Damn, Skippy, that was one helluva show. But I’m getting ahead of myself. [click on any picture to embiggenate] This is going to be a long one, so brace yourselves!
As we were getting ready to leave here on Friday, I had an email from Rolling Stone (the magazine). I had sent them an email about their cover story on the Stones, and they said they were planning on publishing it in their Letters section, and they wanted to confirm I was who I said I was, and that I am from where I said I was from. How perfect was that?? I’m heading out to see the Rolling Stones, and Rolling Stone is going to publish my letter about the Rolling Stones! So meta. I’ll post it here when it comes out.
Our drive up to Chicago was fun, with lots of Stones being blasted on the CD player and lots of seat dancing from me. Unfortunately, I was also singing, so poor Ken had to put up with that! But he’s a good sport, and he knew how fired up I was. The party ground to a halt about five miles away from the hotel as traffic slowed to a crawl. It took us almost an hour to go five miles! I love Chicago, but man, I’d hate to have to drive in that every day.
We finally got to the hotel and settled in. Whoa, nice digs! We had an executive suite, so there was plenty of room, and holy shit, look at that view! Overlooking the Chicago River, seeing the boats and surrounded by beautiful skyscrapers. I am in you, Chicago, and I love you!
We got a little more pumped up by playing some Stones on the ‘puter, then it was time to head out. Our first destination was the Billy Goat Tavern for a bite to eat. The Billy Goat is famous for being the place that inspired the “Saturday Night Live” skit “Cheeseboorger, cheeseboorger, Pepsi, no Coke!” They even have it listed on the overhead menu that way. The place was total chaos, full of Stones fans going to the show, and Stones songs blaring overhead. It was so packed that someone said to just look for a couple of empty seats at a table and ask people if you could join them, so we did exactly that.
Turns out that we sat with some really cool and fun people. Laura was from San Francisco, and this was her 61st time seeing the Stones! Wow, I thought I was a huge fan! I forget where her friend Steve was from, but he was super nice, too, and we had a really nice chat. He said there’s a group of them from all over the country who connected online and meet up for shows, and they’ve known each other for years. How cool is that?
There were a couple of Keith Richards look-alikes, and that was kind of fun and maybe a little bit weird. But hey, it’s cool. Everyone was having a great time, and the vibe was very friendly and you could tell that people were pumped up. I started having a feeling that it was going to be a great show. The cheeseboorgers were mediocre, at best, but the atmosphere was crazy and fun! I probably won’t go back, but I’m glad I can say that I’ve been there now!
It was so packed and so hard to get a beer and get in and out of the chairs at the table that we decided to head closer to the United Center and see if we could find another place to have a beverage. We found a place called the Arrow, and although it was fairly busy, it wasn’t too bad and we had no problem getting a table. It was also full of Stones fans, and the place was playing Stones songs overhead. More good vibes from people, everyone looking happy and excited. Oh yeah, this was gonna be a great show!
There was a couple at the table to our left, and I noticed her lace t-shirt and thought it was really cute. A lady at the bar saw my Stones t-shirt and said, “Are you going?” I said, “Oh yeah!” and gave her two thumbs up. Later on, on my way back from the bathroom, I stopped to say hi, and we chatted a bit. Turns out she was from Memphis, and I told her we love that city and had a great weekend there. This was their first time away from their kids for over a year, or something like that, so she seemed super excited to be here for the weekend and to be seeing the Stones. She seemed really sweet, and I said it was nice talking to her and I hoped she had a great time at the show.
A little later, she hopped off of her barstool, stumbling a little bit, and came over to us to chat some more. More talk about how we were excited for the show, and I think I asked her if she was liking Chicago. She said, “Yeah, but there are so many FOREIGNERS here.” I looked blankly at her. She went on. “I mean, all the Mexicans. Back home, we’ve got lots of African-Americans—and I’m being nice here. Let’s just say it’s very DARK there.” I was so shocked that I really couldn’t say much for a moment. She said, “I’m scared at home. But I’m not scared in Chicago.” It was the most bizarre and offensive thing I’ve heard in a long time. I finally found my voice and said, “Well, we love everybody.” I think Ken reiterated that. That seemed to stop her from going on, and she moved away.
I turned to Ken and was like, “Holy shit!” She had seemed like such a sweet person, and to hear that just spewing out of her mouth was actually shocking to me. I know that racism is far from gone, but it’s still astonishing to hear. She’s lucky I was in a super good mood about seeing the Stones, because my response was a kind one (although I think I made it obvious how I felt). If she’d caught me on a bad day, she’d still be reeling from the encounter.
We made our way over to the United Center, got beverages, got some swag (I’ll post a pic of my t-shirt when I wear it for the first time...it’s very cool!), and found our seats. The crowd seemed (baby won’t you keep me) happy and excited. Our seats seemed even better than we thought they would be. The stage was in the shape of the famous Stones lips and tongue logo, with the center of the tongue open and with seating (the “Tongue Pit”). We were in Row 12 outside the edge of the tongue, on the right side, but it seemed like we weren’t that far away—it looked like less than twelve rows from that part of the stage. Anyway, they were pretty good seats, and we knew we’d have a good view of the guys when they moved out to the outer edge of the tongue.
