It wasn’t the $35 T-shirts, the Budweiser sponsorship, or the noticeable absence of tattoos, pierced body parts, and flannel shirts. The most trenchant sign that boomer hordes will be packing coliseums for the Rolling Stones coast-to-coast Voodoo Lounge tour was the limousine tailgate party — complete with coolers, sandwiches, and Big Chillers. Product, meet demographic.
No matter. On Aug. 1, in Washington, D.C.’s RFK stadium, the Stones-aided mightily by a sprawling, cyberindustrial Terminator 2 stage, grotesque, inflatable figures reminiscent of a Mardi Gras float, blinding pyrotechnics, and state-of-the-art video accompaniment — gave the crowd what it came for: a 21 2-hour spectacle that, in repertoire, if not execution, was one of the Stones’ most inspired gigs.
For the band — as for many classic-rock acts — it’s not really about plugging a new album; it’s about feeding the seemingly inexhaustible hunger of its generation for the hits it grew up with. So they spotlighted their late-’60s to mid-’70s material, drawing from Exile on Main St. (”All Down the Line”), Let It Bleed (”Live With Me”), and Black and Blue (”Hot Stuff”). These dusty gems eased fans through the Voodoo Lounge songs sprinkled throughout, most of which met with polite, delayed applause.
While Mick Jagger and mates still do it bigger than anyone and better than most, immediacy and spontaneity were hard to come by on opening night — maybe because it was opening night. Future dates will reveal if this was the sound of kinks getting hammered out. Charlie Watts’ concise, punchy drumming was outstandingly consistent, though Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards traded serviceable but unremarkable solos. The presence of hired hand Darryl Jones lent a bit more verve to the proceedings than retired bassist Bill Wyman, but who wouldn’t?
Playing charismatic ringmaster, as usual, Jagger was in fine, though restrained voice. About midway through the show, he quipped, ”We’ve been in Washington for a week now. I haven’t heard so much talk about health care for the elderly since Bill left the band.” Don’t laugh too hard, pal.