Many in attendance at Croke Park, Dublin, on Thursday May 17 could well have gone with the lyrics ringing in their ears of The Rolling Stones 1965 classic, ‘The Last Time’. Thankfully however the veteran rockers proved they have more than enough stamina, as they played the first show in their mammoth #NoFilter European tour.
Croke Park has a capacity of over 82,000 and there were only a few empty seats on that warm May evening. The show opened with The Academic, an indie rock 4 piece from Westmeath, Ireland, who certainly gave it all they had in front of what must have been their largest audience yet.
Their performance was met with enthusiasm and cheers from the crowd which ranged in age from teens right up to those who had grown up with The Stones. We had earlier in the day met two long term fans who had travelled from The Netherlands. It was their 69th and 71st Rolling Stones concert respectively, and they had Golden Circle tickets. It was wonderful as they talked about their idols, for whom their excitement had never once abated.
The Rolling Stones opened with an incredible rendition of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. Normally Keith opens with a furious riff, but this time Charlie Watts sat alone behind his drums and did the honours. Watts at 76 is the oldest member of the band, but his energy never once slowed during the night, and the normally dour percussionist gave more than one huge grin as he played. ‘Sympathy’ has forever been shrouded in controversy, but the audience lapped it up, singing along. It was the perfect opening, leading into ‘Tumbling Dice’, before segueing into ‘Paint It Black’, a very clear crowd favourite.
Jagger was in fine form, lithe and sleekily sexual, still able to seduce everyone in the audience at the age of 74. Chatting away about how the band had visited Temple Bar the previous evening and had a spice bag (a local Dublin delicacy involving chicken, chips, and lots of spices – including chilli peppers) he announced that they would play a couple of blues numbers, ‘Just Your Fool’, and ‘Ride ‘Em On Down’. Much as the rock songs are what people remember of The Rolling Stones, it’s the blues songs which define their style, and ultimately work best with Mick Jagger’s voice, and also give him the opportunity to show off his skills on the harmonica. Following on from this they performed ‘Neighbours’, from 1981’s ‘Tattoo You’, a song that they hadn’t “done in a couple hundred years”, and indeed, they’ve not performed it live since their ‘Forty Licks’ tour of 2003.
The Rolling Stones are quite savvy when it comes to using social media: in the lead up to the show both Keith and Ronnie had posted pieces on Instagram and Twitter, as did their official band accounts. In leading up to the show they asked on social media for fans to choose between three ballads to play at Croker, out of which I was sure it would be between ‘Angie’ and ‘Wild Horses’. The latter was the winner, and the song proved to be the perfect choice, giving Mick the opportunity to demonstrate that his vocal skills were still very much in tune. This was further supported by the glorious ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.
Keith Richards, who had not only played guitar and saxophone during the night, took his turn at the mic, singing two of his own songs. ‘Before They Make Me Run’, from their 1978 album, ‘Some Girls’, was written in response to his arrest in Toronto the previous year on charges of heroin possession. The blues track was followed up by ‘The Worst’, from 1994’s ‘Voodoo Lounge’, and caused this listener to feel an Americana album from Richards is long overdue.
Jagger returned to the stage with ‘Miss You’, encouraging audience participation on the “ooh ooh ooh” refrain. This was followed by an extended rendition of of ‘Midnight Rambler’, with Jagger once again on the harp.
We were well into the final third of the night, but the energy of the artists never once wavered. Special mention must go to Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts, without whom it truly would not be The Stones. Wood’s lighthearted humour, and exquisite shredding were manifest throughout the show, while Watts occasionally cracked smiles, confirming there was really no place he would rather be. We all started strutting as the band began to play ‘Start Me Up’, followed in quick succession by ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘Brown Sugar’, and ‘Gimme Shelter’ – thankfully shelter was not needed as Dublin put on a beautiful evening.
Rounding out the night was the song everyone was waiting for, and the perfect end to a perfect evening: ‘Satisfaction’. Unlike the lyrics however, we were satisfied, and certainly couldn’t have had been any more so than if they had continued to play all night.
The Rolling Stones continue their #NoFilter tour tomorrow night at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, with support from Liam Gallagher. Find out more information from their official website.