Concert Reviews

The Rolling Stones Defied Age and the Weather at a Spectacular Dallas Show

He still moves like Jagger.
He still moves like Jagger. Mike Brooks
Why are The Rolling Stones still touring?

The members of “the world’s greatest rock 'n’ roll band'' are pushing 80 years old and a net worth close to a billion dollars. It's probably safe to assume that anyone who has ever wanted to see the Stones live have had their chance.

They’re in absolutely no danger of being forgotten, either. It would take an ice age to wipe out the whole of humanity and, only then, their near 60-year legacy.
click to enlarge Colombian musician Juanes warmed up the crowd as the Stones' opener - MIKE BROOKS
Colombian musician Juanes warmed up the crowd as the Stones' opener
Mike Brooks
It’s possible no one has suffered more through the pandemic than The Rolling Stones. Yeah, they have island properties, and the virus is no match for Keith Richards, but while most of us only had to miss seeing the few people we can tolerate, they had to forgo the presence of thousands of souls who clamor for them at every tour stop. The Stones hate not touring as much Mick Jagger hates condoms.

They don’t take bereavement holidays, either, and won’t take a pause even after losing band members, or their own partners to suicide, no less. If death ever dares come to claim Richards, it'll have to take him down onstage.
click to enlarge The stage was set for rock royalty at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. - MIKE BROOKS
The stage was set for rock royalty at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
Mike Brooks
The Stones are bigger in South America than anywhere they’ve ever been at any time. In the late ‘90s they played five consecutive sold-out shows at a 72,000-capacity stadium in Argentina. With Texas’ ear for Latin music, it made sense that their opener was the Colombian star Juanes.

But really, only The Rolling Stones could’ve brought a full crowd to an outdoor space on a cold, rainy Tuesday night at Dallas’ Cotton Bowl.
click to enlarge Jagger's swagger was on full display on Tuesday. - MIKE BROOKS
Jagger's swagger was on full display on Tuesday.
Mike Brooks

There were other deterrents, too. The cost of one ticket could get you a black-market organ, and the traffic leading up to the venue barely moved an inch every five minutes. But nothing would stop the crowd from showing up and filling the stadium, even if they'd been warned what they'd be missing.

The Stones recently announced they’d stop playing “Brown Sugar” for its offensive racial themes. Most bitter of all was bracing to face the Stones without Charlie Watts, the band’s original drummer since they formed back in 1962, who died in late August.
click to enlarge He still moves like Jagger. - MIKE BROOKS
He still moves like Jagger.
Mike Brooks
Watts had been hinting that his back couldn’t handle touring since the ‘90s. Even then, they kept touring.

The Stones got the formalities out of the way early by paying homage to Watts with a video tribute. But other than their catalog, that’s the only reference the group would allow as a reminder of their place in history. They still move heaven and Earth with every live show, as if it was their first and their last.
click to enlarge Ron Wood and Keith Richards locking in. - MIKE BROOKS
Ron Wood and Keith Richards locking in.
Mike Brooks

They opened with “Street Fighting Man”  and went through the classics — which most Stones songs are — such as “19th Nervous Breakdown.” Jagger, dressed in a blue shirt, red jacket and tight pants, has presumably made some Dorian Gray-type of deal that allows his face to age while his energy and vocals stay youthful.

They continued with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as their unique stage mannerisms, which have been ever parodied and have inspired film characters, were on full display. Besides the absence of Richards’ signature leg kicks, a move he hasn't done in a while, it’s all, comfortingly, much the same Stones showmanship that has dazzled spectators through the decades: Keef still strummed the guitar like every note is a clever quip worthy of quoting, laughing and smiling to nobody-knows, his slight open-mouthed "guitar face" ever present. 

Jagger's famous moves were less chicken-like but just as frenetic as he had a series of sexually charged moments with the air around him.

In the past few days, the frontman had posted a series of “Mick Does Dallas” photos in which he was seen posing at the arboretum and the African American Museum.

He had plenty to say about Texas, surveying the audience about how far they’d traveled while showing his impressive knowledge of Texas geography:

“Anybody come from Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Houston, Fort Worth? he asked. "… Can’t forget Gun Barrel City.”

He even remembered Lubbock.

This banter pumped up the crowd before leading into the stadium anthem “Start Me Up,” as Jagger strutted down the stage runway that lead into the crowd, lamenting that it was “slippy.” Had he not mentioned the rain, no one would've noticed it.

But he risked breaking a hip nevertheless, dancing solo, stripping off his jacket, his hands going everywhere, with special focus on his own body which he caressed like he was someone else feeling a rock god in the flesh. He told the audience this was the band’s seventh show at the Cotton Bowl, before going off to relate his adventures in town.

“I’ve been a real foodie in Dallas,” he said, describing his visit to Bishop Arts and Lockhart steakhouse and that he'd gone to a Whataburger drive-thru.
click to enlarge The indestructible Keef Richards. - MIKE BROOKS
The indestructible Keef Richards.
Mike Brooks

Somehow, this riled up the crowd, who were more excited to hear these words than Richards’ solo singing.

