stones-adelaideVoula Williamson photo

For the last two weeks, Stones fever, ably abetted by the broadsheet newspaper, has hit Adelaide.

Not for everyone, of course, mostly fogeys. Of which I am one.

In the days running up to the gig, Stoneswatchers staked out their hotel, their rehearsal ‘room’ (disused Glenside Mental Hospital, not that there’s any shortage of clientele, just that funds are a bit short apparently). 

Adelaide Oval
October 25, 2014

Women (mostly over thirty) were seen cluttering up clothing shops, shoe shops and perfume shops (just in case) in more than usual numbers, so I expect there will be an unexplained spike in retail spending graphs in the week before the Stones play in your city.

We got a call to tell us they were soundchecking at Adelaide Oval, so she raised herself from the sick bed and we lurched off. Missed most of it (the broadsheet announced it was going to be between 6 and 8pm, so the band, notoriously public-shy when not onstage, turned up at 4. We heard echoey versions of a few songs, the best of which was Happy and Sympathy for the Devil. Then we thought we’d amble down to watch the limos leave (Audis), which we did - surprise! 

As the limos approached the rickety gate (it’s Adelaide) one window was wound down. Mick Jagger! He looked friendly, glad to see us; and it was a generous, thoughtful gesture. 

That all changed as the crowd hungered forward; the security guard leapt forward and Jagger sank back into his chair looking worried, if not alarmed. There are two photos which reached us, the difference is palpable. Fans in large greedy groups are bloody dangerous. I expect the guard would’ve needed a change of undergarments.

You can’t blame the Stones for hiding out, not really. Everyone has a barrow to push with this band. It won’t stop until they’re dead, too many fogeys have long memories. Like some old, deluded actresses, some females simply shouldn’t have been stalking the Stones. Mind you, the younger lasses should know better as well. They’re only human. Would you lust after your great-grandad? 

I like the Stones, but I have not only never seen them, I’d never really considered going to see them. Not because their songs are bad (they’re not) but because I figured it’s too much money when I have other things to spend it on.

Then the tickets went on sale and she had to go and I had the money (thanks ATO) and then we had tickets. Good ones, apparently; not quite VIP but $500+ each so, I figured, we’d be counting Keef’s nostril hairs…

And so to the gig. Huge anticipatory excitement in our household, much dancing about and bellowing of old favourites. Her, I’m afraid. I wasn’t that excited, also rather too much other stuff has been happening. I was more curious and interested, which, given the cost of the tickets (general admission was $80, which I thought was good) means I was in a serious minority.

Generally when the burbs empty in this town before a gig (50,000; never seen so many people awed by themselves as part of a crowd. There’s a learned anthropological thesis waiting to be written about how we are affected by things on a large scale, however meaningless the achievement. Bob Short..?) the town packs solid for about four hours before the gates open. You knew ACDC were in town by the hordes of swollen, sloppy bikers, wanna-be’s and low-level thugs getting hammered all down the streets near the gig. The RH Chilli Peppers have a similarly distinctive crowd.

People took their time getting to the gig. Families lay under the oaks and Morton Bay Figs, yabbering cheerily, clutching their merch bags (T-shirts $50, which is current industry standard, and programmes $30, ditto - I expected the prices to be higher) and I was reminded of the Royal Show. A nice family day out. If the bad boys live long enough they turn into the establishment the young all loathe because it doesn’t swear enough and isn’t relevant to now.

No, the Stones have long been irrelevant to the zeitgeist; their most extraordinary moment as far as I can see is ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’, released at a time of massive civil unrest throughout the Western Powers (particularly in the USA where a misguided military situation was exacerbated by the threat not of being dragged off to join the war, but to be forced to make the decision, ‘do I study or do I accept the draft’? And let’s not forget the cauldron of thoughtless violence caused by the more forceful (if not militantly communistic) members of the civil rights movement (and the opportunists who egged it along, and the stubborn guardians of justice who weren’t guarding justice but ‘the way things are’)… Cities burned; ‘Satisfaction’ was one of several emotive rallying points of the 6ts; another was The Temptation’s Ball of Confusion, released just before the opening of the Black Panther trial; Yale University had a night of almost-boiling-over violence which, thanks to the most intelligent policing I’ve ever read about, did not result in a bloodbath.

So now the Stones represent ‘the way things are’. And that’s fine; the crowd are happy, all pleased to be there, there’s food which … no, it was greasy and salty and not especially nice; the beers are a bit expensive but you expect all this at a big one-off event.

Another chap who has represented ‘the way things are’ is Jimmy Barnes. By now you may have twigged that I was in far more of a minority than I’d realised. Hadn’t considered… oh, shit. 

