The Stones

R.I.P. Charlie Watts 1941 – 2021. Watts was an understated guy and an understated drummer. When the Stones played Slane Castle in Ireland in 1982, onlookers were amused to note that Charlie’s drum kit was smaller and less elaborate than that of the support act! Of course, a flamboyant drummer would have ruined the Stones – his understated jazz-influenced drumming style left the spaces for the improv of the other guys and, of course, the flamboyance of Mick:

Mick proving you can never be too skinny, too rich, or too cocky : )

Mick finds Jesus

Glad I got off my ass and caught them in Dublin in 2018:

Here’s the set list:

  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • Tumbling Dice
  • Paint It Black
  • Just Your Fool
  • Ride ‘Em on Down
  • Neighbours
  • Wild Horses
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)*
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Before They Make Me Run
  • The Worst
  • Miss You*
  • Midnight Rambler
  • Start Me Up
  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  • Brown Sugar
  • Gimme Shelter
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction*

Typical Stones’ work ethic – a tight, barn-storming set lasting over two hours. I’ve starred the ones I thought were superb – as in better than I’ve ever heard them before, live or recorded. What a finale that was:

As I tried desperately to get a place to park, it felt like I was going to a Tyrone match. Streams of people, annoying rickshaw drivers, buskers, inner city folks bawling “hats and headbands” and guards with security barriers blocking streets off. I ended up parking two miles away, in the fancy Convention Centre car park. The weather was beautiful – bright and sunny. As I hurried up some inner city streets, an old bloke in his garden cheerfully asked if I was “going up to see Mick Jagger?” Indeed I was.


I missed the band coming on stage.  Newly wristbanded, I was being funnelled through a tunnel in the vast Croke Park labyrinth when the opening drumbeats of ‘Sympathy’ started, and, with one accord, we just ran.

The audience was a very eclectic mix of people, as befits the broad and long-standing appeal of the band. People with mohawks and dreadlocks and metallers happily alongside preppy guys in blue blazers and sharply-pressed chinos and women in chic cocktail dresses.  A couple of well-dressed 70-somethings, standing alone, rapt. Beside a 20-something in a hoodie who couldn’t stand up. Teenagers and 20-somethings, heavily-tanned bohemian 30- and 40-somethings, a tipsy bunch of merry Irish grandmothers. They probably remembered the band from half a century ago …  Overall, I’d say that the vast majority of the crowd were younger, and in many cases much younger, than the band.

A friend of my brother’s, at school in 1982, had a t-shirt with the sarcastic message: “Mick Jagger lives on”. Even then, Mick’s age and longevity was attracting wiseacre comments, as the “Rolling Bones” entered their third decade on the road. 1982 was 36 years ago folks …

How then were the Stones last night? In a word: quality. As today’s Irish Times review noted:

“… astounding … genius … pummelling your senses with some of the best rock music ever …”

As today’s RTÉ coverage noted: “The Rolling Stones pull off a Croker corker”.

As today’s Irish Independent noted: “Rolling Stones storm Croke Park and rock 70,000 with stunning show.”

Cue old pros, old dogs and hard road clichés:


As Jagger reminded us, their first Irish gig was in January 1965, at the long-since departed Adelphi Theatre. I wasn’t even born. They know what they’re at. This probably is the last time for the boys. They could be forgiven for going through the motions and being their own cover band. Not a bit of it though. The professionalism, the enthusiasm, the masterful embellishments of well-loved classics, funkier and blues-ier than ever, the pride in doing a great show, the energy, the sense of fun and good humour, all very evident:

Copyright © Bjornulf Vik 2018
Copyright © Bjornulf Vik 2018

As you have probably worked out, the two photos immediately above were taken by a bloke with an actual camera : )

There had been two full-length rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday. A casual listener might be taken in by the jamming, free-wheeling nature of the Stones’ blues-rock oeuvre. But you don’t get to be that musically louche without first working your dayglo socks off. This was a supremely professional show by a bunch of guys who gave the distinct impression they could jam all night for the love of it. Respecting your audience? 110%.

As I suspected it might be, from an older fan’s perspective, it was slightly emotional. You look at them and in one sense you’re looking at human time capsules from the utopian cultural days of the 60s and 70s. They’re from there – and, somehow, here they still are. In, but never fully of, our time. Too cool for that. And still showing the young pups how it’s done:

I said previously that going to see the Stones is nowadays some sort of cultural duty, a homage to the long-haired libertines who made some of the songs my babysitter sang to me in the late ’60s, a homage to history and to perhaps the only outrageously-successful band that are still worth listening to. I was wrong about the “duty” bit though – they rocked the place out for over two hours – it was a real privilege.


As the Irish Independent review put it:

“Back in Croker, darkness fell not on just the edge of town, it fell on one of the most flamboyant bands the world has ever seen. It was a night, maybe even the last night on the sacred soil, to remember their very special brand of the blues.”
%d bloggers like this: