Many fans were still bummed about losing Charlie Watts, still flustered by the extra yearlong wait and still a wee bit worried about COVID safety at the Twin Cities' biggest concert since the pandemic began.
The ones who turned up at U.S. Bank Stadium for the Rolling Stones concert on Sunday night, however, shrugged off all those lingering concerns with the same mantra that has followed the legendary British band for 47 of its nearly 60-year career.
It's only rock 'n' roll, and, boy, do they still like it — maybe more than ever, in fact.
The turmoil and loss that preceded the long-awaited Stones concert probably kept some fans away. It was a rare case of the band not selling out the venue. But the 45,000 who did show up did so with smiles blazing and tongue-logos wagging.
"I'm a little nervous being here, but no way I was going to miss the Stones," said a masked-up PJ Kintop of Minneapolis, who first saw Mick Jagger & Co. in 1972 at the Met Center.
"Tonight will be a very emotional and powerful full-circle moment," Minneapolis rock vet Robert Wilkinson of Flamin' Oh's fame said. "These are my boys. They epitomize what a rock 'n' roll band should be."
As the Texan opening band Black Pumas started up the crowd at 7:30 p.m. — earning quite a rave reception by set's end — fans were still making their way through the crowded stadium concourse to stock up on beer and scoop up the $50 T-shirts. Among the shirts was a special Minneapolis edition featuring the city skyline and the Chain of Lakes reshaped like the band's iconic tongue logo.
No proof of vaccination or other COVID-related requirements were implemented at the concert, which made some fans nervous but others relieved.
"It was nice knowing the shots weren't required, or we wouldn't be here," said Sherry Vennes, an unvaccinated fan from Maple Lake. "Let everyone decide for themselves."
The Stones' 8:45 p.m. set time was preceded by a video tribute to Watts, their founding drummer who died of natural causes at age 80 in August. Even before his death, it had already been announced he would not be performing on the tour, and Steve Jordan — a longtime sideman to Stones guitarist Keith Richards and other legends — would be taking his place.
"It's sad, because Charlie felt like an old friend," said Parrel Caplan of Minneapolis, who was one of the less than 300 mostly teenage fans to catch the Stones' first Minnesota show at Excelsior's Danceland Ballroom in 1964.
"They all feel like old friends, though, so I still want to see the other ones."
Kent Mortimer, a veteran Twin Cities drummer, explained his mixed emotions this way: "Steve Jordan is probably the only drummer besides Charlie Watts who could be in the Stones."
Sunday's concert was the 12th time Jagger, Richards and crew have come to Minnesota on tour going back to that tepidly received, low-attended 1964 debut. Yes, kids, even the Stones had to work to get bigger and better.
The band's most recent stop at then-TCF Bank Stadium in 2015 was actually among its all-time best-received Twin Cities show. U.S. Bank Stadium's notoriously bouncy and muddy high-ceilinged acoustics were cited by many Stones fans for their aversion to attending Sunday — though bad sound is hardly a new thing when it comes to Stones' dates in Minneapolis.
"My concern with the sound quality is a result of my ongoing trauma of seeing them inside the Metrodome," said Mike Wiley of Minneapolis, who didn't attend the concert. He was referencing the group's three tour stops at the similarly muddled Dome from 1989 to 1997.
Attending his 10th Stones show, Jim Nethercut of White Bear Lake looked at 2015's concert as a peak performance — and thus he went into Sunday's gig with contentedly lowered expectations.
"I thought  would be their last show here," Nethercut said, "so I'm looking at this one as frosting on the cake."
With the three remaining core Stones members (also including guitarist Ronnie Wood) just behind Watts in age, many fans wondered if this one really could be the band's last time in Minnesota.
Jeff Gilbertson of Barnum, Minn., brought his teenage daughter and son to the show at their request after he saw the band three times before without them.
"I think they recognize this as their one shot to see the Stones and they now will remember it for the rest of their lives," said Gilbertson. "Seeing it through their eyes [is] pretty awesome."
The Stones took the stage to the hard-charging riff of "Street Fighting Man" and followed with the appropriately inviting "Let's Spend the Night Together." Then Jagger directly greeted the crowd.
"Hello Twin Cities! Hi there, you Sotans!" the ever-spry frontman yelled, his coolness still palpable enough to forgive the fact no one ever calls us that.
Jagger also detailed a surprisingly cool itinerary from his extra days in town leading up to the show.
"I had two Jucy Lucys here: One at Matt's Bar and one at the 5-8 Club, washed down with a Grain Belt, Fulton and a Surly, finished off at Grumpy's Bar."