The Rolling Stones: 7/3/2019

I will begin this post by saying that this might just be the greatest of all my concert stories so far, and will be tough to top. As such, it is a fairly long post, but I promise you, it is worth the read.

So you may have noticed that the ticket stub has a date of May 31, 2019, which was not the date of the actual concert. If you’ve kept up with current events, you probably know that the entire No Filter tour was postponed because Mick Jagger needed heart surgery. (Who knew he had a heart?) I had bought three tickets for this show, with the intention of going with my wife and daughter. Going to this concert was actually a gift for my daughter’s birthday/graduation, since she had told me that of all the bands that were still touring, the Stones was the one she would most want to see. I suppose I’ve done my job as a rock and roll parent.

Anyway, the Stones rescheduled, and lo and behold, my wife and I had already relocated to California, a long way from Landover, Maryland, where the concert was being held. And since my wife had just started her new job, she could no longer go. So it was decided that I would fly back to North Carolina by myself, pick up my daughter, drive to Virginia, and then give the extra ticket to my nephew, at whose house we would stay. A bit of a logistical challenge, but worth it. I really wanted to make sure my daughter got to see the Stones.

Now is where the story gets really interesting.

About a week before the concert, I woke to an excited text from my daughter. She told me that she was letting people at her job know that she would be out the following week because she was going with her dad to see the Rolling Stones. One of her coworkers replied, “Oh, you’re going to see the Stones? My cousin works for the Rolling Stones. Do you want me to see about getting you backstage passes?” A quick email later, and we had three backstage passes waiting for us at will call. BACKSTAGE PASSES TO THE ROLLING STONES!! I really was having a hard time believing it. But I reread the forwarded text, which had the name of the contact should there be any issue picking up the passes or getting backstage, and was giddy with excitement.

So on July 1 I flew to NC and met my daughter. July 2, the two of us drove 8 hours to VA and connected with my nephew (who is the same age as my daughter and they get along great). Then it was July 3, the day of the show.

FedEx Field, the stadium which is home to the Washington Redskins, was about 30 miles from where we were in VA. The concert was scheduled to start at 7:30, so we left the house at 3:30 to give us plenty of time. I was unprepared for the traffic we encountered. It literally took us 2 ½ hours to get to the stadium. I was trying hard to be cool.

We paid the exorbitant $60 to park, and inquired about where the will call window was located. I was told there were two, one on each side of the stadium. Not knowing where the passes would be, I picked the one that was closest and we got in line. And we stood there. And stood there. The line was not moving and people were freaking out. I later discovered it was because the computers were not working and no one who had tickets at will call could get the tickets they paid for. Now I was feeling worried, because if I got to the window and the passes were on the other side of the stadium, we might have a problem. As I was discussing this with my daughter and nephew, someone near us in line, who was more observant than myself, pointed out that there was another will call window off to the side with a sign that said “Band/Tour Will Call” and suggested I go there. So I did. I walked right up and told the person there that I was supposed to be picking up backstage passes and gave him my name. “I have nothing for that name,” he informed me.

I responded, “C**** was the person who was supposed to give us those.”

“I just spoke with C**** and he didn’t say anything. But I can call him.”

So the guy made a call from his cellphone, I watched as he spoke and nodded, then he took two passes from the drawer and slid them under the window to me. I felt a twinge of panic and meekly mentioned that there was supposed to be three, and he casually got the third and passed it to me. And in my hand I held three backstage passes to the Rolling Stones.

I met back up with my daughter and nephew, and we each affixed our passes.

Right next to the window where I got the passes was the special VIP entrance. We walked up, they looked at our credentials, and we breezed in. Then they scanned our tickets (yes, we still needed the tickets we bought), and were escorted to an elevator that brought us up to the fifth floor. From there, we were led to the VIP lounge that looked down on the back of the stage. Free food and beverages were provided, so we ate and rehydrated, while milling around and chatting with people there.

