The Rolling Stones
(Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY - July 11th, 2015)
Initially muddled into the vanguard of the British Invasion of bands that became popular in the US in 1964–65, English rock band The Rolling Stones formed in London in 1962. The first settled line-up consisted of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Ian Stewart (piano), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar), Bill Wyman (bass) and Charlie Watts (drums).
Stewart left the line-up in 1963, Jones departed the band less than a month prior to his death in 1969 and after having already been replaced by Mick Taylor, and so Ronnie Wood has now been on guitar in tandem with Richards thereafter. Indeed, to wrap this up completely, following Wyman's departure in 1993, Darryl Jones has been the regular main bassist to stage left. Funnily enough, the band was first led by Jones, but after teaming as the band's songwriters, Jagger and Richards assumed de facto leadership.
And what a smart move that turned out to be, because as we all know this writing partnership has gone on to rival that of Lennon & McCartney, Strummer & Jones, Tyler & Perry, Marr & Morrissey, Page & Plant, John & Taupin, etc. And the reason that quick Stones history lesson was laid out for you before the actual concert review is simple. It's to understand just what an INCREDIBLE show this truly was! To really get to grips with what a spectacular event was about to unfold. Indeed, you have to honestly understand that this is the bands 50th anniversary of their hit single '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' and yet they show no signs, not one, of slowing down or being ring rusty.
The last time the Rolling Stones played in western New York was 1997 and so as the clock strikes 9.20pm, the huge outdoor spotlights inside the massive, and sold out Ralph Wilson Stadium (home to the Buffalo Bills) click off, the stage lights up, and suddenly the crowd find their collective roar of anticipation for the last US tour date on this Zip Code Tour 2015.
Kicking-off the two and a half hour show to the massive booming guitar chords of 'Jumpin' Jack Flash,' the first fireworks of the night are let off and quickly the whole atmosphere of the massive live show is shrouded in smoke. "How are you?", Jagger asks the massive, cheering crowd. "You all okay?", he adds, before the band launch into the blistering 'It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It).' Having removed his bright red jacket, a lighter red shirt billowing underneath from the draft of the stage fans, and with a stellar supporting cast behind him, a hyperactive 'You Got Me Rocking' allows Jagger to begin his first real saunter down the elongated catwalk laid out before him. Stretching deep into the floor crowd, it enabled all those halfway down on the sides of the stadium - such as myself and the lovely Marianne Widmalm - to actually nearly see the sweat on his animated face.
Now the red shirt is off and he shows an incredibly taut, well preserved body under a very tight, hugging black tshirt. "Good evening, Buffalo, New York," Jagger announces. "Anybody here from New York? Anybody here from Ontario? Anybody here from Tikiwonda? Or TokiTiki?" And with that verbal nonsense now out of his system, they launch into 'Tumbling Dice,' which allows a serious amount of "Jagger moves" to come out for those at the end of the catwalk. "How are you all today, Buffalo?" Jagger asks the crowd again. "It's great to be back in the Ralph. Everything looks the same, except that they've added gold taps to the sink in my bathroom, which is nice," he jokes, as they then bring us a quite brilliant 'Out of Control.' The harmonica-driven blues rock track, third single from the album Bridges To Babylon in 1998, for me, it was one of the highlights of this tight show. A soulful, gospel chorus complete with Jagger's harmonica, meant that it melted 50,000 hearts instantly.
"We're gonna now do a couple of songs from the Sticky Fingers album," Jagger announces, complete with a new, different colored shirt, as the band then bring forth both 'Wild Horses' and 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking.' Complete with a massive saxophone solo and some fun guitar work from Wood, this is yet another stand out highlight of the night. Right about now, Jagger reveals - quite literally, as it comes up on the big screen behind them - that the next song was voted online by the Buffalo fans as the song to play at this very moment of the show - and it turns out to be a bouncy 'Let's Spend the Night Together.'
"How you feeling tonight Buffalo?", Jagger asks yet again. "You feeling good?," he then adds, as Richards lights up his guitar for 'Honky Tonk Women.' Bathed under a delicious yellow blanket of light, and complete with Jagger's rubber bendy body moves at the end of the catwalk, it's a remarkable live moment to both hear and see. "I'm in a great hotel," Jagger reveals, "and I'm actually staying in the Tom Brady Suite!" The crowd boo, ever so gently, ever so politely, but they needn't have worried. "It's great, except the pillows are a bit deflated!" he adds, to finish off his "Bradygate" joke. He then performs a round robin of band introductions, before getting to Ronnie "Wings" Wood, "Charlieeee" Watts, and "Keef" Richards.