We asked the guy sitting next to us to take our picture in front of the stage, and his wife soon joined us. She looked familiar—or at least her shirt did—and I said, “Were you guys sitting next to us in the bar?” She said yes, that was them! How wild! We ended up having a really nice chat. Georgina and Ian are originally from the UK, and have lived in the Chicago suburbs for I think they said twelve years now. Very nice people, and it was fun to talk with them! We mentioned the crazy bigot lady at the bar, and Georgina laughed and said, “We saw that exchange, and then your face afterwards! I told Ian that that woman talking to you must be drunk, because your face was like ‘oh my god.’” We cracked up and I said, “Yeah, I’m not known for my poker face!” They were very pleasant companions as we all waited for the Stones to take the stage.
Good grief, this entry is already long, and I’m not even to the show part yet! I shall forge ahead. I’m getting to the music part, I promise!
They were probably 45 minutes late taking the stage, but no one really seemed to mind. No one got angry or ugly. There was honestly such a feeling of excitement and joy among the crowd. It was such a great vibe! I’d imagine that that is the kind of crowd a band loves to see. When they finally took the stage, I did indeed scream again, just like I did back in ‘89, but the years have made it less of a high-pitched screech and more of a raspy thing. Haha! I didn’t look at the time of the show, but Ken and I agreed that it had to be a couple of hours. They absolutely brought it.
The setlist shows the incredible songs they did; some of their most famous, the two new ones, and a few of their more obscure ones. My friend Robert asked me what the highlights were for me. At first I couldn’t really pick, because I was still so excited from the show, but after a little reflection, I said probably “Midnight Rambler,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” and of course, “Sympathy for the Devil.” The first is a bluesy masterpiece, the second is a rocker (both done with one-time guitarist Mick Taylor...he was fantastic), and “Sympathy” is my all-time favorite song. On the way home, we were listening to more Stones, and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” came on, and I’d have to add that as a highlight, because they sang it with a local choir as the first encore song, and it was a beautiful moment. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was the second encore song, and that also rocked.
The special guest was Sheryl Crow, and they did “All Down The Line” with her. She did a great job, but I was really hoping for Buddy Guy. I’m guessing they’ll save him for their last show in Chicago on Monday.
It was very exciting when the guys came out to the edge of the tongue, because we had such a great view of them!
Our plan was to go to Buddy Guy’s club afterwards, but when we got out it was raining steadily, and we started getting fairly well soaked by the time we walked long enough to get a cab. We were both ready to head back to the hotel and wind down there. Probably a good thing, because I was still just wild from the show and didn’t really need any more stimulus! I hope we can get to Buddy’s when we go up in August for a Cubs game!
On the way back, I was telling Ken that I decided that this was now my #1 favorite show I’ve ever seen, surpassing the previous #1, which was the ‘89 Stones show. This was for several reasons.
- The venue was smaller and more intimate, about 20,000 vs over 50,000. The acoustics were great, and we had good enough seats that we could really see the stage well, especially when the guys came out to the edge of the tongue.
- The band sounded fan-fucking-tastic. They played so well together, Keith and Ronnie meshing perfectly, Charlie laying down that backbeat, and Mick was a skinny little strip o’ bacon powerhouse. His voice sounded incredible and was as powerful as ever, and he’s still got the moves, baby. There is no better frontman in rock and roll. Period.
- I think I appreciate them even more now, as they have continued to cement their place in rock history. They had a lot of commercial success in the ‘80s, with “Emotional Rescue,” “Tattoo You,” and the tour Shane and I saw them on, Steel Wheels, was a monster. But as I continued to get more into them and listen to more of their older stuff, I realize just how important they are to music and how amazing it is that they’re still going and still making great music. (I love “Doom and Gloom”!)
- Finally, the people in the crowd weren’t the only ones having fun. You could tell that the Stones were having a BLAST up there. Keith was all smiles, and they genuinely looked to be having a great time. I don’t know if it’s because they’re happy to still be alive and still doing what they’re doing or what, but it shows and it is infectious. We love it that they’re still rockin’ us, and I think they love it that we love it! Like I’ve said before...gotta show the band some love! It doesn’t matter if it’s a local band or the freakin’ Rolling Stones...they’re working hard and they feed off of our OUR energy as much as we feed off of theirs.
Oh, and when I saw online later that it was Ronnie Wood’s birthday today, I tweeted happy birthday to him and said that they totally rocked it last night. He favorited that tweet, so that made me happy! I should be getting some more swag in the mail this week, including programs and some collectible stuff from our ticket packages, and my Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary-Crystal Head Vodka package. Sweet! More pictures to come!
Now I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for a new album after this tour. If “Doom and Gloom” is any indication, it should be a good one!
Oh, and I stood the whole time. It’s the Stones, man. Show some respect, because they’re so respectable!