Now I had never been backstage before, so prior to heading out there, I consulted with a friend of mine, Bill, who is a music journalist, just to know what to expect. He said for show like this, we probably would not meet Keith or Mick. They provide catering, and then usually one of the lesser band members comes out for a quick meet and greet before the show. So in this case, that band member was Chuck Leavell, long-time keyboardist for the Stones, who was also a member of the Allman Brothers in the 70’s. We got to meet him, and he was really nice and accommodating, graciously posing for a picture with the three of us.

At this point, the opening act, Ghost Hounds, had already been playing for a while, so we decided to leave the air conditioned comfort and go take our seats. By the time we got to section 431 in the upper deck, the opening band was playing their last song.

Although we were in the upper deck, the seats were not bad, and we had a decent view of the stage. We chatted with the folks around us as we waited for the Stones to take the stage.

Finally, the lights went down, and they exploded onto the stage, opening with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Great choice! For a group of guys who have survived over 70 years of hard living, and Mick just having heart surgery, they sounded damn good and had a lot of energy.

About halfway through the show, the band moved to a smaller satellite stage in the center and played a couple acoustic tunes, which was great, because then we had an even better view of the band.

All the while, I was noticing how much fun my daughter and nephew were having, and I felt really happy. I was glad that they were enjoying the show, and after going backstage and meeting one of the band members, I knew that this would be a special memory for them both.

But wait… things were about to get infinitely better.

About 2/3 through the show, the band was playing “Miss You” and my daughter was standing up and dancing. She was the only person standing in our section, and I was glad that people around us were not being jerks about it. But then some official looking dude with a lanyard and badge came up to us and waved my daughter closer. The two of them leaned across me so I heard the conversation.

Dude: “How many are in your group?”

Daughter: “Three…” (tentatively, like she was in trouble)

Dude: “Well I only have two passes to go up front. I’m with the band and am looking for someone in the upper decks who is dancing and enjoying the show so I can bring them up front, but I only have two wristbands. Do you want to go up front?”

I looked at my daughter and nephew, not wanting to split them up, or send them off alone, and asked the guy, “You don’t have three?”

“Nope,” he said, “Only two. Do you want them? I can take you up front right now.”

At this point, my nephew spoke up. “Go! Go! This is your chance. I’ll stay here.”

So we promised to come back up and get him afterwards, and went off with the dude who handed each of us a very official looking wristband.

The dude told us we would go up front on Keith’s side of the stage, that this was the best spot to be for the rest of the show. While we were going down, we could hear “Paint It Black” being played, the one song we missed, but a worthwhile sacrifice. We told the dude that C**** had also given us backstage passes, and he was like, “Oh cool, I know C**** really well.” And as we quickly made our way down to the front, my daughter kept looking at me, eyes wide, commenting, “What the fuck? How is this happening? I feel like I’m dreaming.”

We finally got down by the pit right in front, and the security did not want to let my daughter and me through. The dude started yelling at the security guy, flashing his badge, and then he waved someone else over, who said something to the security person, and just like that, we were right in front of the stage. The dude said his farewell, went off, and my daughter and I danced and basked in the glory of seeing the world’s greatest rock and roll band from a vantage point that few have experienced. Of course, I had to snap a few pictures on the phone.

We were up front for the last five songs, which was basically the last quarter of the 20-song show. I’ve been to many concerts in my life, but none of them compared to this experience, of being backstage and then essentially front row, for the Rolling Stones. And the fact that I shared the experience with my daughter, and the look of sheer ecstatic joy on her face, made the whole night seem like nothing less than a rock and roll fantasy come true. Miracles really do happen.

After the last note of “Satisfaction,” my daughter and I made it back upstairs and had no problem reconnecting with my nephew. Then we made our way to the car, sat in the traffic getting out of the stadium parking area, and made the drive back to Virginia with no problems, basically basking in the afterglow of the most epic concert experience ever.

I still have a drawer full of old stubs with stories associated to them, and more concerts on the horizon, but I doubt that I will ever be able to top this one. I suppose the only thing I can add at this point is the setlist. And yes, I know, it’s only rock and roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do!

