Rolling Stones – Soldier Field, Chicago June 21 & 25, 2019


By Robin Zimmerman

Photos: Philamonjaro

Photo: by Philamonjaro

How fitting that fate – and Mick Jagger’s quick recovery from heart surgery – aligned the dates for the Rolling Stones “No Filter” tour to start in sweet home Chicago. After all, Solider Field is practically a “stones” throw from Chess Studios where they first met their idol Muddy Waters in 1964. Of course, the band got its name from Muddy's song "Mannish Boy." As Mick himself said, Friday, June 21st marked the 38th time that the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” descended on the Windy City.


It’s been well-documented that the Rolling Stones got off the ground due to their shared love of the blues. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards first bonded, back in Dartford, England in the early ‘60s, over rare American blues records. As the band gained worldwide acclaim, they helped introduce artists like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Buddy Guy to a brand-new audience.


Flash forward to 50-plus years later and the Stones are still trying to give Chicago blues its due. Their 2016 release, Blue and Lonesome featured songs by some of Chicago’s finest blues artists. With the Stones doing their spin on tunes from Magic Sam, Little Walter, Willie Dixon and others, it’s rewarding to see these local legends gain greater recognition.


But, it’s also a bit sobering to think that fans who swarmed over to Soldier Field most likely missed the marker that’s right off Roosevelt Road. This Mississippi Blues trail marker pays homage to the many musicians who took the Illinois Central as part of the “Great Migration.” While dreams of the “Promised Land” didn’t usually pan out for many of these artists, their Southern blues took on a harder-edged, citified vibe that electrified blokes like Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and others.


There was an electrified vibe in and around Soldier Field on that cold, misty Friday night. There was also an air of trepidation as many wondered if mortality would finally catch up to Mick. How would the heart surgery affect his moves, his mobility and his mastery of his audience?


The 60,000 some fans that filed into Soldier Field that night can testify that Mick was still up to his old tricks. He sauntered, shimmied and totally shook up the notion that time was catching up to him. He sang his heart out, played harp with abandon and strutted down the concourse like a front man on a mission. He had a point to prove and drove it home throughout the course of the two-hour show.

Jagger, the former London School of Economics student, showed he was no slouch with topical issues either. He talked about everything from the art of ordering an Italian beef and joking about Alderman Ed Burke’s legal troubles to touching on the fact that marijuana had just been legalized in Illinois on Tuesday night.



While much of the buzz centered around Mick’s seemingly miraculous recovery, it was also a joy to see the rest of the core group of septuagenarians having so much fun in the north end zone. Ronnie Wood continued his resurgence with some stellar guitar solos mixed in with intermittent mugging for the big screen. There was also the usual back-and-forth interplay and “cutting” between Wood and fellow guitarist Keith Richards.


The band was going full throttle for much of the night but they also took it down a notch for a few acoustic numbers. In yet another nod to their Chicago blues roots, Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts strolled over to the smaller stage with “2120 S. Michigan Avenue” playing in the background. This instrumental was penned by all the original band members as an homage to Chess Studios where they recorded their second EP in 1964. This 5 x 5 EP featured “2120 S. Michigan Avenue” along with some of the band’s favorite R & B covers.


Although Richards seemed a bit subdued on Friday night, he still turned in his usual virtuoso guitar work including solos of “You’ve Got the Silver” and his rebel anthem “Before They Make Me Run.” Richards’ solo turn was followed by a heavy dose of hits delivered with new twists and plenty of vigor. When Charlie Watts, the taciturn drummer, cracked a smile towards the end of the show, the Stones faithful knew that they had witnessed something special.



The Stone’s support sidemen (and woman) deserve a special mention for their outstanding musicianship that helped make the music come alive: singers Sasha Allen and Bernard Fowler, keyboardist Chuck Leavell and Chicago’s hometown hero on bass Darryl Jones (Jagger introduced him as “the South Side’s finest”).


The rains held off for Friday night but there were the same weather worries for Tuesday. In typical Chicago fashion, the temperatures had risen dramatically and there was a chance of storms firing up. Following the glowing reviews for the Friday night show, the demand for tickets seemed to have risen as well. There were plenty of people outside Soldier Field in search of elusive AND expensive show tickets.


