Gig of the Week: Rolling Stones
Not Fade Away – Familiarity to breed content at Croke Park show
The Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts
Whether we love, loathe or are indifferent to them, The Rolling Stones are the sole remnants of the first wave of world-dominating Britpop that included The Beatles, The Who and The Kinks. The band are also the oldest of their kind and stature. From their formation in London 56 years ago, they have discarded one original member (Bill Wyman) and seen another one tragically die (Brian Jones).
Yet the core trio of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts did the clever thing by adding another 1960s guitar hero – Ronnie Wood – to their ranks in 1975. Forty-three years later, Wood has attained bona-fide band member status by not only looking almost as ragged as Keith Richards but also by his musicianship, which weaves as traditional a rock’n’roll spell as any guitar fan could wish for.
Now that we have the history angle sorted, let’s talk about age and do the math. Jagger (74), Richards (74), Watts (76) and Wood (70) have a combined age of 294. For some people, the sight of four wrinkled, leathery 70-something men performing a bunch of songs – most of which, it is fair to say, have stood the test of time to become classic pop/rock tunes in their own right – is unseemly. This makes perfect sense in many ways. For starters, you don’t expect your favourite band to last more than 10 years maximum, so when they get past 50 or 60 it’s odd to think they still have reserves of energy, the demeanour, and the image to get out on stage and belt out the hits in as appealing a way as they once did.
As for the money, unlike other, younger bands, especially those on the lucrative 1980s nostalgia circuit, The Rolling Stones may not need it, but they certainly want it. Jagger is worth an estimated $300m (€252m), Richards less so (Watts and Woods even less, but neither will ever have to wait for their government pensions to land every week in order to pay the heating bills). This irony is surely not lost on a band whose previous tours have grossed hundreds of millions, but there is method in such obvious business procedures. Simply put, it’s about balancing out the loss of earnings from record sales with revenue made not only from touring but also that ever crucial fiscal sideline, merchandising.
The band’s regular touring has, alas, little to do with ever needing (let alone wanting) to be relevant again – the days when a Rolling Stones song aligned itself with anything associated with the zeitgeist was 1971’s Street Fighting Man. Unlike U2 (whose members will have reached their 60s when they take the 30th anniversary of Achtung Baby out on tour in 2021), it seems The Rolling Stones don’t have a burning ambition to write original songs (they haven’t released a studio album of original songs since 2005’s A Bigger Bang) or any interest in the music charts, such as they are these days (they haven’t had a Top 10 single since 1981’s Start Me Up).
What you’ll get at Croke Park next Thursday night won’t be a band mulling over their childhood, teenage influences, and relationships (ala U2’s Songs of Innocence/Experience shows and albums, which, whatever way you react to them, at least have some thought to them) but an elderly and not so creaky machine delivering upwards of two dozen songs that will have 100 per cent familiarity.
Not Fade Away? It’s All Over Now? The Last Time? Don’t expect these song titles to prophesy anything, is our advice.