The Rolling Stones | April 28, 2024 | NRG Stadium | Houston, TX – Concert Review

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Review by Jordan West

The entity known as “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” keeps rolling along. Celebrating over 60 years as a band and playing the first show of their 16-city Hackney Diamonds Tour, the Rolling Stones showed no signs of slowing down, as they rocked a sold-out NRG stadium in Houston Texas, with a tight, well-rehearsed, 18 song set, before an enthusiastic, all age crowd of fans.

I was fortunate to be among the benefactors of a ticket process that the Stones have implicated the last few years for dedicated ticket buyers, called the “Lucky Dip.” Ticket buyers have a chance to buy low-price tickets when they go on sale at the Rolling Stones website, and find out the day of the show at the box office where they will be seated. Our seat location you might ask? We were “Lucky” indeed. Right up front in PIT A, literally 15 feet from the stage! Needless to say, I was ready to rock.

Opener Gary Clark Jr. and his slick band, which included at times three keyboardists, as well as three background singers, had a short, chill, time on stage. He made the most of it, and his R&B and blues-based guitar licks led the way into some eye-opening versions of his music, which spotlighted his 2024 JPEG Raw. He even brought out the lovely singer Naala to join the band and sing “This Is Who We Are” as she did on the album. Clark, looking very cool in his black leather jacket and shades, joked about the Texas heat, telling the crowd “It IS hot in this jacket, but I feel sexy, so I’m going to leave it on.” And he did temporarily, and closed out his sexy set with his 2001 soulful single, “When My Train Pulls In.”

At approximately 9:15 PM, the stage was illuminated with a backdrop of glittering diamonds that shattered, as the words, “Ladies and Gentlemen…THE ROLLING STONES,” were screamed over the public address system. Screams amongst the crowd greeted the band as they busted into “Start Me Up” the first single from 1981’s Tattoo You release. All eyes were on the wunderkind and ageless Mick Jagger, as he strutted his 80-year-old body like a teenage hooker, and his patented shimmy and bleating vocals led the charge, as he danced centerstage, dressed in black jeans and silver shirt with a bright, silver jacket.

Drummer Steve Jordan pounded out the beat to “Get Off Of My Cloud,”  a Number One single in 1965. Jagger commandeered the huge stage, skipping his way along the long ramps that flanked the stage, as well as the huge “ego ramp” that jutted halfway through the middle, to where the 50-yard line would be for the house tenants, the Houston Texans football team. Jagger’s call and response of “Hey, Hey, You, You” during the song’s chorus had most of the fans, as well as background vocalists Bernard Fowler and Chanel Haynes, singing along.

“Hello Houston. It’s good to be back in the Lone Star State!” exclaimed Jagger. Guitarists Ron Wood and Keith Richard then cranked out a rough intro to “Rocks Off,” a favorite of mine from 1972’s Exile On Main Street that was quite a surprise, punctuated by the horn section of Karl Denson and Tim Ries.

Jagger grabbed a drink, thanked Gary Clark Jr., and said, “This next song is pretty old and ancient, and has never been done in Houston before. In fact, we’ve never done it in the USA before.” And it was then that keyboardist Chuck Leavell hit the marimba patch on his rig, and the band launched into a spunky “Out Of Time” that was such fun to hear. Jagger cued the band as well as the audience during the changes and at its conclusion, said, “This might be another first for Houston, right?” Jordan’s drums then provided the intro to “Angry,” the first single from 2023’s Hackney Diamonds. The bouncy Keith Richards, looking like an old merchant marine in his slightly tilted blue watch cap and blue shirt, was perched in front of the drums, doing most of the guitar work for the song. At 80 years old, he seems to have slowed down a bit, especially compared to the enthusiastic Jagger and 76-year-old guitarist Ron Wood, who was all over the stage throughout the show.

The Stones have become quite fan-friendly in the digital age. Fans can request songs to be played via voting on their website, and the band complied this evening with “Beast Of Burden,” the Motown-flavored hit from 1978’s Some Girls. Jagger teased the crowd by asking if anyone was from various Texas cities such as Dallas, Austin, or the nearby town of Cut And Shoot. The band seemed kind of rusty at times. Wood played a very choppy solo during the number, while Jagger put in extra mileage navigating the ramp and jousting with background singer Bernard Fowler during the “never, never” part of the song.

Another “first” was the surprise performance of “Mess It Up,” a very fun and danceable number from Hackney Diamonds that seemed to please not only the crowd, but the band members as well. Jagger’s falsetto made a brief appearance during part of the song, and I was amazed again at his versatility, especially at this point in his life. “Something old, something new,” the singer remarked.