I was told I should’ve brought a book. 

Can you imagine?

I promised I’d keep this short. I’ve tried hard to avoid seeing Barnes live. I dislike the music; and it’s ever-present in this town. Nothing against the man, nor his fans. I find Chisel to be fairly dull, and Barnes to be quite ordinary. But I loved his first solo single, Little Bit of Daylight. 

However, supporting the Stones can’t be easy. You’ve got a small area to work on, it’s still daylight and people are wolfing nuggets, pizzas, burgers and chips (no gravy), finding their seats, and seeing people they haven’t seen for years as well as people they work with, so it would be hard to project anything against that. The band have a few lights, but about half (if that) of the PA power, and there’s a huge gap between the stage and the Jagger Walkway (so if the support band tries to commandeer the Jagger Walkway they’ll break their neck). 

However, the fact that Barnes is on means the crowd sort themselves out and stampede into the stadium, realising that It Can’t Be Too Long Now etc; because he’s an Adelaide favourite (apart from me, it seems) before long the crowd are singing along and jigging about to old favourites, many of which I am cursed to recognise and know most of the blasted words.

But. But, but, but. I was hypnotised by one man on that stage. One man who was utterly Into It, Plugged In and fucking wonderful. Lachy Doley. Organ and piano. The mix sometimes buried it, but by fuck he was good. Seek Lachy Doley the man out. Lachy Doley has his own band. Lachy Doley. Lachy Doley. Lachy Doley.

Ok. So we wait in the sun for the next hour and a half or whatever it was (I heard James Brown’s I Feel Good three times - a tribute given Jagger was able to take some of Brown’s moves and incorporate them into his own act), I was told I should’ve brought a book twice more and eventually the lights go down and … well, the entrance music is pretty damn huge. Big fuckoff lights. And a sound system worth over $12 mill and clean as a whistle and I want one.

Ah, ok, where’s the fucking band? We have problems here, I guessed we might but… okay. I’m not used to big gigs like this. The Stones is a huge, complex enterprise, a business, so they sell the tix closest to the stage for much, much higher. So, if you’re me and spoiled by being up the front of a gig most of the time you’d kinda expect not to be in the situation that Moshtix use as advertising (deep crowd, hands, heads and blackness and above it in the distance some light and stick figures; I assume this means that the gig experience for most people is about pretending that discomfort and hiding in a crowd is somehow comforting). 

Well, I was wrong. I spent two and a half hours balancing on bits of my feet I never knew I had, craning to see the tiny figures on a stage half a soccer pitch away in between the Bald Bloke, the Shaggy Bum Bloke and the Older Growly Bald Bloke. Having to constantly switch focus from not being knocked over (all seating was enforced; no standing or movement in the aisles. I felt a bit like I was in Gilliam’s film Brazil) was weird; very short dark to very bright and miniscule. Yes, they have huge and very effective video screens, but … I wanted to see the band. I’ll get the dvd (the Hyde Park DVD is, I think, better than Shine a Light). So I did everything possible to see the band, and ignore the video footage unless absolutely necessary.

If you’ve not seen them, Jagger is one of the most accomplished showmen and it’s a right joy to watch how he works. Springsteen, Pop, Cave, okay?

And he’s concentrating fearfully all the time, you can see it. This may come easily after many years of practice, but Jagger works his butt off and it looks gruelling. Whatever he makes from this tour he’s earned the hard way. He doesn’t run quite everywhere, but he moves at a fast clip around all three runways, imprecating at us, sometimes setting up call-and-responses, sometimes doing that extraordinary foot-shimmer.

By the way, Jagger is 71. And although the band pace their show, two hours and a half hour encore (and probably more if you really want it, see below), well, he may have slowed down from twenty years ago, but not by bloody much. Around the 90 minute mark I thought he looked a bit tired. Then Jagger got his second wind.

Think what you like about the man, but you have to admire his drive and determination. Some clot was overheard saying the band “were adequate for their age”. One wonders how many hits that clot has written, or how many millions the clot has made from music…

Fuck, 71. That in itself is brilliant, and worth the price of admission. Cab Calloway was still going at 78, I know that. But even so. Fuck.

Oh, and this must be the first and second times Jagger’s been booed in a long time.

I think it was after the second song, Let’s Spend the Night Together (impossibly vulgar at the time, now a twee or quaint ditty, lacking the fresh innocence of, say, I Wanna Hold Your Hand) (snigger), that Jagger let the band sort themselves out, came forward and made a carefully calculated comment “So you’re all Crows supporters then?”

Delighted, half the crowd roared approval, interrupted almost instantly by a savage booing… “Oh, so you like Port Power as well?”

