Rolling Stones London Stadium (25/5/18)

Looking all the way back to 2002 when I started attending rock concerts, it occurred to me not too long ago that of all the bands I have wanted to see live, The Rolling Stones were the only one that I haven’t been able to see live. Sixteen years later, the No Filter tour gave me the opportunity to correct that and it was well worth it.

When it was rumoured that The Rolling Stones would finally be hitting the road in the UK, I immediately made plans to travel to at least one show. That show was in fact Edinburgh that takes place in two weeks time. However, when general sale went on I had noticed that Ticketmaster were selling disability tickets for a reasonable price at London Stadium. The chance to see one of the all time greatest rock n roll bands for a greatly discounted price seemed like too good a deal to turn down.

The band’s venues for this new tour is a questionable personally speaking. I have always found that despite their dips into other genres, the band are still a good solid blues rock band at heart. With that, I feel that stadiums are not the perfect place and they’d more suited to theatres and smaller arenas. Much the same feeling I have for AC/DC who put on a terrible show in Glasgow’s Hampden park not too long ago. Due to the increased popularity of the band in recent years, that was most definitely not going to happen. So, the band played this gigantic stadium to an apparently sold out crowd. A fact that was apparently just walking down the main street to the venue.

Despite the large crowd, getting into the venue and into our seats was no problem. The signing was a bit questionable but the halls were easy to navigate. Unfortunately for us, it turned out that Ticketmaster in all their wisdom were selling wheelchair tickets to disabled people who do not need a wheelchair. This resulted in the two of us only actually having ONE seated ticket. With staffs help we were quickly moved to a group of seats to the far right of the stadium looking down on stage left. However we were not worthy of these seats as we were then moved quickly as possible to the centre of the seated section bang smack in front of the stage. I quickly went from having a great side on view to being able to see very little.

This debacle ended when the fellow managing these people took us to the lower tier accessibility platform (which I didn’t know existed) and made a nice effort to get us seats directly in front of where we were originally intended to be seated. With his effort, we were given two new seats and one magnificent view. We could see the stage clearly and was at the perfect angle to also enjoy the magnificent large screens decorating the stage. Let this two paragraphs being a warning for folks with walking sticks. Just because they’re selling disability tickets, it does not mean they are for anything but wheelchairs.

Now onto the show itself. Not long after the tour went on sale, the band announced their support bands. Instead of announcing exciting up coming rock or blues outfits, the group announced what could easily be described as “hipster festival” bands. Our destroyer came in the form of Florence & The Machine, the latest in pretentious Kate Bush wanna be pop music. Their set was comprised of nine songs including, Between Two Lungs, Sweet Nothing, You Got the Love and Ship to Wreck. A set fine for their fans but not for a Rolling Stones concert.

My main gripe with the set was the fact that a majority of the songs were so similar. They were very hard to decipher, at least from where we were sitting. I put this down to the the extremely shrill banshee wail that the groups leader calls singing. This woman’s voice was absolutely cringe worthy. She seemed capable of belting it out, but not capable of singing anything more than two or three notes. It was all very repetitive, flat and was an extremely poor compared to the many vocalists I have seen live.

The whole Florence personality was cringe worthy. Her between song banter featured the woman lecturing the crowd on loving each other and telling us to tell the person next to us. She did this in the fakest of fake soft voices, one that she struggled to maintain the more out of breath she became. It all seemed goody two shoes nice until she decided to praise being an alcohol fuelled piss head. Something I’d expect from a primitive hipster festival go’er. It was a boring set, a completely wrong choice for a rock concert and not one I’d want to see again.

By this point the venue was packed to the rafters. People didn’t waste time getting into the venue. Both the pitch and seats seemed full by the time The Rolling Stones hit the stage at 20:20. The crowd was absolutely electric, very excited and near enough exploded when the lights dimmed and band’s intro splattered across the groups magnificent towering display screens. The legendary rock group hit the stage to a thunderous standing ovation and blasted straight into a vicious rendition of Jumpin’ Jack Flash. They didn’t waste time smashing their way through classics like Lets Spend the Night Together, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tumbling Dice and Just Your Fool.

We were treated to an excellent version of Dead Flowers, one of my favourites. A song that the bands fan base voted for on their social media page the day before. The song flowed smoothly into the classic ballad, Wild Horses. This was a great performance, the band sounded extremely tight and well into it. That was until our dear Aunt Flo (Florence) hit the stage to do a duet with Mick Jagger. The result had to be one of the most uncomfortable things I had seen in my entire time attending shows.

Aunt Flo as we’ll now call her, was trying to get a little TOO close and personal with Jagger. The veteran singer looked extremely uncomfortable and a little annoyed as she kept rubbing her stink all over him like a needy cat waiting for a wet pouch. There was a point where he even grabbed her hand to remove her from his body and dragged her down the run way in what looked like an attempt to be rid of her. It was quite an uncomfortable watch and ruined what would have been a great memory.

The remainder of the band’s set featured a lot of well known tunes. Paint It Black was pretty awesome, The Worst was quite charming and I loved hearing Happy live in person. Sympathy For the Devil was a great live spectacle but felt a little played out, even for my first Rolling Stones experience. Miss You, I think stole the show. The bass guitar rhythm showed exactly why Darrel Jones has been playing with the band for so long. His funk bass guitar solo was fantastic, only to be topped off by an excellent saxophone solo. It didn’t take much for the band to change the heavy funk groove and into Midnight Rambler’s heavy blues rhythm. It was an impressive change and a superb combination of songs. The band played a great extended rendition with some nice guitar work from both Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards. It was nice to hear a bit of Robert Johnson in the middle of it.

The set closed with the three live mainstays, Brown Sugar, Gimme Shelter, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The band took a bow in front of another huge standing ovation and that was that. We had the common sense to get out whilst the last song was ringing its last chord and didn’t find any issues leaving the venue (thankfully). Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the drunks on our way back to the train station. But that is completely different story.

Considering I have waited my entire adult life to see The Rolling Stones live, it is safe to say I had some high expectations. But I would say without any form of bias that the band met those expectations and then some. The group were extremely energetic, they were extremely tight and were clearly having a great time on stage. That enthusiasm rubbed off on the crowd and it is safe to say the majority, if not all of us had a great time.

The ticket price may have been expensive and the travel to London was a pain in the backside. But it was well worth it just to see these living legends in person.