Back to the Stone Age
I was last in the Millennium Dome back in 2000 when it was full of empty stuff. Before that it was in 1999 when I was filming in the empty structure – someone had parked a double-decker bus in the very centre where the performance area was located (where Peter Gabriel’s show was performed on millennium night). It was necessary to have that red bus there to get a real sense of the scale. We were shooting from the top of a three or four storey building, one of several such structures already within the Dome, and it still felt pretty empty.
Courtesy of Yahoo!, the other evening I had the pleasure of seeing the Rolling Stones fill the Dome in North Greenwich with their charm and charisma. I had low expectations. I’d never seen the Stones live before, reckoned it would be a good idea to catch them before they died or had hip replacements, but assumed they were long past their prime. As it was, they turned out to be plenty hip.
Mick performed with the enthusiasm and generosity of the best of them – he was having a good time and he was giving 100% to make sure we did too, right from the first strains of Start Me Up as he followed Keef and his opening riffs onto stage. It’s always struck me what consistently great openings the Stones have to their songs.
It was my great good fortune that this particular performance, my first, was itself a closing – the very last night of a two year tour, the Bigger Bang tour.
Keef played up to his Captain Jack image, at one point eating an unlit cigarette to take the mick out of Greenwich Council who had given them a hard time about lighting up on stage the week before. He reaffirmed his deep commitment to the Blues by performing vocals on a couple of old blues numbers in the middle of the set. That they hadn’t strayed far from their roots in their love of the Blues was one of the most striking things of a great night.
Besides how much of their 19 year old selves they’d retained (if you averted your eyes from the big screen you could imagine it being their young sixties selves – Mick still has the moves, which is as astonishing as Bruce Springsteen’s elder statesman energy), besides that, Ronnie Wood’s immense charm was the other surprise of the night, adding a distinctive warmth to the perfect chemistry of the band.
The undoubted highlight of the night was Sympathy for the Devil. What was striking about the Stones live is that at moments throughout the set you really felt rock’n’roll as the devil’s music, a sense of that dark, chaotic, dionysian vibe. Paint It Black followed to complete the crescendo. I was transported and stoned immaculate.