The Rolling Stones


Walking around Manchester on a gorgeously hot summer’s day, you’re greeted by tribes of people wearing the most iconic rock image in the world – the Rolling Stones’ red mouth is sticking its tongue out defiantly at everyone who dares to think The Stones are past it. By their own admission, they didn’t think it would last this long, yet after more than fifty-five years of live shows, The Rolling Stones are back in Manchester, and both the devoted lifelong fans, and those who’ve never seen them before are flocking to Old Trafford.

Before Jagger jiggles a bum cheek though, first up on the stage, Richard Ashcroft delivers a stunning set from both his solo albums and The Verve’s almighty canon of tunes. Dressed in a silver glittered jacket and shades, and with vocals in fine form, he whizzes through a brief set including ‘Hold On’ and ‘This It How It Feels’ from his solo stuff, and the big hits ‘Sonnet’, ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ and ‘Lucky Man’ from The Verve’s back catalogue with Ashcroft still putting his heart and soul into every line. By the final epic refrains of ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ the crowd are arms-aloft, singing along, and it’s a great ending to the short set by Wigan’s finest.

Then, the tongues are projected onto massive screens, the smoke machines kick in and the most famous introduction in music begins: “Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest rock and roll band in the world…The Rolling Stones!”, and with that Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie come bounding on to the stage and launch into ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, with Mick strutting up and down the stage, Keith’s guitar slung low, it’s a moment which encapsulates The Rolling Stones’ appeal.

From the start it’s clear this is going to be a greatest hits set, with ‘It’s Only Rock n’ Roll (But I Like It)’ closely followed by ‘Tumbling Dice’. However proving there’s much more to The Stones than just the huge anthems, they go back to their blues-inspired roots for a cover of Buddy Johnson’s ‘Just Your Fool’, from their 2016 album of blues covers, and they also do their amazing version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.

It’s the hits people have come to see though, so we get the beautifully dark psych-rocker that is ‘Paint It Black’ followed by the uplifting ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, with Mick strutting up and down the walkway to the middle mini-stage, running all over the main stage, and showing us why he is rock’s evergreen greatest showman.

Not to be outdone, Keith gets on the mic for lead vocal duties on ‘You Got The Silver’ (from 1969’s album Let It Bleed) and his classic from 1978’s Some Girls album, ‘Before They Make Me Run’, proving once again what a great guitarist and songwriter he is in his own right. With his distinctive Keith Richards cackle of a laugh, he tells us how great it is to be here, as if he himself can’t believe he’s made it this far! After the life you’ve had, Keith, neither can most people!

The Rolling Stones

Then we’re treated to more of the classics with ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and an outstandingly great version of ‘Midnight Rambler’ with Mick, Keith and Ronnie all weaving guitar and vocal melodies and moves around each other on the mini-stage in the middle of the stadium. Mick tells us tales of their previous visits to Manchester in the 1960s and how these venues are now car parks or hotels, and he gets the crowd to shout out where they’re from (“Who’s here from Bolton…Preston…Liverpool”), plus announces that they were going to go to their next gig in Edinburgh on Northern Rail (to a huge “boo” from the crowd), but didn’t think they’d get there, so they’re going on the tour bus instead.

All well scripted stuff, but proof that they definitely have a lot of love for this city and their Northwest fans. The hits continue with high voltage energetic performances of ‘Start Me Up’ and ‘Brown Sugar’, before the encore of ‘Gimme Shelter’ and ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ with Mick charging up and down the stage flinging his arms in the air to the pounding drumbeats of Charlie Watts, it’s astounding to think the song is over fifty years old, yet in 2018 with The Stones in full flow, it’s as energised and fresh as ever. Assembling in the centre of the stage as the fireworks whizz upwards into the night sky, it’s a fittingly epic closing moment. They’ve been doing this since 1962 and tonight have proved why they are the greatest rock n roll band in the world, sticking two fingers up to old age in the process! Raw rock n’ roll power, and one of the best live gigs you’ll ever see. A hit fuelled epic night out.

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From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.