Tuesday, June 23, 2015


As a wild child of the 70s, I spent a lot of time going to some truly amazing concerts.  I pretty much saw all of the super groups – Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Led Zep, The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Doors, and the Stones, to name but a few – at venues large and small up and down the east coast. 
                                                   Silvia Klippert
The last time I saw the Stones was at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. on a broiling 4th of July in 1972.  Stevie Wonder was the warm-up act.

Those were indeed the days.

The Stones always put on a helluva show, but they were never one of my favorite bands.  Mick was a little too flamboyant for my tastes, with all of the bright costumes and prancing, and the curled lip bravado.  Keith Richards came across like a sullen, chain-smoking jerk who mumbled incomprehensively and pretty much hated everybody and everything.  The histrionics surrounding the band seemed to cover their musical shortcomings. 
In the end, as Jimi once said about his own music, it was just “amplified blues”.

And in the Stone’s case, a lot of it was taken – dare I say stolen – from the old blues men of the south like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley.
But to their credit, Mick and the Boys were always right up front about their musical roots and influences, and they played a major role in popularizing the works of the old Blues masters who were toiling away in the shadows.  But I always felt like the Stones were more about the show than the music.

A few weeks ago, my good friend Larry, from my crazy days at the Grand Canyon, called and said that he and his wife TC were heading up to his hometown of Pittsburgh to see the Stones at Heinz Field.  They had two extra tickets and invited Inna and I to meet them there for the weekend and catch the show.       

This was also Larry and TC’s 29th wedding anniversary.  In 1986, we stood at the end of Shoshone Point, on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, on the Summer Solstice, and witnessed the joining of our two dear friends in the bonds of holy matrimony.  I had been Larry’s best man and delivered a legendary toast at the raucous reception which followed that blessed event.

So, we drove to Steel City on Friday after work and hooked up with our long lost friends at the Doubletree Hotel downtown before hopping a shuttle over to The Strip where we ate some amazing Alaskan king crab legs caught by Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski, of “Deadliest Catch” fame, at Luke Wholey’s Wild Alaskan Grille.  The fried soft crab Bloody Mary’s and bourbon beers helped to unleash some wonderful memories as we sat outside and watched an army of people parade along Penn Avenue wearing t-shirts with the infamous red tongue and big lips design for the “Sticky Fingers” album.
Pittsburgh is a great city.  A working class town with no pretentions – a lot like Baltimore where I was born.  We spent most of Saturday roaming the streets, checking out the captivating architecture.  The Pittsburgh Plate Glass Building, made entirely of smoked blue glass and designed to look like the English Parliament building in London, is without a doubt one of the world’s great treasures.  And The Point State Park, where the three rivers (Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio) come together is a wonder to behold.  At the very tip of the park there sits the granddaddy of fountains, blasting water 150-feet into the air like a white dancing geyser.  It turns out that the fountain is fed by an underground river that dates back to the time of glaciers. So, technically, Pittsburgh is not the city of three rivers, but rather, four.

The Stones concert was amazing.  To see those old coots, now in their early seventies, still cranking out the tunes made me feel like a teenager again.  Mick danced and skipped across the huge stage and long runway that jutted out into the field like he was in his twenties, not 72.  A perpetually bemused Keith Richards never stopped laughing and bopping.  Ronnie Wood bounced around in his yellow Chuck Taylors like a young punk rocker.  And Charlie Watts was – well, you know, Charlie Watts – which is to say stately and spot-on, sporting yellow and black Steelers socks.
But what totally blew my mind was the collective joy that surrounded their last few songs.  And as I stood there clapping and howling from our lofty Club Seats perch, I truly appreciated the Stones for the very first time in my life and was blown away by how those songs captured the insanity and wonder of the 70s – like the musical Cliff Notes of an entire generation.
“Gimme Shelter” came first.  And I thought the whole place was going to explode when Keith began the slowly-building lead-in refrain on his big red Gibson guitar and the incomparable Lisa Fischer began wailing.  I suddenly realized this was my favorite Stones song.  And when they – and everybody in the place – sang “Ohhhh, children, it’s just a kiss away. It’s just a kiss away,” I started to cry.
The stage went black as the stadium seemed to take a deep breath and then a red and black caped Mick Jagger sauntered to the front of the stage and sang, “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.”  Heinz Stadium went completely nuts when the anthem that probably best-captured the dark sides and uneasiness of the 70’s literally parted the storm clouds above the stadium as Mick lit the heavens with those taunting words, “Hope you guessed my name.”
After the last notes of “Sympathy for the Devil” faded into the sultry night, the darkness was softly filled by the stirring voices of the Penn State Concert Choir singing the plaintive intro into “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.  And I stood there transfixed while the spitfire images of my rocky past rolled over me like some spacy acid flashback.  The truth of those simple, yet profound, words that often take a lifetime to learn, were sung in unison by the thousands of joyful old geezers, many standing on their seats and pumping their fists defiantly into the sky. “You can’t always get what you want.  You can’t always get what you want.  You can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
Everybody in the place knew what the final encore would be.  It was fifty years ago this month that the Rolling Stones conquered the music scene with their first big hit “Satisfaction”.  And what more could anyone really ask for?
The Stone’s Zip Code Tour of 2015 will probably be their last.  Who knows?  But it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle.  I do know that.
                                                                     Silvia Klippert

As we walked out of the stadium, the black waters of the Allegany River churning past us like an angry beast, I was reminded of the words penned by that notorious party animal Dylan Thomas.
                “Do not go gentle into that good night,
                Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
                Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

1 comment :

  1. Hey Steve - sounds like we might be about the same age. I also live in Annapolis and, with my brother and sister-in-law went to the Stones Heinz Field concert. We also stayed at the Doubletree!. The skies cleared at about 8:55 p.m. as if they were commanded to do so. I thought the show was fantastic (last saw the Stones at RFK in 1995) and no 21-year old has anything on Mick; he can still move. Keith looked like he was just having a jolly old time. It was a wonderful, memorable evening. FYI - we are not "geezers"! Barbara S.