Saturday, June 9, 2018

Review: The Rolling Stones at Murrayfield Stadium with support from Richard Ashcroft

Richard Ashcroft supporting the Rolling Stones (Image: Getty Images Europe)

Murrayfield Stadium
Edinburgh, Scotland

A multitude of hits, blues and thrilling rock power from the old masters

The Rolling Stones have been around so long their music has soaked into popular consciousness via osmosis. Even if you don't own a single album most people could probably name 10 Rolling Stones tracks off the top of their head. It's no exaggeration to state they were integral in shaping and defining what we now think of as rock'n'roll.

Support act Richard Ashcroft's style is obviously indebted to prime era Stones. There's obviously no animosity remaining regarding the rights (and profits) from 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' (though Mick and Keef ended up quids in so no complaints at their end). He sensibly packs his set with Verve classics. 'Sonnet', 'Lucky Man', 'The Drugs Don't Work' and the aforementioned 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' are big slices of widescreen indie that go down a storm.

It's become a cliché to mention how old the Stones are (current combined age 296). And over the last 20 years every time they've announced a tour people have predicted it will be their last. But even if this isn't their final road trip it's probably the last worth seeing unless they head for dignified sit-down acoustic theatre shows in the future.

Appropriately the main event kicks off with a growling 'Start Me Up.' 'It's Only Rock'n'Roll (But I Like It)'. 'Tumbling Dice', 'Under My Thumb' (sarcastically introduced as a 'feminist anthem') and a shimmering 'She's a Rainbow' (tonight's fan voted choice) keep things ticking over but it's 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' that really brings everything and everyone together. 60,000 fans transformed into an informal gospel choir singing back every word en masse.

The Stones practically invented these big stadium shows, and corporate sponsorship is emblazoned around Murrayfield. It would be so easy for them to just go through the motions and cash the paycheque but they genuinely look thrilled to be playing live. It's their obvious love of the music that really sells the entire show.

For such a huge production it feels surprisingly raw, and the band changes up their set each night. An early cover of Jimmy Reed's 'Ride 'Em on Down' is a gritty slab of real blues; 'Honky Tonk Women' and 'Midnight Rambler' are transformed into stomping extended jams; an understated 'Paint it Black' emphasises the middle eastern rhythms at its core; 'Sympathy for the Devil' simply explodes with energy.

Again, we don't want to dwell on their advancing age, but at 74 Mick Jagger is astonishing. Everyone knows the caricature that exists, but live, every hand clap, bum wiggle and shimmy feels fresh and spontaneous. He also demonstrates a damn fine sense of dry humour quipping about trams, salt'n'sauce and giving it 'laldy'. Keef still strides the stage like a guitar colossus; Ronnie Woods is on hand to pick up any slack while drummer Charlie Watts is a meticulous metronome keeping the entire performance tight.

Unsurprisingly their horn section is world class; Chuck Leavell on keys and bassist Darryl Jones in particular deserve recognition for their stellar contributions. As does backing vocalist Sasha Allen who stepped up for a powerhouse duet on 'Gimmie Shelter'.

The Stones bring it home with 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', 'Brown Sugar', 'Gimme Shelter' and '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'. After tracks of this calibre performed with passion and power it's hard to agree with Jagger: satisfaction guaranteed.

Richard's setlist:
  1. Hold On
  2. Sonnet
  3. This Is How It Feels (Purple Rain excerpt)
  4. Break the Night With Colour
  5. Space and Time
  6. Lucky Man
  7. The Drugs Don't Work
  8. Bitter Sweet Symphony