Nicely timed. The cheerers now booed and vice versa. “I thought you’d all like each other, given you share the same stadium”.

Not sure what all that was about but people seemed to feel strongly about it.

Jagger made several more comments about Adelaide - they’d been here for about two weeks - and how well they’d been treated. Fibs - maybe - about how Ronnie ate crocodile, Keef had a pie floater and Charlie had a frog cake (poor sod). When Jagger said they were thinking of moving here you could hear 25000 creaky hearts go all wonky. ‘Get a little bungalow in Fullarton’. 

Ah, it’s a joke. Deadpan style. Rather good.

Actually, despite all the professionalism and MAJOR EVENT STATUS, it was easy to see the real men behind it all. The camaraderie between the members, Wood taking hasty drags, the way Jagger would take the spotlight to cover the hasty instrument swapping and roadies scurrying about behind him in the dark. There were a few mistakes, quickly covered; Keef’s radio mike fell off his guitar at the beginning of Satisfaction (fixed within seconds) and some hi-vis carpark attendant made his way onto the stage, cavorting and heading straight for Jagger (what did I say earlier, can’t blame them for wanting privacy) before being tackled, bundled off and hopefully buried alive. Twat.

Jumping Jack Flash/ Let’s Spend the Night Together/ It’s Only Rock and Roll/ Tumbling Dice/ Wild Horses/ Doom and Gloom/ Like a Rolling Stone (Adelaide internet request)/ Out of Control/ Honky Tonk Women/ Happy/ Can’t be Seen/ Midnight Rambler/ Miss You/ Gimme Shelter/ Start Me Up/ Sympathy for the Devil/ Brown Sugar

It might seem, from the list above, that it’s a lazy scamper through the back catalogue, but the band have put considerable thought into the arrangement and structuring of these versions; there’s a chunky soul feel to the live band, balanced intelligently and delivered with panache, power and professionalism, allowing the Seventysomethings time to gather themselves between songs. 

My favourites tonight? I thought you’d never ask. JJFlash (I first saw Jagger on a bw tv in a tiddly jockstrap. I thought he was obscene. Brilliant). I particularly enjoyed Doom and Gloom and Out of Control - clearly I’ll have to get hold of those; these newer songs are damn good. Happy was a highlight, as was Can’t be Seen; both sung by the rather shy Keef Richards.

Gimme Shelter I particularly enjoyed, a stand-out version, and Like a Rolling Stone (apparently Adelaide’s most-requested song).

Midnight Rambler and several others - including You Can’t Always Get What You Want I thought went on a bit too long but hey, it’s a spectacle, and you can’t help but admire it all and get carried away. Mick’s harmonica duet with Mick Taylor in Midnight Rambler was a total wig-out. As I said, they gotta pace themselves. So the other musicians get a run-out. Mick Taylor, Lisa Fischer; hugely talented in their own right.

The night’s highlight had to be Sympathy for the Devil (mammoth drums, video, smoke and lights made for a very convincing Hell). Satisfaction was brilliant; history, selfishness and savagery all at once. The Stones were always a bit dubious of the lovechild generation, and quite right too. Some of the Adelaide variety (and their often unfortunate offspring) sported their credentials, but most looked sober, wore dull colours accompanied with the sort of shit haircut we get to when we can’t be bothered much anymore. Er, yes, that’s right, a bit like mine.

A word on encores. Most bands factor one in, sometimes two. But if you make enough damn noise after one, and two, you might get more. Stop taking bloody selfies. If you really want the band to come back, don’t stand there expectantly. It sounds like nothing back there. They came out for the encore, probably because it is written in the script.

Encore: You Can’t Always Get What You Want/ Satisfaction

After the bows by the band and their hired musicians (some of the latter looked surprised), then the group bow, they buggered off into the gloom.

The amps were left on, and the main lights above the stage facing the crowd… I got the feeling that if we’d have bellowed a bit they might’ve come back on. Then the huge lights flashed on and off: the signal to the stage crews to shut it down.

They were damn good. Many of their songs which are old favourites I don’t like that much. Ronnie Wood and Mick Jagger project like no other band. Without the huge rep and the huge stage… well. Seeing the Stones should provide fresh determination to young musicians - this is what your music could be.

I doubt the crowd had ten percent under 25.

Should you go if they’re heading your way and there are tickets available?

Sure. Everyone around me was rapt. Delighted. A chum (apparently in the video live feed truck) texted me about how AWESOME THEY WERE. But I was always in the minority here. And even I was impressed and enjoyed watching it (apart from the pain in my calves and feet).

But get a seat in the stands and - take binoculars. 

You know that chatroom slugline? Cannot be unseen?

A night you’ll never forget.