Setlist:

  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  • It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
  • Tumbling Dice
  • You Got Me Rocking
  • Mercy, Mercy (Don Covay & The Goodtimers cover, first time performed since July 5, 1969 at Hyde Park)
  • Rocks Off (by request)
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • Angie (B-Stage / Acoustic)
  • Let It Bleed (B-Stage / Acoustic)
  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Slipping Away (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Before They Make Me Run (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Miss You
  • Paint It Black
  • Midnight Rambler
  • Start Me Up
  • Brown Sugar

Encore:

  • Gimme Shelter
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Rolling Stones: 11/16/1989

This was the second night of a two-night stand in Miami. The first night, we had great seats close to the front; this night, we were off on the side, which was fine. Different perspective of the massive stage show.

At the time, I was working as a chef and this particular week was extremely busy, so in addition to two Stones concerts, I was also working 60+ hours. That said, after a late night of rock and roll the night before, and then working early in the morning, when we got to the Orange Bowl, I discovered to my dismay that I had forgotten the tickets at home. UGH! Something I am usually very anal about. Thankfully, I had enough time to drive home, get the tickets, and still catch Living Colour, who again opened this show.

During the break between bands, my friend Lydia and I were hanging out and talking, when a young woman in the row in front of us turned around to face us, holding a big magnifying glass in her hand like she was Sherlock Holmes or something. She leaned toward me and proceeded to examine my crotch with her magnifying glass. I was somewhat taken aback. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or offended. So I responded in a way that felt right—I laughed, and so did everyone else around us. Hey, no harm, no foul.

The Stones hit the stage and opened pretty much the same as they did the first night, but they swapped out a few songs, which made it nice. The songs they did this evening and not the first which stood out for me were “Angie” and “Little Red Rooster.” Both total surprises and most welcome. Also, I have to say that the liquid light show that accompanied “2000 Light Years From Home” looked much better from where we were sitting. You need to have a little distance to appreciate that kind of psychedelic imagery.

Anyway, here’s the setlist from the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band…

Setlist:

  • Start Me Up
  • Bitch
  • Sad Sad Sad
  • Undercover of the Night
  • Harlem Shuffle
  • Tumbling Dice
  • Miss You
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Angie
  • Rock and a Hard Place
  • Mixed Emotions
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Midnight Rambler
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • Little Red Rooster
  • Can’t Be Seen (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Happy (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Paint It Black
  • 2000 Light Years From Home
  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • Gimme Shelter
  • It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
  • Brown Sugar
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Encore:

  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Rolling Stones: 11/15/1989

This was the first of two nights that the Stones were performing at the Orange Bowl in Miami, and I had tickets to both shows. Living Colour was opening for both shows, so I was really psyched. I really liked Living Colour a lot, so was pumped to see them, almost as much so as I was to see the Stones again.

This particular tour was the Steel Wheels tour. There was a lot of criticism about the band’s age, and the jokes that were going around were referring to it as the “Steel Wheelchairs Tour,” or the “Steal Your Dollars Tour.” The irony is the face value of the ticket was still only $29.50. Try seeing the Stones or anyone for that price anymore.

For this first night, we had amazing seats—13th row! We got there early, engaged in some pre-show festivities, then got our seats. Actually, being a little bit back was perfect. Any closer to the massive stage and it would have been difficult to see.

Living Colour came out first and kicked ass! Vernon Reid was incredible on the guitar, I almost felt like giving up as a guitarist. The energy was so high, I remember thinking after their set: “I’ve seen the Stones before, and I’m not sure they will be able to top this.” Thankfully, I was mistaken.

After a long break, the Stones took the stage and launched in to “Start Me Up.” Perfect opener! After that they went right into “Bitch,” and it was nothing but awesome rock and roll for the rest of the night. When they finished, I marveled at how great they sounded, and how much better they were than when I saw them back in 1981. There were so many great moments, I can’t pick out any high points, though I will say that “Dead Flowers,” “2000 Light Years From Home“ and “Happy” were most welcome surprises.

Here is the full setlist. Check back soon for my thoughts on the second night (hint – some different songs).