More classics came and kept the crowd singing along. “Tumblin’ Dice,” led by Leavell’s rollicking piano chops, and Fowler and Haynes’ strong backing vocals, gave way to Jagger donning an acoustic guitar and strumming the opening chords of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as Matt Clifford played the classic French horn riff intro. During the last verse, the band kicked the song into double-time and Jagger flailed his arms, enticing the crowd to sing the gospel-tinged opus. Jagger thanked the crowd and spoke about visiting the Houston Space center and joked that he was “Disappointed that there were no Beaver Bites from Buc-ees,” referring to the snack from a popular Texas chain of gas station and convenience stores. That brought out a laugh amongst the audience.

After Jagger introduced the band, during which he draped a Houston Texans jersey around Ronnie Wood, it was finally time for the other “Glimmer Twin” Keith Richards to take centerstage. The ageless anomaly led the band in a rocking “Little T & A” from the Tattoo You that brought the Stones back to basics — no fluff, straight-ahead rock and roll. Richards, beaming at the crowd reaction at song’s end, retreated backstage, and grabbed yet another guitar.

As Bernard Fowler’s conga beat and Steve Jordan’s steady drums, combined with Leavell’s piano intro, the stage bathed in red light, and the familiar “woo-woo” chant led to a sneering Mick Jagger appearing centerstage, sporting a shiny, glittering jacket, snaking his way through “Sympathy For The Devil.” Richards’ stinging lead guitar brought the song to new heights, and the atmosphere in NRG Stadium became electric.

“We first came to Texas in 1964. It was my first rodeo!” exclaimed Jagger as the band drifted into the sinister “Gimme Shelter” during which the strong vocals of Chanel Haynes were spotlighted, as she and Jagger strutted up and down the long stage ramps and sang together with her shouts of “rape, murder” and “it’s just a kiss away” were very much in tune with the original Merry Clayton recorded track. It was followed by the rocker “Honky Tonk Woman” and an extended “Miss You” on which Jagger sported an electric guitar and announced: “We’re warming up NOW!”

The stage and background were filled with neon looking graphics, and Jordan and bassist Daryl Jones drove the funky song and its almost disco beat steadily. Jones, in particular, rocked a bass solo. Jagger added a harmonica solo, sang falsetto, and danced like someone an eighth of his age. He also took Wood around the stage with him. How is Mick Jagger 80 years old, I wondered? He truly is remarkable.

After blacking out the stage lights, Richards’ guitar intro on “Paint It Black” brought the band back to centerstage. Jagger’s black clothing and dark lighting made his silver belt and “Texas-sized” belt buckle stand out, as his pleading vocals and Levell’s piano riffing brought the song to a jangly roll.

The band ended their set with the classic “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Richards and Wood’s guitar amps seemed to have been cranked out extra loud for this number, either by themselves or their soundmen, and for the first time all evening my ear protection buzzed from the stage volume. Steve Jordan’s drumbeats are so pronounced. He hits so much harder than the late Charlie Watts ever did, and I would guess that it prompts the other band members to kick it up a notch as well.

The band briefly left the stage, returning for a lovely turn on “Sweet Sounds Of Heaven,” the second single from Hackney Diamonds. This gospel-themed song and its waltzing melody — and the fact that I was in the deep south — made things very magical from my viewpoint. Jagger became almost like a preacher from the pulpit of a church of rock and roll for a brief moment. Chanel Haynes’ wonderful vocals gave the song its depth, and she and Jagger together were pure heavenly delight, as they gave their all in their delivery.

As was expected, the Stones ended the show with the classic “Satisfaction” that had the entire building jumping and singing along every word. The band kept this old song exciting by just being who they are. The presence of the Rolling Stones is one thing but keeping life in a song that they have been playing for nearly 60 years has to be challenging. Mick Jagger left no part of the giant stage untouched, as he strutted, danced, mugged for the crowd, and shook what God gave him, as Richards and Wood added new guitar runs to this tired, old song.

I honestly believe that the band could have played even longer, but logic prevailed, and that was it for the opening show on the 2024 tour.

“Thank you everybody, we had a fantastic time. Goodnight Houston!” screamed an obviously tired Mick Jagger as the band gathered together onstage, bowed, and waved to their adoring fans. I wondered how much time this great institution of a band has left in its collective tank, but, judging from the energy of tonight’s show, they have quite a bit left to rock our nation and beyond. I thought to myself that it seems illogical that the tour is sponsored in part by AARP because I don’t see the band retiring anytime soon.

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