Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rolling Stones @ U Arena, Nanterre - October 19th, 2017

Last night the Rolling Stones played the first of three dates in Paris, wrapping up their 2017 No Filter Tour.
I had been very apprehensive because let's face it, Keith has been spotty for a while. And I'm being generous. I've seen some clips where he is absolutely catastrophic, and the last few times I saw them he had some pretty embarrassing moments. The good news is that the "Obergruppenf├╝hrer" was mostly good throughout. Now, he doesn't play much anymore, which might explain it, and his parts are simplified to extreme. But it works, thanks to Ronnie who is picking up the slack.

Ronnie gets shat on a lot, because he isn't Mick Taylor. Then again Mick Taylor hasn't been Mick Taylor in four decades either, so there's that. Ronnie might not have a recognisable style but it meshes perfectly with Keith's and his goofy demeanour always livens up the stage when things get a little rough. And that's the beauty of this band: even with the predictable set-list, the army of backing musicians and Chuck Leavell acting as musical director, it still remains shambolic and on the verge of collapse at any moment, despite Charlie's solid backbeat.

I think we can all agree that Charlie is awesome. He's not a showy drummer, that's for sure but he knows how to hold down the fort and he knows how to swing. Tumbling Dice is a great song but could be a run of the mill rocker without Charlie's subtle sway. Deservedly, he's the one who broke the applaud-o-meter during the introductions.

But the star is obviously Mick Jagger. I have come to the conclusion that the man simply isn't human. How someone still moves like this at 74, for two and a half hours, is just staggering. His singing was incredibly strong throughout, and he doesn't get enough credit for all the nuances in his voice. His blues shouter timbre is the one he used the most, but his falsetto is also perfect, and so is his country snarl or his softer ballad croon. He addressed the crowd in French throughout the night, making references to the current French political climate and calling us all virgins as this was the first event held in this brand new venue, the U Arena.

As I mentioned, the setlist was unfortunately very predictable. They had started the tour by playing surprises like Dancing with Mr. D and Play with Fire, which would have been welcome last night. The two blues covers went down really well but could have been replaced by those two numbers instead. The vote song was Let's Spend The Night Together, which was ok but the weak choice in a panel that included Bitch and Let it Bleed. Everything else was a by-numbers Stones show. Satisfaction, Paint It Black, Start Me Up, Jumping' Jack Flash, Miss You... The only clever change on this tour is using Sympathy for the Devil as an opener, which seems obvious but hadn't happened before to my knowledge.

I'm hoping that the next two shows will change things up a little. But even with that minor complaint, it was a great gig. It's always such a joy to see them, and those occasions will get rarer as they are approaching eighty. Whenever I see them I always leave the venue a little sad, knowing that, as they say, "This Could Be The Last Time". This time I left "Happy", knowing that I would see them twice more in the next few days. Because no matter their mediocre late-career records, no matter their own failings as musicians (*cough*Keith*cough*), no matter their predictable setlist and no matter who wants to pick up their crown this year, they remain The World's Greatest Rock And Roll Band.

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