To put a little spin on the Keith Richards quote “They had the sun, they had the moon, they had the air that they breathe and for two hours 71,000 people had The Rolling Stones.
Canada Rocks, Oro-Medonte at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds, was the only Canadian stop on The Stones current North American No Filter Tour.
It was one of the best Stones concerts of all time and this could be The Last Time, but now many music journos and pundits proclaim they “donnnn’t know.”
The crowds filed in partying among themselves, at the back-of-the grounds SiriusXM stage kick-off party featuring Saskatoon’s One Bad Son, and Halifax/Toronto faves Sloan.
That set the initial vibe for many souvenir-seeking fans, imbibers, and those sampling the various food truck fare.
Many mingled with like-minded Stones fans who became instant party pals as they waited in long lines for band merchandise.
Then on the main stage, Toronto’s all-gal band The Beaches and Kingston rockers The Glorious Sons got the crowd revved up to witness Canadian concert history.
As the lights went down, a soaring rock version of “Oh Canada” boomed throughout the fields.
The dynamic four-screen digital imagery accelerated from black and white into a colour splash of the boys through the decades and finally to the iconic red, black, and white Rolling Stones lips ‘n’ tongue logo. The display and the crescendo of music ramped up the mood of the audience into a fevered frenzy as they heard the opening riffs of “Street Fighting Man.”
Gigantic images of the band flashed across the masses creating a surreal all-ages rock and roll utopia.
Mick Jagger, now on the verge of 76, strutted, sashayed, and swaggered across the main stage like the raw in-yer-face primal youth personified in British TV shows like “Top of the Pops” and “Ready Steady Go.” Flashbacks of earlier years cleverly inferred during the black and white screen presentation of the Stones half-tempo treatment of their classic song “Paint it Black.”
Jagger’s boundless energy was flanked with the legendary second-instinct rhythm and lead guitar riffs of Ronnie Wood, and Keith Richards, plus drummer Charlie Watts – rock royalty at its finest.
Other band members included veteran players Chuck Leavell on keys, Darryl Jones, on bass, and Karl Denson on sax.
The Stones’ set list included “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Angie,” “Miss You, “Start Me Up,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar,” “Sympathy for The Devil,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Dead Flowers,” and fan request “She’s A Rainbow”.
The audience became digital screen stars as the multitudes sang “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” set to seamless Wood/Richards riffs.
Other tunes included “Steel Wheels” song “Sad Sad Sad” and an extended version of “Midnight Rambler.”
This was a concert highlight featuring Jagger’s red-hot harp and several band showcase solos which hearkened back to the massive concert arena days of yore.
Jagger talked about the number of times they had played Canada – 34 to be exact – adding a wry comment about a “buck a beer” – ironic as beer was more like $12.50 a can!
Keith Richards took a few solos to thunderous applause after slurring “God Bless you all. It’s great to see you!”
Richards performed two songs – “Slipping Away” from “Steel Wheels,” and “Before They Make Me Run” from “Nice Girls” featuring sublime vocals from veteran Stones back-up singers Bernard Fowler and Sasha Allen.
Fowler, who has been with the Stones since 1989, was recently here in Canada with David Bowie alumni Mick Garson and Earl Slick for “Bowie: A Celebration.”
His new release of re-treated Stones tunes “Inside Out” is garnering rave reviews.
Sasha Allen, who joined the Stones in 2016, brought the house down with her powerhouse solo on the first encore “Gimme Shelter” as the song transcended into a sassy Jagger/ Allen duet.
Jagger led the concert finale “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” inciting a crowd mantra of “Hey, Hey, Hey” which culminated in a dazzling fireworks display.
It was the perfect way to end the show – a concert for the ages that drew generations of fans from across the world despite the almost Draconian set list of rules for admittance.
Yet a ballsy few managed to “kick authority in the teeth” à la Richards by smuggling in items on the No Filter fly list from frisbees to nefarious combustibles.
The infinite parade of Stones concert attire from lips ‘n’ tongue logos galore to vintage tour shirts and No Filter tees confirms Richards’ astute observation about rock and roll being music “from the neck downwards.”
Canada Rocks continued the party on the SiriusXM stage as Toronto cover band Dwayne Gretzky jump-started the high octane revelry with a Late Night Party for those wanting to dance the night away.
A tidal wave of weary concertgoers headed out of the grounds and into the parking lot to discover a painfully slow aprè-concert exodus – the only bumpy part of this rollercoaster ride.
This once-in-a-lifetime extravaganza drew a cross-section of Stones aficionados who had waited months to see The Glimmer Twins (aka Mick and Keith) finally achieving the ultimate satisfaction.
Some hardcore followers had seen 50 shows, while others were seeing the band for the first time, yet all experienced the magic and undeniable musical power of The Rolling Stones – still The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in The World.