TAMPA — On Friday night, about midway through the Rolling Stones’ high-energy concert at Raymond James Stadium, Mick Jagger invoked the Tampa Bay area’s historical link to the band: the origin story of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.
In 1965, the Stones played a Clearwater concert. “We played four songs and then got kicked off the stage,” Jagger said. Every fan knows the rest of the story — they went back to the Fort Harrison Hotel and Satisfaction was born.
“Now the hotel belongs to the Church of Scientology,” Jagger said. “We heard they had to ritually cleanse the site of our pernicious influence.”
The roaring crowd seemed glad to have that influence back, dancing and singing along and ignoring a few drifts of raindrops on a cool, breezy night. The Tampa date, finally played after the band’s No Filter tour was postponed more than a year ago in the early part of the pandemic, was a rock ‘n’ roll celebration of life tinged with a sense of loss.
The show opened with an empty stage, a powerful recorded drumbeat and, on the tall video towers, images of Charlie Watts. The band’s original and, for almost 60 years, only drummer, Watts died in August at the age of 80. (Fashion item of the evening among the audience: Charlie Watts memorial T-shirts.)
Then the fireworks went off, and the Stones charged into Street Fighting Man, the first song in a nonstop, two-hour, 19-song set.
Yes, the core members of the band are in their 70s. Yes, we used to think rock ‘n’ roll was a young person’s game. Turns out it can keep you young.
Ron Wood hasn’t changed much, still an impish stage presence and a blistering guitar player, although his cheekbones are now so deeply etched you could hide an acorn in there.
Keith Richards was long the edgiest member of the crew, with a cigarette dangling from his piratical sneer and a legendary capacity for partying. He has changed: With a beaming smile, a fuzzy hot-pink knit cap and sneakers with glow-in-the-dark stripes, he seems downright cuddly.
Jagger still moves like Jagger: the hip shake, the shoulder shimmy, the dash down the runway in front of the stage. Generations of rock singers have imitated those moves, but Mick is the original article and as mesmerizing as ever.
The set list was almost all greatest hits, but when you’ve made as many greatest hits as the Stones, why not? The first half of the concert featured lots of sing-alongs: Get Off of My Cloud, Tumblin’ Dice, Start Me Up and a glorious version of Honky Tonk Women that could probably be heard in space.
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There was a handful of less familiar songs, like Sad Sad Sad, from the 1989 Steel Wheels album. At each tour stop, ticket holders vote for one Stones deep cut to be performed. Tampa chose Far Away Eyes, from the 1978 Some Girls album, a tongue-in-cheek country song graced by Wood‘s steel guitar.
The only new song the band performed was the eerie, reggae-tinged Living in a Ghost Town, which Jagger introduced as “our lockdown song.”
Jagger got his customary two-song break mid show, when Richards took the mic in good voice to sing Connection and Happy. He offered heartfelt thanks to the audience and expressed his joy at being back on the road, “doing what we do.” With a benevolent smile and a wave of the hand, he said, “God rains upon you all. Bless you.”
Jagger, Richards and Wood are the core members, but there were 11 performers on stage, every one an ace. Jagger pointed out that keyboard player and music director Chuck Leavell first played with the Stones 40 years ago this week; Leavell demonstrated his chops with a rousing gospel piano solo at the end of You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
The newest member, stepping into Charlie Watts’ impossibly cool shoes, isn’t really new. Veteran drummer Steve Jordan had Watts’ blessing to fill in for him on the tour, and he has played with Richards on solo projects since the 1980s, so he has slipped pretty much seamlessly into the spot.
The second half of the show began with Miss You, more heartbreaking than ever before, and then turned into an express train: Midnight Rambler, Paint It Black, Sympathy for the Devil and Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
The encore gave backup singer Sasha Allen a turn in the spotlight in Gimme Shelter, and she delivered with a wailing solo and a fiery duet with Jagger that ended with them walking off the runway hand in hand.
And at the end, of course, back to the touchstone: Satisfaction. We got some.