and voices blend, and the energy of a crowd of people feeding the creative musicians and bringing out the best in them. And sound systems today are unbelievable!

Sunday, we arrived early, and I had a chance to listen as we walked past the stadium during the sound check, a couple hours before the show. I could hear the start of “She’s So Cold” repeated a few times. As it turns out, the Stones do an online survey before every performance and fans get to vote on what song, from a list provided, they want included in the play list. In Foxboro it was “She’s So Cold.”

Jagger is masterful at working a crowd and he noted that they have played Boston 29 times. He apologized for the inconvenience his surgery had created and said that, like all Brits, the Independence Day holiday was somewhat painful. Referring to recent comments by President Trump he stated, “If only the British had held on to the airports the whole thing might have gone differently.”

After moving out to the end of the catwalk, the band performed “Play with Fire” and “Dead Flowers” with Mick showing his versatility by playing the acoustic guitar. That was followed up by “Sympathy for the Devil” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” both featuring long instrumental sections and great crowd participation.

Keith Richards gave Jagger a brief respite when he took the microphone over to sing two numbers and display his unique vocal style, which is laid back, to say the least. After his return, it was high energy rock’n roll again with “Start Me Up,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Brown Sugar” ending the set of fantastic non-stop music. I had predicted that my favorite Stones song, “Gimme Shelter” would be the encore and it slowly emerged from the dark stage featuring a great female voice channeling Merry Clayton. Then, it was followed predictably by “Satisfaction” and it is hard to believe that anyone attending left the stadium unsatisfied. In fact, this fan could not have been more fulfilled by a night of music. They are, and have always been, “the greatest rock n’ roll band in the world!”

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