Hello, everyone and welcome back to my column. In September when I had a week off, Kathy and I celebrated our anniversary by taking a trip to Memphis to see The Rolling Stones. We arrived the day of the concert, planning to have a leisurely dinner in the majestic and historic Peabody Hotel where we stayed, then on to the show.
Upon arrival, we found out there were shuttle buses running out to the concert at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium which was right next to the West Tennessee State Fair. This was good news since we needn't deal with traffic and parking at the site.
While my wife was still getting ready for dinner I ventured down to the lobby bar to wait. It was about 6:30 p.m. The show was to start at 8 p.m. and with an opening act we figured our time wouldn't be too short. I stepped over to the concierge desk and asked what time the shuttles ran out to the Liberty Bowl.
"Oh," the attractive woman said calmly, "the last one is boarding right now."
"What? I thought they'd be going 'til at least 7:30!"
"No sir," she answered, "they were planned to stop at 6 p.m., but we had such a crowd they are making an extra trip."
"Thank you," I said, as I raced away to find a house phone. I called our room. No answer. That meant Kathy was on her way down for dinner and not a moment too soon.
"We'll have to hurry to make the last bus to the show! It's boarding now!" I said as she walked towards me.
"Great, what about dinner?" she asked.
"How's a beer and a hot dog sound?"
We boarded the crammed city bus used for the shuttle service. Kathy took the only seat we saw and I stood with the others who filled it to capacity. It was very warm on the bus, but alive with anticipation as we eased our way through the beautiful Memphis night. As we rode along, though I was celebrating my 27th wedding anniversary and would turn 48 a month later, I felt like we were two teen-agers out on a great date.
There were people from age 10 to 60 making their way into the big arena. We found our way to our seats around the 50-yard line and halfway up. Back at the hotel we heard the Stones were also staying at the Peabody, so we were really feeling good. Blind Melon, the openers, were about ten minutes into their lackluster set.
"Maybe this is a good time for food and beer," I said. Kathy agreed.
After braving the crowds at the food lines and waiting for Kathy to battle her way to the T-shirt, jacket, button, ball cap, you-name-it table, we made our way back through the high-spirited sea of humanity to our seats and settled in.
In about ten more minutes, the house lights went down and the roar went up. A good loud Bo Diddley-sounding drum beat from Charlie Watts started. Smoke pots exploded and out jumped Mick Jagger to the very front edge of the stage, arms outstretched. As he let out with "I'm gonna tell ya how it's gonna be!" the 40,000-plus crowd was on its feel screaming and clapping as the rest of the band just seemed to appear out of the green smoke and answer the next four beats. It was one of their earliest and greatest: Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." The Voodoo Lounge was open for business. And the business was rock 'n' roll at its finest and hottest.
For the next two hours, with hard-hitting versions of cuts from their new album through classics such as "Honky Tonk Women," "Brown Sugar," "Satisfaction," and "Shattered," the bad boys of pop music more than lived up to their nickname, "The Best Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World." The incredible and effective stage set made the giant stadium actually seem intimate at times, complete with a giant metal cobra hanging over the band and inflated moving figures high across the back.
Mick Jagger hasn't lost a thing. Keith Richard's gritty, driving rhythms and lead solos and Ron Woods' searing guitar playing carried the band along in a total groove with bassist Darryl Jones adding a few more notes than the retired Bill Wyman. Charlie Watts was flawless and solid as ever. Complete with a four-piece horn section, featuring Bobby Keys on tenor sax and two backup singers, The Rolling Stones rocked the audience in what was indeed a voodoo-like trance right through to the last crash of "Jumpin' Jack Flash."
Jagger pranced, skipped, ran and strutted his way around the big stage, venturing up onto the side risers frequently to the delight of fans in the far-reaching side seats. After more than thirty years of hits and touring, their trademark of raunchy, loose-but-tight bluesy rock still strikes harder than ever.
The buses were overloaded and slow, but we made it back to the Peabody in one piece, high on the energy of one of the greatest live shows this writer has ever witnessed. The lobby bar was packed and stayed open four extra hours to serve the buzzing concert-goers, who revelled in our amazement of the concert.
I met Bobby Keys in the lobby and introduced myself, congratulating him on his performance. The backup singers were there too. We didn't see a Rolling Stone in sight, but hadn't given up yet.
Kathy and I retired to our room and ordered gourmet pizza and red wine, looking forward to the next day in Memphis.
(To be continued next month.)
Alan Rhody is a Louisville-born singer and songwriter who tours North America. He has written hits for Lorrie Morgan, Ricky Van Shelton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Greenwood and others. For information on his schedule and product, write to: P.O. Box 121231, Nashville, TN 37212.