"Let's face it," a friend of mine said recently: "If you could say you saw the Rolling Stones in '72, that's saying something. But if you say you saw the Stones then and someone says to you 'I just saw them last week' and they think that's equivalent, then you know they must be a Republican."
Well, I did just see the Stones last week, at PNC Park. (No, I am not having a mid-life crisis. Well I am, but I've been having it since I was 32. And it's not why I went to see the show.)
As I told my friend, I'd also seen the Stones in the mid-'70s -- the tour with the giant inflatable penis -- and they were so drunk they mangled many of the tunes. He replied, "Well, that's not really the point, is it? You can go see a classical concert and they'll hit every note perfectly, but this is rock 'n' roll."
That's crap, I thought. I don't care if the musicians ingested enough heroin to keep the poppy farmers in Afghanistan in beads and baubles for a hundred years; they damn well better play well, 'cause I paid hundreds of dollars for these fucking tickets. The Stones kicked ass, according to me and my 15-years-younger-than-me girlfriend.
And no, I'm not going through a mid-life crisis. Yes, I drove a Mustang convertible down to the show, but I am not having a mid-life crisis. So fuck you.
Let me tell you something: This was an authentic American rock concert, reminiscent of those in the groovy days of old. You want proof? A drunk chick fell out of a porta-potty right in front of me and everyone laughed. I think someone even helped her up. A drunk guy burst out of another porta-potty minutes later wearing nothing but his shirt and boxer shorts. He'd apparently shit his pants. It was a very rock 'n' roll moment.
And another thing: According to rumors I received third-hand and was unable to confirm (now that's what I call journalism), there was wild sex at the concert. Couples supposedly kept having sex in the family bathroom, probably because they have a door you can lock and a diaper-changing platform conducive to fornication. You could smell pot all over the place. You want sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll? They had it in spades at PNC Park.
But here's the real point. Pay attention here, because I'm about to tell many people why they are wrong about the Stones and baby boomer geezers like myself. The Stones' new album, A Bigger Bang, is actually good. Yes, I grant you, their last good album was put out in 1978. (I'm dating myself here, because few others will). I don't know why their ability to write good rock songs took such a long vacation, but I swear to you on a stack of albums that this is a quality collection of kick-ass rock songs. AND I'M NOT SAYING THAT BECAUSE OF A MIDLIFE CRISIS, DAMMIT!
Here's something else you may find hard to believe: The Stones sounded great live, better than ever. No, really. Jagger never was Pavarotti, but what voice he has sounds as good or better than ever. And the rest of the group never moved around much on stage anyway, even in 1972.
Stones fans are not the cliché. The cliché is making shooting-fish-in a-barrel geezer jokes about them. The people who think "I saw them back in the day when life was groovy and women didn't wear bras, but now they're just a sad shadow of their former selves" suffer from the ignorance of not having seen them recently.
If Sinatra came back to life, I'd see him again, because he's an amazing cultural phenomenon, and I missed him live. If Keith Richards comes back to life, I'll see him again, although I prefer him in his current long-dead-but-still-rockin' incarnation.
OK, easy geezer jokes are tempting. If you feel too old to rock and you want to sit at home and remove the Doritos crumbs from your paunch, fine. But even a perpetual midlife-crisis geezer knows kick-ass rock 'n' roll when he hears it.