The Rolling Stones in Coventry
by Pete Clemons
Rock and roll is for the young people. The outpouring of musical creativeness and energy is, I agree, a factor of youth. Yet four men who, between them will have a collective age of 295 when they hit the city and play this gig, have created a real buzz in Coventry.
Having seen The Rolling Stones on several occasions, but never in my home city and certainly not within walking distance of where I live, I am as excited as anyone about the bands forthcoming visit to the Ricoh Arena on June 2 - which, by the way, coincides with drummer Charlie Watts’ 77th birthday.
Yes, I have read all the arguments and heard the comments as to why you should or shouldn’t bother with it all and, yes, they have not had a UK top ten single for getting on for forty years. And a part of me really does agree with those arguments. But for me at least, it’s not about what they do any more it is, in fact, all about what they are and what they represent. And having asked myself the question ‘would I regret not going?’ an almost instant message is returned ‘what a stupid fucking question, of course you would’.
It’s incredible really to think that what began as a chance meeting on the Southern Line almost 60 years ago combined with a shared love of the American R and B scene, a sound that would dominate their early releases which then moved onto their more eclectic period of the second half of the 1960s that also included experimentation through to country that then shifted through a rock period, the tax exiled years, the commercial highs and lows and the solo years remotely continues today. This is apart from all that early heavy touring and the incidents that arose out of all of that.
Having said that it’s easy to, not so much forget about, but to overlook the role guitarist Brian Jones played in the early success of the Rolling Stones. Brian grew up in a musical family and had the talent to play almost any instrument. When rock began to experiment in the 1960s Brian was one of the few who could shift with ease through those developments. He played marimbas on ‘Under My Thumb’, introduced the mellotron on a lot of ‘Satanic Majesties’. He was on the strings on ‘Two Thousand Light Years From Home’ and gave ‘We Love You’ that Arabic riff.
Based on those previous experiences of seeing The Rolling Stones live in a mix of cavernous buildings, sports stadiums and the fields of country estates, I expect to see Mick Jagger sporting a huge grin, dressed in his brightest finery prowling and exploring the width and breadth of the entire stage and giving very little outward indication as to his age. I will undoubtedly hear Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood bouncing off each other as they interact and weave their way through a set that will contain some spine chilling guitar riffs. And I will notice the normally calm and collected Charlie Watts sat behind his basic drum kit occasionally giving the impression he is actually enjoying it all. I will also get a huge sense of a band that care deeply for each in a way that only a family does. There will also be an abundance of insignia around the stadium that bears Mick Jagger’s mouth and tongue in that now worldwide familiar logo.
Of course, The Rolling Stones of today are more than just the core band. They will have exemplarily backing musicians and vocalists joining them on stage enhancing the sound. That said they may still play a few stripped back tunes. At least that was what happened on the Bridges to Babylon tour when part of the set went right back to basics and reminisced about days at the Marquee.
Whatever your thoughts, there is no escaping the fact that The Rolling Stones are just wonderful performers. They may not be as relevant and as fast as they once were but they are still as tight and as engaging. They interact with the audience, and the audience, which will no doubt span the generations, will respond. Coventry will love every second of them, of that I am confident.