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In Praise Of Keith

I went to see the Stones the other night. One of those last-minute things that kind of just happened. Hadn’t planned on it and bought some tickets from a friend. Wasn’t expecting much. I’m too old for those big-stadium shows, after all, and I’m just a kid next to them. Besides, something always gets lost in the delivery. But then it was the Stones, and the least I could do, out of respect, was to make an appearance.

Easily the best show I’ve caught in years. Far surpassed the one they put on when I saw them last, in 1981. People were saying they were too old then, which is interesting because in ’81 they were the age I am now. ¬†Seeing them last Friday, I got the feeling that they don’t get too caught up in the age thing themselves. Mick continuously ran the length of the outfield-sized stage for two hours, and Keith did what he always does: chunked out fat, solid, open-G Telecaster riffs while simultaneously looking thoroughly amused and like death warmed over, cooled off, and heated back up again. Charlie Watts was sublime.

It’s interesting to compare the band and its individual members to others in the same business. I’ve never been a big Beatles fan, but they were undeniably the biggest group in the history of rock and roll. Still, while their legions of fans waited years in global circle jerk formation for the possibility of a reunion, the Stones simply kept playing. While guys like David Crosby remind us of how unattractive getting older can be and drag us through their various addictions, Keith simply ages violently, making no apologies, and seems less worried with his inability to form a coherent sentence than those waiting on him to finish. Moreover, he still plays a mean guitar.

What can I say? At about the age of fourteen, most of us become acutely aware that we’ll reach a stage in our lives where we start talking about the legends of our generation, and how the kids of today have nothing to compare. But the relevant fact is, the Stones aren’t even of my generation. I wasn’t even a year old when “Satisfaction” came out. So it is from the only semi-biased perspective of a Johnny-come-lately fan that I can reassert that yep, they pretty much are the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band. (Though I hear The Hives put on a mean show.)

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