On that second night, the Stones showed why they can still sell-out stadiums after over a half-century of performing. After opening with “Street Fighting Man” on Friday night, they came out with a blazing “Jumping Jack Flash” for the second act. They also trotted out the fan-picked “Monkey Man” as well as an acoustic “Sweet Virginia” for a goose bump inducing moment on a muggy night.


One of the main Tuesday night highlights was when they paid homage to their Chicago blues heroes with a rousing rendition of Eddie Taylor’s “Ride ‘em on Down” where Richards and Woods reveled in this return to their roots. The Washington Post reported that Richards is hoping to break out more obscure tracks like “Mercy, Mercy” on this tour. Playing a less-traveled cut from the Stones’ catalog like “Ride ‘em On Downdid seem to energize the iconic guitarist.



While seeing larger than life images of Chicago blues legends splashed upon the big screen during “Ride ‘em on Down” was special to the many blues enthusiasts in audience, it was an especially meaningful moment for Joseph Morganfield. The youngest son of Muddy Waters said he “absolutely loved the song, it was nice and bluesy” and added that “I especially loved the video!”


Although the Rolling Stones’ storied impromptu performance with Muddy Waters at the old Checkerboard Lounge happened long before viral videos, that clip of them singing “Baby Please Don’t Go” now has over three million YouTube hits. The younger Morganfield was there on that that historic night in 1981. During a pre-show meetup, he had the chance to reminisce with the band and joke about the Stones crawling across the tables to get on stage with their musical idol!


Morganfield said he and the band “talked about my Pops and they told me how much I looked like him.” Morganfield added, “It was an amazing feeling knowing that my father was a major influence on one of the biggest Rock & Roll bands ever!” He also noted that the Stones’ reverence for his father’s contributions to the genre shows the character of the band. He added, “they were so kind and loving to me because of the love that they had for my father.”


Now recording and performing under the moniker of “MoJo” Morganfield, he hopes to “pull another rabbit out of the hat” and have Richards join his band of “Mannish Boyz” on their next release. Coincidentally, one of Morganfield’s bandmates is guitarist Rick Kreher, who backed Morganfield’s dad and was on the Checkerboard Lounge stage with the Rolling Stones.


Although the Stones have rolled out of town and are off conquering new cavernous arenas, there are still plenty of ways to check out the blues sounds that inspired them. Morganfield will open for Bad Company and The Empty Pockets at Hammond Festival of the Lakes in Hammond, IN on July 19.


Plus, be sure and mark your calendars for a special evening for Chicago Plays The Stones at the Lakeside Pavilion on the College of DuPage Campus in Glen Ellyn. On Thursday, August 1st, Billy Branch, John Primer, Jimmy Burns, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Omar Coleman and an all-star blues band will take the stage and play an entire show comprised of all Rolling Stones songs done up Chicago blues style. Stay tuned to the weekly “Hot Shows” section here in the Chicago Blues Guide for complete details on this event and a host of other local gigs!


STONES SET LISTS

Friday June 21, 2019

Street Fighting Man

Let’s Spend the Night Together

Tumbling Dice

Sad Sad Sad

You Got Me Rocking (audience request)

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

SMALL STAGE

Angie

Dead Flowers

BACK ON BIG STAGE

Sympathy for the Devil

Honky Tonk Women

You Got the Silver

Before They Make Me Run

Miss You

Paint It Black

Midnight Rambler

Start Me Up

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Brown Sugar

ENCORE:

Gimme Shelter

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Tuesday June 25, 2019

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)

Tumbling Dice

Bitch

Ride ‘Em On Down

Monkey Man

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

SMALL STAGE:

2120 South Michigan Avenue

Play With Fire

Sweet Virginia

BIG STAGE:

Sympathy For The Devil

Honky Tonk Women

Slipping Away

Before They Make Me Run

Miss You

Paint It Black

Midnight Rambler

Start Me Up

Brown Sugar

ENCORE:

Gimme Shelter

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction


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