It's the latter that then comes front of stage, as Jagger walks off, and introduces himself to the crowd. "Good evening, motherf**kers," he quips, smiling broadly. "It’s good to see you guys,” he continues, "actually, it's good to see anybody," he adds, with a chuckle. "Anyway, before they make me run from here, here's a song for you," and it's then that Richards gets to sing both a hearty version of 'Before They Make Me Run' and a distinctly fun 'Happy.' With Wood now on a lap steel guitar, akin to something Jeff Healey always played, the song is actually a delight to hear; given the fact Richards couldn't carry a tune in a rusty ol' bucket, of course!
Still only just two thirds of the way through, Richards waves to the fans as Jagger comes back on stage. "Thank you, and God Bless all of America," he says, still waving, stage bowing, rightfully so milking his private solo moment in the spotlight. Next up is an extended, drawn out to the max blues romp through 'Midnight Rambler,' where Jagger stutter-stepped up and down the catwalk, even boxing with an invisible opponent as he masterfully slid, nay thrust his way along in front of the baying front row fans. With 15 shows in 15 North American stadiums (well, save for the last festival show this week in Quebec!), coinciding with the recent reissue of the aforementioned 1971 album Sticky Fingers, the band still managed to cull from other historic albums. 'Miss You,' from 1978's Some Girls was next, and with Jagger on guitar, and its throbbing bass line, it brought another great funk moment out of the now-sweating guys.
Watching Jagger seemingly hover above the heated air emanating from the stage, you get the feeling that he’s like the coolest cat that ever lived! His confidence is never waning, his physical demeanor is second to none (for a man his age), and his vocals are as impressively robust throughout the show as they were back fifty years ago. With the audience singing along to the chorus, as instructed to by Jagger, come the end the entire stadium is clapping to the grateful lead singer. "Thank you so much. You sounded fantastic." Jagger then swigs from a bottle of water on stage, drop kicks it into the audience, before announcing to the crowd that the Stones have been coming to Buffalo since 1966. He thanks them for still coming out to see them and for allowing them to keep coming back to play for them.
That launches the band straight into a fantastic, heartfelt 'Gimme Shelter,' which in turn allows back-up singer Lisa Fischer’s solo vocals to crush everything in their path! What a vocal star this lady is and well done to those that were putting the tour together and thought of using her. She was something else up there at the end of the catwalk, alongside Jagger, both doing their thang.
As Richards strummed his guitar into life, Wood, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, suddenly we were into one of my all-time favorite Stones songs (from the modern era), 'Start Me Up.' Sadly, it was around now that Jagger's voice was obviously starting to feel the pressure of the long sets on this 14th of 15 in a row shows. But all that was forgiven when next up, and as the three giant video screens came alive with fire, we were treated to a very theatrical 'Sympathy for the Devil.' Jagger, now complete with flowing red cloak, spellbound the audience, that moment captured as if he were performing Hamlet or Macbeth. Complete with audience participation when it came to the "woo woo's," the song went down a storm, and was then backed by a rousing end of set barnstormer in the form of 'Brown Sugar.' "Thank you, Buffalo," waved Jagger to the en mass gathered here tonight, "Goodnight."
But, as we all know from these types of stadium concerts, that's never the real end to a show, and sure enough, some two minutes later, out they come once more. Joining the local Calvary Episcopal Church Choir on stage, already having delivered the opening bars of the ethereal 'You Can't Always Get What You Want,' the song was definitely another highlight of the set. "You sounded f**king great on that," Jagger compliments the crowd, before he and the guys launch into the final song of the two and a half hour set, the 50th anniversary birthday boy itself, '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.' Complete with so many fireworks, the planes flying above us must have had a wonderful show all of their own, after some stage bows, some more waves, and Jagger's "Thank you, Buffalo. Goodnight," once the Stones had left the stage this time there was no more thereafter - sadly.
Being that these 2015 shows are the first time the Stones have played North American stadiums since A Bigger Bang, the phenomenal energy behind Jagger's constant stage dancing, hip moves, and overall entertainment showcases just what this sold out audience means to them. For, without them, packing stadiums around the world to come see them, the Stones might possibly not be as big as they still are today. Jagger appreciates that though his energy, his dancing, his love for each and every person out there that paid to see them on this Zip Code tour. Of that, have no doubt, which most likely points to the Stones (arguably) being the greatest band in rock ‘n’ roll history!
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk