MINNEAPOLIS -- Could this be the last time we’ll see the Rolling Stones?
The self-proclaimed “Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World” opened their Sunday night concert at U.S. Bank Stadium by addressing the elephant in the room. Namely, the death of the man many would call the heart and soul of the group, drummer Charlie Watts.
Watts had already planned to sit out this leg of the band’s No Filter tour due to an unspecified medical procedure. But his death in August felt like the perfect time for the Stones – with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards the final remaining original members – to call it a day.
Then again, the Glimmer Twins delivered yet another ageless performance Sunday night, the type that puts bands a third their age to shame.
After a set from Grammy nominated Texas rock band Black Pumas, the Rolling Stones opened with a video tribute to Watts filled with archival footage of his tenure with the group, which spanned an incredible six decades. The four floor-to-ceiling screens on stage gave the typically reserved Watts a superhero-sized presence. (During the show, they also gave the entire stadium terrific views of the action.)
After a final freeze frame of Watts, Jagger and Richards, joined by guitarist Ronnie Wood, burst into action with a high-energy “Street Fighting Man.” The classics “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “19th Nervous Breakdown” followed in quick succession.
Jagger then addressed the cheering crowd: “This is our first time in 59 years without Charlie Watts.” He then dedicated the next song, “Tumbling Dice,” to the late drummer.
At various points during the late ’70s through the ’90s, the Stones were notorious for sometimes phoning it in, or letting the famously fractious relationship between Jagger and Richards spill out onto the stage. But in the 21st century – a time when the band hit their 50th anniversary – they seem to have figured out that if they’re going to charge what they charge, they had better deliver.
The evening felt reminiscent of the group’s most recent Twin Cities shows, at Xcel Energy Center in 2005 and TCF Bank Stadium a decade later. The band members were highly engaged, with both themselves and the audience, and wildly driven by whatever voodoo it is they use to keep Richards alive. (To be sure, USBS’ notorious sound problems did leave some audience members grumbling.)
It certainly helped that most of the members of the Stones’ touring band have been with the group for decades, including Darryl Jones, who took bassist Bill Wyman’s spot after he left the group in 1993. One of the few newbies on stage – backup singer Sasha Allen – proved to be a perfect fit and, with Jagger, delivered a chilling “Gimme Shelter.”
Watts will never be replaced, but Steve Jordan did a fine job of paying homage to Watts’ style while also adding some personal touches. He, too, is a longtime Stones associate whose relationship dates back to 1986, when he played on their “Dirty Work” album.
Jagger did his typical thing where he gives localized shout outs and claimed he ate a Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar, another one at the 5-8 Club and that he washed them down with a Grain Belt, Fulton and Surly. Jagger then announced he finished his night alone at Grumpy’s Bar. In a much more meaningful move, he sang bits of Prince’s “Controversy” and “Purple Rain” during extended versions of “Miss You” and “Purple Rain.” (The Purple One opened for the Stones back in 1981.)
The set list focused on the big hits, including “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Start Me Up,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Paint it Black” and “Sympathy for the Devil.” Richards sang a pair of songs, the rarely performed “Connection” and his signature tune “Before They Make Me Run.”
The only Stones song from the 21st century – not that there are many of them – to make the cut was their recent single “Living in a Ghost Town,” a slow burning reggae rocker that they wrote and recorded during the pandemic.
Next year marks the Rolling Stones’ 60th anniversary together and after Sunday’s show, it sure seems like Jagger and Richards are going to keep this band rolling for the foreseeable future.