The Rolling Stones didn't start us up with Keith Richards' snarling cut-to-the-bone guitar or Mick Jagger's mesmerizing look-at-me-now dancing.
Instead, Sunday's concert at US Bank Stadium opened with a recording — Charlie Watts' drum track for the 1971 song "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," accompanied by video images of the band's forever drummer, who died Aug. 24 at age 80.
After 30 seconds of Watts, Richards' rhythmic riffs kicked off the rebellious "Street Fighting Man," followed by two other blasts from the '60s, the poppy invitation "Let's Spend the Night Together" and the edgy "19th Nervous Breakdown."
Then, it was time for Jagger to acknowledge what had been on the mind of every Stones fan.
"I just want to tell you this is our first tour in 59 years without having Charlie," announced an out-of-breath Jagger. "I'm sure you have your memories of Charlie. We'd like to dedicate this song to Charlie Watts." Then the band launched into "Tumbling Dice."
It was an understated, unsentimental tribute to the refined gentleman who brought jazz-informed rhythms to this blues-based rock band. The heartbeat of the Stones, Watts famously played behind the beat, letting the music breathe and swing. He also brought an artful aesthetic, helping to design visuals and stages (including their current one).
Otherwise, it was business as usual for the world's greatest — and oldest and richest — rock 'n' roll band.
Over the course of 19 songs and 2 ¼ hours, the Stones cruised through their recorded heyday, 1965 to '81, with one new pandemic number, the too-dull-for-a-stadium "Living in a Ghost Town," tossed in.
Unlike some previous Stones stadium shows, this one didn't have miles of ramps and towering bridges on which Jagger could aerobicize. There was a runway, four giant video walls and a quick burst of fireworks at show's end. This hardly amounted to a stadium-worthy spectacle, especially by the Stones' standards.
Moreover, this performance lacked the overall excitement of their last Twin Cities gig, in 2015 at the Gophers football stadium, and the consistent energy that Jagger showed in his return to the stage in 2019 after heart valve surgery. That opening night in Chicago, he was on fire.
On Sunday, it wasn't Manic Mick but rather Pace-Myself-for-a-Marathon. At 78, he's still skinny and inexplicably ageless (he's eight months younger than President Biden). Being a rock star is a fulltime job, and he clearly puts in the work — even if he's averaging only 1.5 concerts a week since the Stones returned to the road last month after a pandemic hiatus.
Jagger preened and pranced and shook his tail feather. He was in full peacock mode. He wore a black-and-purple diamond pattern jacket before changing into a series of colorful shirts and coats, including a full-length black-and-red sequined number for "Sympathy for the Devil."
Although he paced himself, he moved like Jagger, the rooster strut, the mincing steps, the catwalk sashay, a shimmy here, a shake of the booty there, frantic arms, wiggly hands, swivel hips, faux jumping jacks, a modified version of the Swim. Whew! It was exhilarating and exhausting to watch.
As he did last time in Minneapolis, Jagger dropped several local references, saying he'd eaten Jucy Lucys at Matt's Bar and the 5-8 Club and washed them down with Grain Belt and Surly. He mentioned ending the night at Grumpy's Bar and playing the Stones' first Twin Cities gig at Danceland in Excelsior in 1964.
He snuck in snippets of Prince lyrics into what turned out to be two of the night's highlights. During "Miss You" he quoted "Controversy," singing "I wish there was no Black or white" while facing bassist Darryl Jones, who is Black. And in the epic 12-minute "Midnight Rambler," featuring serrated boogie guitar from Ronnie Wood, he inserted "I only want to see you in the purple rain."
This could be the last time for the Stones in Minnesota, though I also wrote that in a 1975 concert review, and next year's 60th anniversary tour is more of an expectation than a rumor. But it was the first time for drummer Steve Jordan. At 64, he's a well traveled percussionist (Eric Clapton, Stevie Nicks, John Mayer, Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards) and he played on the Stones' 1986 LP "Dirty Work." On Sunday, he was more demonstrative and propulsive than Watts, yet still precise and respectful.
Without Watts, the Stones abandoned an intimate acoustic set at the end of the runway that was part of earlier shows on the current No Filter Tour, which started in 2017. They also eschewed a choir on "You Can't Always Get What You Want," a staple of many tours.
Except for the aforementioned highlights as well as the knockout encore of "Gimme Shelter" and an extended "Satisfaction," this performance didn't truly erupt like the best Stones shows usually do. In the end, it felt like just another good concert by a legendary band, rather than a show that added to the legend.
Setlist from Sunday's concert:
- Street Fighting Man
- Let's Spend the Night Together
- 19th Nervous Breakdown
- Tumbling Dice
- Monkey Man
- Fool to Cry
- You Can't Always Get What You Want
- Living in a Ghost Town
- Start Me Up
- Honky Tonk Women
- Before They Make Me Run
- Miss You
- Midnight Rambler
- Paint It Black
- Sympathy for the Devil
- Jumpin' Jack Flash
- ENCORE: Gimme Shelter
- (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction