Review by Doug MacGunnigle, WPRO
The Rolling Stones brought their No Filter tour to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA on Sunday night, and vocalist Mick Jagger defiantly redefined what a 75 year old man (who astoundingly had just had heart surgery a few months ago) was capable of.
Jagger’s stunning performance throughout the night was remarkable – gifted with the energy of a man 50 years his junior, he presided over the 2 hours of hits and fan favorites that were performed.
Guitarist Ron Wood has also stepped up his performance significantly in recent years, serving as the onstage foil for Keith Richards and delivering the majority of the night’s guitar solos. Drummer Charlie Watts, at 78, provided the same swinging and solid backbeat that he’s been known for over the past 5 decades.
This brings us to Keith Richards – a rock and roll icon if ever there was one. “The Human Riff” had moments of brilliance on Sunday – and a guitar tone that is the envy of anyone who’s picked up a six string (or five string, often in his case.) There were a few slips and misfires, but the man delivered in spades throughout the evening.
After an opening set from Gary Clark Jr., whose Prince-infused blues rock was well received by early attendees, The Stones took the stage with “Street Fighting Man,” anchored by Richards’ ringing trademark 5-string Telecaster and Jagger bounding on stage with energy to spare, to the delight of the 50,000+ gathered in Foxborough.
Following solid performances of “It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)” and “Tumbling Dice,” the first surprise of the evening was the audience vote song – which was won that evening by 1980’s “She’s So Cold,” delivered in a quick, almost punky arrangement.
Gary Clark Jr was invited back on stage to perform “an ancient blues,” as Jagger called it – Bukka White’s “Ride ‘Em On Down,” first recorded by him in 1937 and recently issued by the Stones on 2016’s “Blue and Lonesome,” a collection of blues standards recorded by the band. Clark’s performance with the band was reminicent of the last time the Stones played the area – in 2013 he joined them for a performance of Freddie King’s “Goin’ Down.” Clark was a great fit with the band – his vocals played well off of Jagger’s and his solo, sandwiched between Wood’s and Richards’, was just about perfect.
The four ‘official members’ of the band then made their way down to a small setup at the end of the catwalk, where they performed acoustic versions (aided from the main stage by longtime keyboardist Chuck Leavell and bassist Darryl Jones) of “Play with Fire,” which has been dusted off on this tour for the first time since 1990 and crowd-pleaser “Dead Flowers.”
“Sympathy for the Devil” was next – complete with a wardrobe change for Jagger and sinister lighting and effects.
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” followed, minus the live choirs that the band used the last time they were in town – it was a slow, stripped down version. Keyboardist Matt Clifford performed the french horn intro, as well as some ill-advised keyboard-trigged ‘choir vocals’ at the crescendo of the tune.
“Honky Tonk Women” was an expected crowd pleaser, complete with cowbell and fun on screen animations. The production on this tour is not as elaborate as some of the shows they’ve done in the past – the days of cherrypickers and larger than life inflatables are gone, leaving the music to be front and center. The stage consisted of 4 large vertical screens, perhaps echoing an iPhone (and the tie-in to the name of the tour – “No Filter.”) The band dressed mostly in bright primary colors, making them a bit more visible in the cavernous football stadium.
Once Jagger introduced the band, which also included vocalists Bernard Fowler and Sasha Allen and horn players Karl Densen and Tim Ries, it was Richards’ turn at the mic, for a cooled down take on 1989’s “Slipping Away” and a high-energy “Before They Make Me Run.”
Jagger returned for a long funky workout on “Miss You,” featuring crowd participation and a tasty bass solo from the rock-solid Darryl Jones. One minor complaint about this rendition is the return of Clifford’s cheesy synth-harmonica that had been exiled to the trash bin of history following the 1989-1990 World Tour. Luckily, it only made a brief appearance in the intro.
One of Richards’ finest moments was his nailing of the intro to “Paint it Black,” which had Watts pounding out the beat that had the crowd on its feet, shaking the foundations of Gillette Stadium.
“Midnight Rambler” is the highlight of any Rolling Stones show. The song defines the band and showcases Jagger’s blues harp, Richards’ riffing, and Wood’s soloing. The version performed Sunday was no exception – with Richards playfully inserting the song’s opening riff again during the blues breakdown to the visible surprise of the other members of the band.
After “Rambler” comes the section of the show that the diehards refer to as the “warhorses” – tunes that they have to play every night. These songs were performed expertly, as one would expect from a band that’s likely played them over and over – “Start Me Up,” a FANTASTIC “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” that showcased Richards at the top of his powers, and a set-closing “Brown Sugar.”
Vocalist Sasha Allen shined during her solo spot in the sinister “Gimme Shelter,” as her wails of “Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away” echoed through the stadium and into the surrounding area.
Of course, the last encore was “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” I would imagine if one told a 20-something Mick Jagger that he would be on stage 55 years later still singing this song for a near-sellout crowd of almost 60,000 in America, he’d have a hard time believing it.
It is amazing that the Rolling Stones are still with us. These guys perform at a level that men 1/3 of their age can’t – and they continue to be the platinum standard for what rock and roll is all about.
Street Fighting Man
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
She’s So Cold (audience request winner)
Ride Em On Down (with Gary Clark Jr)
Play With Fire (acoustic, performed at edge of catwalk)
Dead Flowers (acoustic, performed at edge of catwalk)
Sympathy For The Devil
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Honky Tonk Women
Before They Make Me Run
Paint It Black
Start Me Up
Jumpin Jack Flash
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction