The expansion of the pandemic has kept several bands away from Pittsburgh this year.
But it would take much more than the threat of covid-19 variants to prevent The Rolling Stones from coming to Pittsburgh, the final stop on the group’s “No Filter Tour.” The show was originally scheduled for June 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic. It wouldn’t happen a second time though.
Even the death of Charlie Watts, the Stones’ longtime drummer, just six weeks ago, couldn’t stop them from playing a rocking show in front of an estimated crowd of more than 50,000 fans at Heinz Field Monday night. Drummer Steve Jordan is Watts’ replacement and has done a great job keeping the steady beat going.
The Rolling Stones have been around for a long time and their song catalog is extensive. So one of the questions fans probably took to the show was what songs would Mick Jagger and his company perform?
“‘Wild Horses’ is probably my favorite, but (also) ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Memory Motel,'” says Amanda Mills, 31, of Cecil County, Maryland. “And you?” Amanda said to her sister Stephanie Mills, 28. “Paint it Black,” Stephanie replied without hesitation.
The girls’ mom, Kristen Mills, has seen the Stones about 20 times, but wouldn’t miss this show. “I always think it could be the latter,” she said.
Sisters Amanda and Stephanie Mills from Cecil County, Maryland are delighted to be at 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 definitely went out on a high note — which can still touch Jagger. The Stones frontman and guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood left it all on stage in a show lasting about two hours and 15 minutes that was exhausting to watch, let alone perform.
The evening kicked off with a video tribute to Watts, displayed on four giant video monitors. After Jagger stormed onto the stage and started to open the show in “Street Fighting Man” and then “Let’s Spend The Night Together”, he became emotional when he announced that the Stones were dedicating the show to Watts.
After a heartfelt rendition of “Tumbling Dice,” Jagger told the crowd, “Blimey, it’s good to be back at Heinz Field, the scene of so much drama.”
Dressed for 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 hopped, hopped, danced, shook, and ran across the stage, and its runway, so fast that it seemed a little outrageous for a 78-year-old man to perform with such high energy.
Just as he was starting to look a little tired, Jagger pulled himself together, no doubt helped by those intense workouts he’s seen on social media.
The Stones may have surprised the audience when Jagger sang a version of the Chi-Lites “Troubles a’ Comin”, a real rarity that the Stones recorded in 1979 in Paris during sessions for the band’s “Emotional Rescue” album. It remained unreleased for over four decades before they recently decided to release it there.
If it didn’t surprise the crowd, “Troubles a’ Comin” seemed to put Richards on a loop as he seemed to stop playing before figuring things out and jumping back into it.
That was followed by the fan’s song “Angie” of the night and then “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” with Jagger playing acoustic guitar before walking down the catwalk and encouraging the audience to sing the chorus.
“Thank you, you sang brilliantly, even better than Cleveland,” he commented.
Following a version of the pandemic-inspired 2020 release “Living in a Ghost Town” featuring a harmonica solo by Jagger, the band played a blistering rendition of “Start Me Up”, with Richards and Wood trading brilliant guitar solos.
After a version of “Honky Tonk Woman” with what appeared to be Voodoo-inspired video effects, Jagger told the crowd he was a little frustrated because he didn’t have 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 put it that way) at Primanti’s.”
Jagger must have burned those calories on Monday night. However, he took a break to let Richards enjoy the spotlight on a number of songs, including “Before They Make Me Run” and “Slipping Away.”
Richards, who wore a yellow wool ski hat and a silver earring in his left ear, told the crowd, “It’s great to be in Pittsburgh. It’s wonderful to be everywhere.”
Jagger came roaring back to the stage for the Stones disco-era “Miss You,” on which he played rhythm guitar. He also encouraged the audience to join him in the high-pitched “whoo hoo hoo ooo, ooo” parts of the song.
He followed that up by breaking a sweat with a 15-minute version of the intensely bluesy “Midnight Rambler,” a song for which Jagger again broke out his formidable harmonica. Then he stretched the song and began to yell a little and respond with the crowd as he walked up and down the runway.
In between songs, Jagger mentioned the group’s June 1964 Pittsburgh debut at Danceland in West View Park, the Stones 11’s first performance here.
“Did anyone climb under the fence here (that day)?” asked Jagger. “Well, thanks for coming back.”
“Paint It Black” was next. Stephanie Mills had her wish.
Jagger was at his best with ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ending the pre-encore portion of the concert.
The encore was arguably 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 has been a backup vocalist with the Stones tour band since 2016. She, in turn, took the spotlight, creating a fantastic duet with Jagger that rivaled singer Merry Clayton’s iconic vocals on the song’s recording in 1969.
The grand finale was a staccato version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which Jagger no doubt decided to waste after singing it so many times. It was a little different, but still satisfying – and included Jagger breaking out a Terrible Towel and spinning it vigorously as if to show he hasn’t given up on the Steelers.
The consensus among veteran Rolling Stones viewers on this show was that these age-defying rockers, Richards is 77, are only getting better. Maybe they’ll come back here again, if only to perform “Wild Horses” for Amanda Mills. It didn’t 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 featuring some lovely original songs performed by frontman Tre Nation, plus a banging cover of the song “Devil Woman” made famous by Cliff Richard.
The Ghost Hounds must have impressed Jagger who made it a point to thank them while the Stones were on stage.
Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or firstname.lastname@example.org.