Age is a relative factor, which only bothers those of us who realize there are fewer years ahead than there are behind. When this revelation presented itself clearly in my mind I decided something needed to be done. My two options were clear: I could begin researching retirement homes, Florida properties or lawn bowling leagues, or I could live each day as full as possible. Needless to say I chose the latter and one of the things on my bucket list was to see Mick Jagger and the Stones perform live.
When I heard they were coming to town (Toronto) I immediately scooped up two tickets. Sure they cost as much as my 1968 used Rambler, but as they say in Holland, 'Life is not a Dress Rehearsal'. Another benefit of seeing the Stones is they are all substantially older than I am, so this alone would make me feel younger.
The concert seemed far off when I bought the tickets, but like everything, time passes quickly and before I knew it the date was nearly here. I had decided to get a hotel room so I wouldn't have to drive the hour and ten minutes after the concert to get home
I have been downtown more times than Carter's makes liver pills (another one of those sayings lost on anyone under fifty) but am always stunned when I see the number of cars, people, and taxis, all vying for a nonexistent part of the road.
I made my way inside and followed the directions given to me by one of the attendants. I was trying to remember the last concert I saw in the Air Canada Centre. It was either Paul McCarthy or Rod Stewart. We made our way to our seats (my wife led the way, as I have a habit of easily becoming lost) and were pleased that our seats were at the end of a row, relatively close to the stage with a decent view.
I was amazed the place was still half empty at 8PM, but I also know that musicians do not begin until the house is nearly full. No worry, for watching the people was its own form of entertainment. Best of all most everyone was my age. it was great to see all these rockers with little or no hair, muscular chests that have dropped to their midriffs and using cell phones to capture memories of the soon to start event of the decade.
I watched the mosh pit start to fill up and wondered who had the thousand or two dollars it took to get a standing spot inside. They were the beautiful people with the connections, for I doubt any of them actually paid for the tickets. There was movement on the stage, and finally, forty-five minutes late the lights dimmed, the crowd cheered and a video began to play on all the large screens, including the giant one behind the stage. I watched images of the Stones of years gone by as memories flashing visually before me.
And then it happened; the announcer announced the long anticipated… "Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome THE ROLLING STONES”. I screamed with the rest of them and applauded as loud as I could for there, before my eyes, stood Mick Jagger on stage, icon of my youth. Immediately I noticed how thin he was and involuntarily sucked in my tummy. He looked sickly, I thought, but had a great head of hair. The music began and everyone sang along. Everyone that is, except the under forty crowd, who never took the time to learn the words.
Keith Richards was awesome. Still not quite GQ material, and a bald spot on top of his grey head, he did sound unbelievable even if he looked like someone's grampa as he danced magically to the timeless music. Songs written forty and fifty years ago seemed like they were released yesterday. There is something mystical about listening to a live performance of music by the original artists.
Ronny Wood had the greatest hair I have ever seen. I wondered if it was a toupee. If not it was certainly dyed and perhaps the recipient of a few transplants. It didn't matter, the sound was awesome. The only one of the original four to appear normal was the drummer, Charlie Watts. Short grey hair, quiet in every way except when playing the drums, he appeared to have been unaffected by the decades of success. In fact, at one point Jagger gave him a chance to speak, but he shyly refused.
Beer was flowing freely in the ACC and regrettably I began to question if the aisle seat had been a good choice. Unlike the youth of forty years ago the majority of people had to make constant trips as a result of the beer, causing my seat (and me) to bob up and down on a regular basis. No matter, I was grateful we were in a section where I did not need to stand to see, although some songs simply required an upright position.
The all too familiar aroma from the sixties began to slowly fill the place. I could see people lighting up everywhere, even on stage, something I thought they were going to control, but it was part of the experience. You can't really watch the Stones without the smell of reefers in the air. Unlike alcohol, pot seems to have a less angry effect and one fellow started to walk up and down the stairs beside me signing his heart out. He waved to everyone and encouraged then to sing. They did and his harmless antics were comical, in fact somewhat entertaining.
Two and a half hours went quick and the final song, Satisfaction (my all-time Stones favourite) sounded better than I have ever heard it. I sang loudly and danced in the aisle and relived my youth from so many years ago. Perhaps I’ll drive to Woodstock and see if Jimmy and Janis are there somewhere.