The Rolling Stones, Principality Stadium, Cardiff
While my colleague Paul was enjoying some black freaking metal, I opted to take a steady walk to Cardiff's biggest arena for a band who have been performing for over 50 years! Now I had never seen Mick, Keef, Ronnie and Charlie live so I grabbed my old Mum (who has saw the Stones 12 times, back in the good old days) and bang on 5pm went through the gates and took our seats. Seeing what is our national rugby stadium empty was a particularly odd site, I’d only ever been on the pitch area when it was empty so from our vantage point my mother pointed out that it “didn’t look very far to run”. Still fans slowly trickled in the floor separated by an enormous barrier about a third of the way up that kept the normal punters from those who had paid astronomical amounts of money to be in the No Filter Pit (e.g. the part nearest the stage and Ego ramp).
Christ what a long wait it was two as support band Elbow (6) took to the stage at 7pm. So here’s my problem with Elbow supporting, one could we have not had a Welsh band in support? Two can Guy Garvey shut the hell up about it, having him saying “We’re Elbow, all the way from Manchester and we’re supporting the Stones” after every song ad nauseam to little or no response got really grating. We know who you are, you know who you are, we know who you’re here to support, now be quiet and play some maudlin songs. That’s the largest gripe I have, Elbow are a little twee and slow to be supporting the Stones most of their songs romantic string laden ballads which was at odds with the majorly hammered audience looking for some good time rock n roll. The only real reaction they got was for One Day Like This and Grounds For Divorce which were at the end of their set. It was over and while we had another 45 minute wait it was a little better than having to hear Guy Garvey slur into a microphone anymore. If The Stones or a band of their calibre play Cardiff again, I’d suggest picking one of the big rock acts we have here to support you, if not ask for Budgie!
The anticipation built and for those of us who had the higher vantage point we saw when the private cars arrived and the band headed to the backstage area, within minutes the lights went down the PA went up and the iconic blues riff of Street Fighting Man kicked things off with a bang, almost immediately the level of showmanship was tenfold that of Elbow, or any other band for that matter as four main members of The Stones betrayed their Septuagenarian age group by working the entirety of the stage, Mick strutting, dancing wildly, with those moves that have been sung about, as Ronnie darted back and forth leaving Keef to just saunter with an effortless cool. Behind the kit the one man dynamo Charlie kept ever song note and beat perfect his stone-faced playing style a counterpoint to the joyous looks on his comrades, they rapidly powered their way through It’s Only Rock N Roll (But I Like It), Tumbling Dice and Paint It Black the crowd lapping up every moment, my mother especially was pretty much horse after just four songs!
Mick Jagger is the archetype of frontman, having obviously been given some local insight beforehand he told the crowd how they had seen the blue lady, had chicken off the bone with curry sauce half and half (it’s a Cardiff tradition) and when asking about who was in the audience that evening singled out people from Splott as the heaviest partiers. (He was given accurate information anyway). He also reminisced about their legendary cancelled gig in 1973 at Cardiff Castle and said that they played the blues then so this easily slid into the Buddy Johnson song Just Your Fool which led to the fan requested Get Off Of My Cloud.
Backed by a brilliant band the kudos have to go to Chuck Leavell (keys), Darryl Jones (bass), Matt Klifford (keys and other stuff) and Sasha Allen who owned Gimme Shelter being the only non-Stone to be allowed on Mick’s ego ramp, With You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Honky Tonk Woman polishing off the first part it was time for Mick to sit down while Keef took lead vocals for You Got The Silver and Before They Make Me Run, I always find the Richards led material to be a lot closer to the original blues sound The Stones had in the 60’s but live it does lead to a little restlessness from the crowd. Luckily to bring the crowd back to boiling point the supremely theatrical Sympathy For The Devil came next as Jagger channelled the devil himself strutting down the ramp bewitching the loyal fans around him. I’ve never seen The Stones but I found myself in awe of their ability to keep a crowd in the palm of their hand, it’s something they have clearly mastered over 50+ years but they do it not by rolling out the same old song and dance but by still loving the music they play.
This is best witnessed on the sprawling Midnight Rambler which had solo trade off’s throughout again this stretched things out leading to the mighty trio of Start Me Up, Jumpin Jack Flash and Brown Sugar cueing mass sing-along’s and some terrifying shapes thrown by those who know better. With a “yeah yeah yeah woo” the main set came to an end and a (thankfully) short break came back to the percussive beat of Gimme Shelter before (I Can’t No) Satisfaction brought it home, cue an entire stadium on their feet for about 10 minutes of applause. Making our way out there was no negative comments made, we were all in agreement that it was fantastic, it was also one of the best behaved crowds I’ve seen despite the alcohol flowing freely (at £5.50 a pint!), even my hard to please mother was in her element saying that the gig had made her feel 18 again!
Their legacy intact you do wonder how it must feel to be a Rolling Stone (they covered the Dylan classic in probably the evenings most meta portion) universally adored but still able to make mistakes (starting Jack Flash in the wrong key brought a giggle especially with Mick saying "forget that bit") none of us will never truly know what it's like to be a Rolling Stone but they seem to suggest it's only rock n roll and happily everyone seems to like it! 10/10