NO ONE ROCKS LIKE THE ROLLING STONES: Adelaide Oval 25th October – Live music review

The Rolling Stones pre gig in Adelaide. L to R: Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood.
The Rolling Stones pre gig in Adelaide. L to R: Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood.

The revamped Adelaide Oval was christened in spectacular fashion last night, with The Rolling Stones giving the audience of more than 50,000 a master-class in blues rock and old fashioned showmanship.

With the majority of the crowd turning up early, Jimmy Barnes warmed things up with an hour long set dominated by his early chart topping solo career, with a smattering of Chisel crowd-pleasers mixed with the occasional recent tune.

While it might have been an idea to give this opportunity to a less established act, Barnesy certainly has the mass appeal to connect with such a large and diverse audience. With a voice that somehow manages to sound as strong as it always has, Jimmy had the crowd swaying along to “Flame Trees” and singing in unison to “Working Class Man”. Thousands of voices reverberating around the newly constructed stands roused anticipation for the main event.

The Stones announced their arrival on stage ripping into the legendary riff from “Jumping Jack Flash”, and in a moment we all flashed back to the sixties, reminded of how far the Stones’ legacy runs. Cutting through the characteristic reserve Adelaide audiences are famous for, even those in the stands jumped to their feet in excitement.

With no need to promote any new material, the statement was clear: this would be a night celebrating the musical history of this iconic band, taking us through that lauded back-catalogue of songs. The scorching momentum was maintained with a succession of mega hits, including “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, “It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I Like It) and “Tumbling Dice”.

From his first entrance on stage Mick Jagger showed us why he is still one the best frontmen in rock’n’roll; while his contemporaries may have slowed down, it’s a marvel he has been able to sustain this persona for so long. In spite of the huge venue, he commanded a charismatic presence throughout the show, strutting and dancing with an energy that would put performers a third his age to shame. Vocally, he remains at the top of his game. It must have been quite an emotional effort for Jagger to get back touring after suffering the great personal tragedy that postponed the initial concert date, but, ever the showman, there was not a hint of strain.

Having spent the past ten days in Adelaide, there were local references aplenty. Guitarist Ronnie Wood donned an Adelaide United scarf, while Jagger took a quick survey of Power and Crows fans in attendance and joked that the group had enjoyed their stay so much they considered relocating to a bungalow in Fullarton. The band also seemed genuinely grateful for the crowd’s patience in waiting for the gig and understood the significance of being the first act to play at the revamped arena.

These guys have been in the business for a long time and they know how to flatter an audience, who were appreciative of a group who know when they’ve ventured beyond the eastern states. Having taken a Twitter poll earlier, the band covered Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” by request, the audience rousingly singing along to the chorus and those in seats were up and dancing again when they ripped out “Honky Tonk Woman”.

Midway through the set Mick left the stage, handing frontman duties over to Keith Richards for a couple of songs. With Jagger’s energy absent from the stage momentum did dip slightly, but, just as much a rock icon as Mick, it was good to see Keith have his moment; the man can belt out a rock tune.

The lead singer returned with a harmonica and occasional Stones guitarist Mick Taylor (an underused member of the ensemble who only appeared for two numbers) for the epic dirty blues jam of “Midnight Rambler”. Perhaps the most revered of all Rolling Stones songs, “Gimme Shelter” was the highlight of the night: a searing rendition that culminated in the brilliant vocals of Lisa Fischer, whose sassy and soulful delivery was truly breathtaking. “Sympathy for the Devil” began with the stadium bathed in devilish red, the audience enthusiastically hooting the backing vocals; the main set then closed out with the crowd grooving to “Brown Sugar”.

Returning with an encore that began with a version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” backed by two local choirs, the night ended as it began, in the sixties, with signature tune, “Satisfaction”. The audience belted out the words, but unlike its chorus left very satisfied once the fireworks signalled the end of the gig.

We had been treated to a first rate performance by one of the great, all-time rock acts. Being the first concert since the Adelaide Oval refit there were some inevitable teething problems. Despite assurances that every seat would be the best seat in the house, some sightlines were obscured by the speaker towers and sound tent. Drink queues were also unacceptably long, with some people missing out on the music because they’d waited up to 45 minutes.

photo 3With echoes bouncing around the stands, there is never going to be perfect sound at a stadium gig, and it times it was a little messy; there was the occasional mixing issue, with Ronnie Wood’s guitar sometimes overwhelming the rest of the ensemble.

As a band, it’s not hard to see why The Rolling Stones have stood the test of time. They are a great blend, with the flamboyance of Jagger and Wood balanced by the steadfast Charlie Watts on drums and the enigmatic Richards. Supported by an excellent ensemble of musicians, they are sounding as good ever. At times they can be a bit loose, but that is part of the appeal; there were moments in the gig that felt like an old fashioned blues jam.

With so many acts playing exactly to script, there is a great sense of fun and rebellion with the Stones that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. The Rolling Stones continue to tour around Australia and New Zealand until next month. Dates as follows:

Wednesday 29 October 2014 Perth Arena Tickets through Ticketek
Saturday 01 November 2014 Perth Arena Tickets through Ticketek
Wednesday 5 November 2014 Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne SOLD OUT
Saturday 8 November 2014 Hanging Rock, Macedon Tickets through Ticketmaster
Wednesday 12 November 2014 Sydney Allphones Arena SOLD OUT
Saturday 15 November 2014 Hope Estate, Hunter Valley Tickets through Ticketmaster
Tuesday 18 November 2014 Brisbane Entertainment Centre Tickets through Ticketek
Saturday 22 November 2014 Auckland Mt Smart Stadium Tickets through Ticketmaster

Reviewed by Matthew Trainor
Photos from @RollingStones