I went to see the Rolling Stones play at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh at the end of June. My parents generously organized it as a family trip. (Keith Richards is sort of a deity to my dad.) I was excited about the concert, for I grew up on the Stones and I love them. But I expected the show to be a watered-down, nostalgic victory lap; after all, the bandmates are mostly septuagenarians now. And though Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, and yes, even Keith seemed a little worn at times, about Mick Jagger I couldn’t have been more wrong!
The man is a kinetic force. At 72 years old he was able to sing in a clear strong voice while dancing more than any frontman I’ve ever seen. He danced the whole show straight through, taking only
Even Beyoncé cedes some choreography to her backup dancers from time to time so she can sing more fully. And she frequently lets the backup singers handle a lot of the choruses so she can dance them full out. Mick has no backup dancers. He’s the whole show. Granted, he didn’t wear four-inch heels and repeatedly grand-plié in them; but he made me believe he could! The sound mixing was crap from where I sat so I could hardly hear his backup singers, but it didn’t matter since his voice rang out crystalline. Alas, I was sad that I couldn’t hear backup singer Lisa Fischer very well, even during her solos in Gimme Shelter. I have loved her ever since I saw the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom.
Mick’s movement quality is awesomely baffling. Sometimes he has a predatory slickness. At other times, his knock-kneed stance and spasmodic shivers make him look like a foal just minutes post-partum. His sinewy, ripped form could belong to someone less than half his age. He had so many different steps at his command: Jimmy Fallon has only mastered a fraction of them! He was particularly impressive in this kind of backwards contretemps gallop. It made him look like a basketball player in defensive retreat. And he hardly ever looked behind him to see where he was going. I guess the thousands of concerts have given him a Spidey sense for stage borders? He strutted and slithered, he jumped and wriggled. He looked so charged by the music; he made it appear that it was a current that ran through his body. And it was all incredibly aerobic. His energy never flagged, I was exhausted just watching him. Walt Whitman’s phrase “the body electric” kept coming to mind.
Mick was a revelation, but the whole show was great fun. There were fireworks, feathered coats, an encore with the Penn State Concert Choir. Keith looks like the sluttiest hyena you’ve ever seen. Charlie Watts played to the crowd in Steelers bumblebee socks and a black jeans with a yellow t-shirt. Pittsburgh is an extremely prideful city, and Mick’s tribute to local son Andy Warhol, whose museum is located but a few blocks from the stadium, was a real hit. Warhol designed the infamous cover for the 1971 Sticky Fingers album, which was reissued as the tour kicked off. The Stones played a bunch of songs off that album like Brown Sugar, Bitch and Moonlight Mile. In a brilliant marketing scheme, the concert merchandise was tailored to the big sports teams in each city. Naturally that was too good to pass up, and my dad and I got Stillers/Stones tees. (See sarcastic photos.)
As for other summer dance superlatives, I would have to give the best ensemble award to Pontus Lidberg’s troupe at the Joyce Theater in June. I didn’t have time to review them because I was performing a lot at the time, but it was a beautiful evening and the combined talent of Kaitlyn Gilliland, Christopher Adams, Barton Cowperthwaite, and Pontus himself was tremendous. Scariest dancing I saw all summer goes to the children of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus as they surrounded a damned Marion Cotillard in Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake at the NY Philharmonic at the end of the season. The children, costumed as baby animals, danced gleefully around Joan while presiding over her mock trial. They were ridiculously cute as they sentenced her to death. It was all very creepy, and the chorus kids did a wonderful job of it. They reminded me of the adorable-yet-satanic Woodland Critters from South Park. And they, like Mick Jagger, made me realize that you never know where you’ll happen upon a truly thrilling dance performance!