The Rolling Stones
Wed. March 12
Shanghai Mercedes-Benz Arena
The March 12 Rolling Stones show at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena marked only the second time that the “world’s greatest rock-and-roll band” has performed in the People’s Republic of China.
Because it might also be “the last time,” they made every second count.
Inhabiting a dazzling stage replicating their lips-and-tongue logo and enhanced by a giant-screen backdrop, the Stones performed 19 timbre-spanning songs, most of which have long been classic-rock staples, dropping only “Honky Tonk Women” and “Brown Sugar” in deference to government censors.
That those songs were replaced with “Dead Flowers” and “Ruby Tuesday” demonstrated both the nonpareil depth of their catalogue and their and China’s capacity for compromise. China did, after all, permit the overtly revolution-stoking “Street Fighting Man” and the implicitly deistic “Sympathy for the Devil.” Hardly the concessions of a superpower committed to long-term micro-management and-or atheism.
The deepest revelations, however, were not political.
There was the international makeup of the 18,000 attendees, whose anticipatory pre-show and excited post-show chatter came in English of various accents, German, French, Spanish, and Mandarin. Comprising at least three generations, they greeted each song enthusiastically and gladly complied with (Mick) Jagger’s sing-along requests.
Then there was the frequent smile of Keith Richards, who clearly savors getting paid to do what he loves (which in Shanghai included singing “Slipping Away” and “Happy”). In this context, the news that he’s co-authoring with one of his daughters a children’s book honoring grandfathers is hardly surprising.
Last, there was the touching cameo participation on three tracks of Mick Taylor. The Stones’ lead guitarist from 1969 through 1974, Taylor has fallen on hard financial times. Given pride of place on “Midnight Rambler,” he’s no doubt finally being remunerated.
Only rock’n’roll? Hardly.
– Arsenio Orteza
IE’s senior contributor Arsenio Orteza is on assignment in Shanghai, China.
UPDATE: On St. Patrick’s Day, two days before the second half of the “14 on Fire” tour was to begin in Australia, L’Wren Scott – Mick Jagger’s girlfriend of 13 years died in Manhattan, of an apparent suicide. “The Rolling Stones concert in Perth will not be going ahead as scheduled for Wednesday 19 March 2014,” read the updated Stones’ website. “No further information is available at this time, [sic] ticket holders are asked to hold on to their tickets until a further update is available.” Obviously, there will be a period of mourning, and how long it should or will last only Mick knows. Our sincere condolences go to L’Wren’s extended family.