Setlist:

  • Start Me Up
  • Bitch
  • Sad Sad Sad
  • Undercover of the Night
  • One Hit (To the Body)
  • Tumbling Dice
  • Miss You
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Play With Fire
  • Dead Flowers
  • Rock and a Hard Place
  • Mixed Emotions
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Midnight Rambler
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • Before They Make Me Run (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Happy (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Paint It Black
  • 2000 Light Years From Home
  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • Gimme Shelter
  • It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
  • Brown Sugar
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Encore:

  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash

The Rolling Stones: 10/25/1981

Stones_10-25-81

This stub is from the second time I saw the Stones (click here to read about the first time). So in order to get tickets for this show, I had to mail away. I sent a check for $81.60 for four tickets. After a long wait, I got an envelope in the mail which included my returned check along with a note that said: “Incorrect payment, $81.75.” So for .15 cents they didn’t send me any tickets! I was devastated. Anyway, I found an ad in the paper to buy tickets from someone. I told the person my sob story. He took pity on me and sold them for just a little bit over face value.

This was a general admission show at the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, so we went in early to get a spot up close on the field. We staked our space near the front, cramped in among the throngs of rock and roll crazies. As we patiently watched the Henry Paul Band and Van Halen perform, the temperature got hotter and hotter. It became dangerously hot and because there were so many people on the field, it was impossible to move or go to get a drink of water. People started passing out, so to stave off a disaster, hoses were given to the security in front of the stage. They began hosing the crowd to keep everyone cool. We all stood there with faces turned up and mouths open waiting for water.

Finally, the Stones hit the stage, opening with “Under My Thumb” (same as the previous day). Mick ran to the front of the stage and took one of the hoses from a security person and began spraying the crowd, and yes, he sprayed me. To this day, I can honestly tell people that I got hosed by Mick Jagger, and was still able to respect myself in the morning.

Rock on!

Setlist

  • Under My Thumb
  • When the Whip Comes Down
  • Let’s Spend the Night Together
  • Shattered
  • Neighbours
  • Black Limousine
  • Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)
  • Twenty Flight Rock
  • Let Me Go
  • Time Is on My Side
  • Beast of Burden
  • Waiting on a Friend
  • Let It Bleed
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • Little T&A
  • Tumbling Dice
  • She’s So Cold
  • All Down the Line
  • Hang Fire
  • Street Fighting Man
  • Miss You
  • Start Me Up
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Brown Sugar
  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Encore:

  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

The Rolling Stones: 10/24/1981

Stones_10-24-81This stub was from the first time I saw the Rolling Stones. They were playing the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, FL, and I drove up from South Florida with some friends for the show. It was the Tattoo You tour, and I actually had tickets for the second night, but some of the people I went with did not have any tickets. So, we figured we would go to the stadium the day before and see if we could find tickets for the Sunday show for my friends. Lo and behold, there were scads of people scalping tickets outside the stadium, for the whopping cost of $5 for the Saturday show and $10 for Sunday. We bought four for Saturday and two for Sunday, figuring why not see the Stones twice. It warms my heart to know that I paid $5 to see the Rolling Stones.

Because we showed up late and it was general admission, we took the nose-bleed seats. The Henry Paul Band played first (he was from The Outlaws… very forgettable). After they played, we got a set from Van Halen. I was not very impressed. Honestly, they seemed like they were clowning around. It was really hard to take them seriously.

Finally, the Stones came out. They opened with “Under My Thumb” and I was pretty much blown away. For me, the Stones were icons of rock and roll, in the mythical realm of The Beatles. The show was incredible, Keith slinking around the stage with cigarette dangling from his mouth, while Mick pranced and danced and whipped everyone into a frenzy.

When the show was over, we were all psyched and looking forward to the following night. We decided we would get there early and get a spot up close on the field… but that’s another stub and another story.

Setlist

  • Under My Thumb
  • When the Whip Comes Down
  • Let’s Spend the Night Together
  • Shattered
  • Neighbours
  • Black Limousine
  • Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)
  • Twenty Flight Rock
  • Let Me Go
  • Time Is on My Side
  • Beast of Burden
  • Waiting on a Friend
  • Let It Bleed
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • Little T&A
  • Tumbling Dice
  • She’s So Cold
  • All Down the Line
  • Hang Fire
  • Star Star
  • Miss You
  • Start Me Up
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Brown Sugar
  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Encore:

  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction