For its thirty-fifth concert in Paris, the sexagenarian group, now made up of three septuagenarians, set the Longchamp racecourse on fire. We were there.
The Stones at Longchamp have to be earned. In 1995, the group had given an anthology concert on the hippodrome facing an intense storm and torrential rains. Last night, 55,000 people made their Stations of the Cross to reach the site, lulled by a gentle atmosphere. The merchandising and food stalls are taken by storm (Tshirts at 40 euros / beer at 8.50 euros) when Ayron Jones attacks his first part set – reminiscent at times of the best of Lenny Kravitz. While no one can move in the pit – the concert is really full – three black vans drive slowly towards the stage.
It’s 9:30 p.m. and 15 minutes late, the Charlie Watts tribute film launches the feast. Three minutes later, here comes the long-awaited announcement “Ladies and gentlemen, The Rolling Stones”. And here is Keith Richards who tumbles the first slamming the chords of “Street Fighting Man”. Then running from the back of the stage, Mick Jagger comes to jump on the immense advance which splits the crowd immediately making people forget his 78 years (79 in two days). Concentrated, Ron Wood takes the first solo of the evening while Darryl Jones shakes the foundations with his bass. Behind the barrels, Steve Jordan – the replacement chosen by Charlies Watts – clearly has his own game, more rock than that of Watts, bringing another dynamic to the group. And from the outset, we can only appreciate the quality of the sound. The two guitars get along very distinctly, Jagger is at the top vocally from the first note – we are clearly a level above the sonic mush of the 2017 concerts at the U arena. “Good evening Paris, what’s up?” asks a smiling Jagger before continuing with the formidable “19th nervous breakdown” not played in Paris since 1967!
Because yes the Stones have sixty career since July 12 and this tour intends to celebrate this anniversary. “And of course we dedicate this concert to Charlie who we miss so much” adds Mick before “Tumbling Dice”. Despite his tired look, Ron Wood is clearly applied to turn the machine, ensuring precise and clear solos, while Keith Richards swings the riffs. With their faces of old pirates, one might think they were disillusioned, just coming to take the sorrel and provide the union minimum. But no, the guitarists ensure with the coolness linked to their advanced age, the obvious absence of pressure and the desire to do battle. Except “Like a Rolling Stone” follows.
And one wonders why the Stones persist in resuming Bob Dylan’s anthem. We would obviously have preferred another old thing rather than this uninteresting cover that allows Mick to play the harmonica. Fortunately, here is “Out of time” “a title that we had never interpreted since its release in 1966” announces Jagger. The ballad does the job very well, leaving a wonderful air of nostalgia over the racecourse. For the chorus Jagger lets himself be accompanied by the two singers – it almost feels like a version of Leonard Cohen. And Paris to resume the melody at the top of their voices to the delight of the boss. “I love it when you sing Paris so well”. As night falls, Keith takes the opportunity to get rid of his dark glasses and start “Wild Horses”. The ballad of “Sticky Fingers” gives Jagger a little rest. The epic “You can’t always get what you want” and the very recent “Living a ghost town” (the only evening song after 1981) plunge Paris into a strange lethargy.
Fortunately at 10:23 p.m. when Keith starts “Honky Tonk Women” the concert is immediately back on track. Although he takes the opportunity to blithely mislead, Richards sees the crowd roar and Mick pounces even harder. “Do you know how I got here?” asks the singer at the end. “I came by bike with Anne Hidalgo” he said, adding “it’s a gag” while the mayor of Paris is copiously whistled. In introducing the musicians, Jagger forgets about Chuck Levell and passes the microphone to “my absolute Keith”, receiving a standing ovation as always. “Paris, Paris, I didn’t think I would ever see you again,” said Richards, moved. Before indulging in a magnificent version of “You got the silver”. We will be a little less enthusiastic on “Happy” badly sung by Richards, just saved by Ron Wood installed on the pedal steel (some thought it was a walker…).
If “Miss you” allows Paris to sing, it is above all an opportunity for Darryl Jones to do his number. Hiding for 27 years on the right of the stage, replacing Bill Wyman has become the metronome of a formation that does not always play fair and not always well. Fortunately, this will not be the case in what will follow. Because with “Midnight Rambler” the Stones are going to give us a slap. Overpowering, stretched as it should be, the track is sublimated by the duo Richards / Wood. No need to like the guitar to be impressed by the cohesion of the group at this precise moment. Between rock and blues, the Stones will never finish choosing and there, they take off the hippodrome with all their know-how and their experience. Jagger slips, feline, in the interstices left by his friends, dances on the proscenium, harangues the crowd. In ten minutes, the Stones folded the case – proving in passing that they were still capable of this kind of magical flight.
As soon as Longchamp catches its breath, here comes “Paint it black”. And if “Start Me Up” which follows suffers from having been played too much, it allows Keith to play the intro with an enjoyable and communicative happiness. Soon two hours of show and no drop in speed to be seen. So here is “Gimme Shelter” – Tuesday evening it was on the program of the Lyon concert, but Jagger fearing the extinction of voice had zapped it at the last moment. And we easily understand why. Because if “Midnight Rambler” was the pinnacle of the guitar duo, “Gimme Shelter” is a great Jaggerian moment. The rumor announced Lady Gaga as a guest, it is finally the chorister Sasha Allen who comes to duet with the boss. Six intense, sexy and sensual minutes – during which Jagger sings with his eyes closed. Time for a change of guitars, and here is Keith attacking a Dantesque “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.
As a reminder, “Sympathy for the Devil” allows the public to commune once again. Before the high mass ends with a “Satisfaction” of rigor. Evening review? Once the extravagant prices were forgotten, the site so unsuitable for this kind of rock event, the Rolling Stones did not sit on their laurels. The energy and presence of Mick Jagger, the combined talents of Keith Richards and Ron Wood enabled a show of force that was no longer really expected. What will they be capable of next time? This is where all their mystery lies…
Setlist for July 23 Paris, Hippodrome de Longchamp
1/ Street fighter
2/ 19th nervous breakdown
4/ Like a Rolling Stone
5/ Out of time
6/ Wild horses
7/ You can’t always get what you want
8/ Living in a ghost town
9/ Honky tonk women
10/ You have the money
12/I miss you
13/ Midnight Rambler
14/ Paint it black
15/ Start me up
16/ Give me shelter
17/ Jumpin’ Jack Flash
18/ Sympathy for the devil 19/ Satisfaction