After introducing the band, including de facto Stones bassist Darryl Jones, who replaced Bill Wyman decades ago but has never been recognized as an official member, and a conflicted round of applause for Watts’ replacement, noted drummer Steve Jordan, Jagger introduced “your singer Keith Richards.” The guitarist took to the mic with a “Hey, Texas” and a raspy laugh, before dropping an accidentally existential musing: “It’s great to be here. … it’s great to be anywhere.”

He dipped into a slower tempo for “Connection” and “Slipping Away.” Richards is afraid of nothing, not even high notes.
click to enlarge The Stones payed homage to late drummer Charlie Watts with a video montage. - MIKE BROOKS
The Stones payed homage to late drummer Charlie Watts with a video montage.
Mike Brooks
As he sang, staff members diligently mopped up the runway stage portion. The crowd looked on lovingly and slightly tolerantly during Richards' portion, like unsuspecting coffee shop visitors who'd suddenly found themselves in an open mic.

Jagger would soon return after a costume change into a green leather jacket, trading duties once again by strapping on a guitar. His aggressively Cockney mouth contorted for the "whoo-hoo" sounds of "Miss You," and the crowd obliged by joining in.

Ronnie Wood, longtime Stones guitarist since after Mick Taylor's departure in the 1970s, seemed to fight for due recognition, following Jagger to the platform and showing off his prowess.

Jagger’s famously cavernous mouth straddled a harmonica for an epically long rendition of "Midnight Rambler." This is where the jam gelled, an indirect reminder of the fabled hero origin story: the one-time childhood friends had reconnected after meeting again on a train in the early 1960s when Jagger saw Richards carrying some blues records. Before they were an empire, these were aspiring blues men.

Unlike Jagger, Richards has let his hair go white, and in a bright yellow sweater and blue knitted hat, he was as pirate-like as ever, smirking so slightly at his co-emperor.
click to enlarge A chilly night didn't cool down the show. - MIKE BROOKS
A chilly night didn't cool down the show.
Mike Brooks
The distorted riff to "Paint It Black" would’ve made late member Brian Jones (who influenced the band with  his affinity for Eastern music) proud. Jordan’s beat grew steadily into war drums as Jagger threw his mic stand over his shoulder. His dancing may be so cemented as a standard piece of Stones iconography that it's the subject of its own songs, but his moves still appear spontaneous.

Richards continued smiling and laughing at something only he knows. Perhaps it's the fact that, besides the recently renewed criticism of “Brown Sugar,” the band has largely escaped any post-MeToo retrospective revisions and are instead remembered for their mastery.

But Jagger brought up the past on his own by showing a photo of the Stones’ first visit to Dallas. “We arrived in an armored car and the tickets were $4.50,” he said.

The singer then unleashed his inner demons with “Sympathy For the Devil” as sparks lit up the screen above the stage and “the man of wealth and taste” himself spun in a red leather jacket, leading seamlessly into “Jumping Jack Flash.”

The band left the stage, fooling no one but perhaps three people who left, and came back a minute later for an encore with “Gimme Shelter.” Jagger ceded the stage to backup singer Sasha Allen, who moved like Jagger and filled up the stadium by belting out the song’s famous lines: “Rape, murder … it’s just a shot away.”

Suddenly Jagger looked a little less cool next to the stunning Allen rocking the crowd in the rain in a black, fringed top. Allen and Jagger danced to each other, squaring off in a fierce showdown, before walking back to the main stage holding hands.
click to enlarge Jagger was a force to be reckoned with on Tuesday night in Dallas. - MIKE BROOKS
Jagger was a force to be reckoned with on Tuesday night in Dallas.
Mike Brooks
In case the last six decades plus two-and-a-half hours hadn’t made it clear, the moment was one solid example of why the Stones are still touring: They still have it in them to produce some of the most indelible memories in the history of performance.

Jagger would finish strong. When he was 31, he'd said, "I’d rather be dead than sing 'Satisfaction' when I’m 45.” He seems to have compromised. Closing with an interminable performance of the iconic song, Jagger skipped over the words he didn’t care to sing.

As 11 p.m. approached, fireworks exploded atop the stage as the entire band and its guest players took a bow.

The official three Stones members, Jagger, Richards and Wood, walked up alone to the otherwise empty stage to say their goodbyes. Jagger walked behind Richards and raised Richards' arm. Keef's perpetual smile was gone, and he seemed momentarily annoyed. That moment seemed to sum up their long tale of brotherhood, and it was as subtle as it was exceptional.
click to enlarge The crowd at the Rolling Stones' concert at the Cotton Bowl. - MIKE BROOKS
The crowd at the Rolling Stones' concert at the Cotton Bowl.
Mike Brooks
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Eva Raggio is the Dallas Observer's music and arts editor, a job she took after several years of writing about local culture and music for the paper. Eva supports the arts by rarely asking to be put on "the list" and always replies to emails, unless the word "pimp" makes up part of the artist's name.
Contact: Eva Raggio