Well, it finally happened. After waiting so many years of my life, I finally managed to see The Rolling Stones live in person in my home country of Scotland.
It has been an awfully long time since the legendary English rock band played our country and today, people turned up in mass to see it. The day in Edinburgh was absolutely roasting, a beautiful day for sure but a little over whelming thanks to the remarkably intense sun during mid day. The result of this lovely weather was a lot of drinks being consumed and us pale skinned individuals turning an uncomfortable shade of burning bright red (currently stinging like a bitch at the time of writing).
After seeing the band previously in London (see the review here), I was feeling a bit less excited than I thought I would be. The wife and I decided to join the queue early, as first come first serve for the barrier and best view in the house. We had General Admission tickets and making our way to the turnstiles at lunch time was no hassle at all. The area had lots of fans from all over the world scattered around, mingling like they had known each other for years. It was a very pleasant group to be around and we met a lot of nice people there (I hope you guys get home safe, wherever you are).
Much like every big concert in Scotland, it didn’t actually take long for things to go very wrong. For the past few weeks, the venue was advertised to let people into the grounds at 2 o’clock and then into the stadium at 4 o’clock. A perfect amount of time to find our doors, make an orderly queue, get to the toilet and buy any merchandise or food before the show started. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the times had changed and only a handful of people knew about it.
By the time 2 o’clock came around, word slowly got round that we’re going to have to wait another two hours to get into the outer area of the venue. The only problem here is that they took so long getting us in (took until around 16:30), that the doors were already open when any of us got through the turnstyles (which are so small there was not enough room for my thighs to get through.) So, for those of us looking to get a bit of food and get their T-shirt before being let into the venue had no choice but to either miss our chance at the barrier, which we had queued five hours for OR get straight in and hope we can get whatever we want once we get there. A bloody awful start to the day if I do say so. However, that was not going to last.
Things immediately got interesting once we entered. We found that due to the delay or whatever the reason, there were four people handing out bracelets to the first fifty or so General Admission ticket holders. These lovely green bracelets gave us access to the extremely expensive golden circle tickets which is a sealed off area for the most die hard fans or those with more money than sense. It was a nice surprise to say the least. A lot of people in the queue spent their last funds to acquire tickets and have now landed in the expensive section. It made a lot of people’s day and it was great to see.
Opening the show was Richard Ashcroft known for being a one hit wonder and the leader of the band The Verve. His set was reasonably short, had great sound and a number of people seemed to enjoy it. I personally really liked his backing band and thought he was a terrible waste of space. The group had a great solid rhythm and a fantastic lead guitar player. Unfortunately, they were all over shadowed by Ashcroft. Who was not only the most uninteresting front man I have ever seen, but he couldn’t sing for at least half of his set. He started off reasonably strong at the start but something happened by the half way point that just showed how poor of a singer he is. By the time he was done, his voice was coarse and nearly indecipherable.
With the vocal issues aside, his set was let down by the fact that ALL of his songs were of the same tempo and style. There was absolutely no variety what so ever. This meant that unless you were into his music, it felt like a boring slow slog of a show and really did not get people riled up to see The Rolling Stones. Is it really hard to bring in good energetic bands that fit the headliners rhythm and blues style? If we had something like King King, Vintage Trouble or even a veteran act like Status Quo, the venue would have been bouncing. Sadly, this was not to be as we had to hear a glittery fairy dressed like a member of Oasis choking down a microphone for half an hour. It’s not the worst I have seen but it is certainly not something I want to see again… ever.
After a short break and what looked like a hundred towels on the stage, The Rolling Stones came on quick and blasted into Start Me Up. I love this song but I don’t feel it as an opener, especially when Keith Richards tends to mess up the first chord. Which he did, by the way. Despite the first mangled chord, the band sounded great and looked very happy to be there. Something you don’t see in big bands these days.
The first half of the set list was made up of a lot of great tracks. Let’s Spend the Night Together, is a song I really like live. It isn’t a favourite of mine but it comes across very well on stage. It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tumbling Dice and You Can’t Always Get What You Want, were great mainstays from the set and sounded just as good here as they did at the previous London show I attended. Under My Thumb was a pretty cool addition and Ride ‘Em On Down was great. I love hearing the band play the blues, it seems so natural for them and makes me wish they’d do it more often. Sadly, when they played the blues orientated numbers, it seemed that no one cared. Probably because it wasn’t on some cheap “best of” collection.
There was a lot of the usual suspects like Paint It Black and Honkey Tonk Women which were as good as always. Keith’s solo spot consisted of You Got the Silver and Happy. The two best songs of the night if you ask me. The fan vote resulted in The Rolling Stones playing She’s a Rainbow. A reasonably fine song but compared to what it was up against, the “fans” easily picked the most uninterested song of the four. It was a real momentum killer and felt really awkward in the set.
The second half of the set featured Sympathy For the Devil, which honestly felt extremely gimmicky being the second time I have seen it. It is surprisingly uninteresting and really could be removed for something more interesting. The same could be said for Miss You and Midnight Rambler. Both songs were played perfectly and I enjoyed them both. But their performances were so similar to many of the live releases that I own. They felt very predictable because of it and really needs to put in storage for a bit.
The last group of songs including the must play hits, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Brown Sugar, Gimme Shelter and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. Each song was welcomed with open arms from the fans and were played beautifully by the band, even if it was a bit predictable. The band left the stage quickly under a barrage of pyrotechnics and a new generation of fans took a sigh of relief as they have finally got a chance to see the most legendary rock band in history. Everyone seemed happy and in good spirits as they left the arena. It was definitely a good experience for the most part and I think it was worth the hassle it caused us to get there.
My main gripes about this show is simple. There was a lot of people there simply for a night out. They were there to get drink and to sing karaoke to the handful of songs they know. That was very off putting for a lot of us and certain incidents put us on edge for a bit. I have no problem with anybody enjoying a good drink, but people like this lot just take it too far. This is the same mentality that ruined AC/DC for me and it is really putting me off attending floor only shows.
My other gripe is about the golden circle surprisingly enough. In my honest opinion, the sound was not adequate down in that pit. It was extremely loud which made the drums quite hard to hear and there was a lot of audio issues for Ronnie Wood at the start of the show. Thankfully the mixing was corrected and a pair of Senner ear plugs (buy them here) that I bought before I came to the show really helped drown out the excess noise. I feel that had I went into General Admission as originally intended, I would have not only had a better view but a better sound. It scares me to think people pay £250 or more to get into this area. It is not worth it at all, unless you get it for free.
In conclusion, this was a great show. There is no denying it. The band were great through out. But the set list in my opinion was not as strong as the previous London show, the blame lying on the opening Start Me Up and the poor choice of She’s a Rainbow. Despite my gripes I had a great time and so did thousands of other people there. It is an experience no one will forget.