The extension of the pandemic has kept several bands away from Pittsburgh this year.
But it was going to take a lot more than the threat of covid-19 variants to prevent The Rolling Stones from coming to Pittsburgh, the latest stop on the group’s “No Filter Tour.” The show had originally been scheduled for June 2020 but was postponed by the pandemic. However, it was not going to happen a second time.
Not even the death of the Stones’ longtime drummer Charlie Watts, just six weeks ago, could stop them from playing a rocking show before an estimated crowd of over 50,000 fans at Heinz Field Monday night. Drummer Steve Jordan has been filling in for Watts and did an excellent job of keeping the steady beat going.
The Rolling Stones have been around a long time and their song catalogue is extensive. So, one of the questions fans likely had going into the show was what songs would Mick Jagger and company perform?
“’Wild horses’ is probably my favorite but (also) ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Memory Motel,’” said Amanda Mills, 31, of Cecil County, Maryland. “What about you?” said Amanda to her sister Stephanie Mills, 28. “Paint it Black,” answered Stephanie without hesitation.
The girls’ mother Kristen Mills has seen the Stones about 20 times but wasn’t going to miss this show. “I always think it might the last one,” she said.
Sisters Amanda and Stephanie Mills of Cecil County, Maryland are excited to be in the ‘Burgh for the Rolling Stones concert. pic.twitter.com/Y3VChIqZ3x
— Paul Guggenheimer (@PGuggenheimer) October 4, 2021
If it was the last Rolling Stones show in Pittsburgh, the group certainly went out on a high note — which Jagger can still hit. The Stones front man and guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood left it all on stage in a roughly two hour and 15 minute show that was exhausting to watch let alone to perform.
The evening began with a video tribute to Watts displayed on four giant video monitors. After Jagger burst onto the stage and launched into “Street Fighting Man” and then “Let’s Spend The Night Together” to open the show, he became emotional as he announced that the Stones were dedicating the show to Watts.
After a hearty rendition of “Tumbling Dice,” Jagger told the crowd “Blimey, it’s good to be back at Heinz Field, scene of so much drama.”
Dressed most of the evening in an all black outfit that made his torso look super thin and his arms and legs downright spindly, Jagger was a blur. He skipped, hopped, danced, shimmied and ran all over the stage, and its accompanying runway, so fast, it seemed faintly scandalous that a man of 78 was performing with such high energy.
Just when he started to look a little tired, Jagger would pull himself together, no doubt helped by those high intensity workouts he’s been seen doing on social media.
The Stones might have caught the crowd by surprise when Jagger sang a version of the Chi-Lites “Troubles a’ Comin,” a true rarity the Stones recorded in Paris in 1979 during sessions for the band’s “Emotional Rescue” album. It went unreleased for over four decades before they recently decided to put it out there.
If it didn’t catch the crowd by surprise, “Troubles a’ Comin” seemed to throw Richards for a loop when he appeared to stop playing before figuring things out and jumping back in.
That was followed by the evening’s fan vote song “Angie” and then “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which saw Jagger play acoustic guitar before walking the runway and encouraging the crowd to sing the refrain.
“Thank you, you sang brilliantly, even better than Cleveland,” he remarked.
After a version of the pandemic inspired 2020 release “Living in a Ghost Town” that featured a harmonica solo by Jagger, the band played a blistering rendition of “Start Me Up” that had Richards and Wood trading brilliant guitar solos.
Following a version of “Honky Tonk Woman” that featured what seemed to be Voodoo inspired video effects, Jagger told the crowd that he was a bit frustrated at not having enough time to see much of Pittsburgh on this trip.
“I haven’t even had time to go to the Andy Warhol Museum and look at myself,” he said. “I did have time to queue for a sammich (yes, Jagger said it that way) at Primanti’s.”
Jagger for sure burned off those calories on Monday night. He did, however, take a break to let Richards enjoy the spotlight on a couple of songs including “Before They Make Me Run” and “Slipping Away.”
Richards, wearing a yellow wool ski cap and a silver ear ring in his left ear told the crowd, “It’s great to be in Pittsburgh. It’s great to be anywhere.”
Jagger came roaring back to the stage for the Stones disco-era gem “Miss You,” on which he played rhythm guitar. He also encouraged the crowd to join him on the high pitched “whoo hoo hoo ooo, ooo” parts of the song.
He followed that by working up a sweat with a 15-minute version of the intensely bluesy “Midnight Rambler,” a song for which Jagger once again broke out his formidable harmonica. Then he stretched out the song, engaging in a bit of call and response with the crowd as he made his way up and down the runway.
Between songs, Jagger mentioned the group’s June 1964 Pittsburgh debut at Danceland in West View Park, the first of the Stones 11 appearances here.
“Did anyone here climb under the fence (that day)?” asked Jagger. “Well, thanks for coming back.”
“Paint It Black” was next. Stephanie Mills had her wish.
Jagger was at his dancing fool best for “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” which ended the pre-encore part of the concert.
The encore might have been the best part of the show. Jagger, now resplendent in a black frock coat with silver sequins, was joined on “Gimme Shelter” by Sasha Allen, a New Yorker who’s been a backup vocalist with the Stones touring band since 2016. She took her turn in the spotlight, creating a fabulous duet with Jagger that rivaled singer Merry Clayton’s iconic vocals on the 1969 recording of the song.
The grand finale was a staccato version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” that Jagger no doubt decided to juice up after singing it so many times. It was a bit different but still satisfying — and included Jagger breaking out a Terrible Towel and twirling it with vigor as if to show he hasn’t given up on the Steelers.
The consensus among veteran Rolling Stones watchers at this show was that these age-defying rockers, Richards is 77, just keep getting better. Maybe they will make it back here again, if only to perform “Wild Horses” for Amanda Mills. It did not make the playlist this time. Sorry, Amanda, but you can’t always get what you want.
Local group Ghost Hounds opened the show with a strong 45-minute set that included a bunch of fine original songs performed by front man Tre Nation, plus a kicking cover of the song “Devil Woman” made famous by Cliff Richard.
The Ghost Hounds must have impressed Jagger who made a point of thanking them while the Stones were on stage.
Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or email@example.com.