On December 5th, 1994 I drove to Montreal to see what I think was my second-ever Rolling Stones show. There was a big crew of us*, no doubt we all went together in my Toyota van.
The concert was at the Olympic Stadium, nicknamed the Big ”O” by locals. And a very apt nickname it is; the place is very, very big, and I’m sure it looks pretty much exactly like a big letter O from above. I thought our tickets would be pretty good but with a capacity of almost 70,000 the room is vast; when we found our seats the stage seemed so far away.
But hey, this is The Rolling Stones: we are talking about The World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band here and if anybody knows how to play to a big, packed house it’s these guys. And you know that Voodoo Lounge album wasn’t too bad for a new Stones record, so even mixing in a few new songs alongside hit after hit culled from the band’s iconic catalogue couldn’t stop their monumental momentum.
When the lights went down the crowd was already in a frenzy, the Spin Doctors having received polite applause for their well-meaning but totally unwarranted opening set. Mick Jagger hit the stage looking a hundred feet tall, as is his habit, and he ran from one end of the massive stage to another keeping the camera operators and spotlight crew scrambling, and thrilling the capacity crowd that never once sat down.
Keith stood his ground and commandeered the big screens, trading off unimaginably clever rhythms with Ron Wood’s perfect rock and roll. Of course my eyes flew to the giant Keith every time his image flashed on the screen while I was content to stare agape at tiny-real Keith when the screens focused on Charlie Watts or the new bass player or, frankly, anyone else.
There were giant inflatables and fireworks, of course epic lights and a stage that was the size of the Hoover Dam, but for all of that it was the great rock & roll played well by my favourite band that stays with me. It was a fantastic show, even better than the amazing Steel Wheels concert I had seen five years previously.
I don’t know why it stands out so much in my mind, but before the show I borrowed $30 from my friend Anne-Marie so I could buy a tour shirt and my girlfriend at the time was so mad…she had intended to buy the shirt for me for xmas. I can’t think of this show without thinking of that, so she must have been pretty upset with me. Funny thing, the shirt is actually a quite grotesquely ugly – sort of a Ralph Steadman thing but seriously missing the mark – and I can’t imagine why I even wanted it so bad in the first place.
Tastes may change I suppose, but I still love The Rolling Stones.
*Eight to be exact, 75% of whom are still alive. sigh