As encore they play “Sympathy For the Devil” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on this Wednesday evening, two really big numbers. But shouldn’t this whole “Sixty” anniversary tour of Europe, with its finale in Berlin, be considered an encore? Haven’t the Rolling Stones gotten to a point where everything is already bonus?
At 81, Bob Dylan is coming to see us again in October on his “never ending tour”, but that’s something different. The Rolling Stones have endured as a band that fills big arenas and moves crowds, still. For its standards, the Waldbühne offers a comparatively intimate setting – how lucky for the audience! Will you ever be that close to them again? Rock seems like a great relativity. When the Rolling Stones performed at the Waldbühne in 1982, forty years ago and on their 20th birthday, you had the feeling that certain aging processes were underway. Mick Jagger was in his late thirties, a proud number for a rock star in the punk era of the time. The Beatles were long gone by then, Led Zeppelin had disbanded, and other dinosaurs were getting sadder and sadder.
Since then, the Stones have been to Berlin again and again, in Weißensee and in the Olympic Stadium, most recently in the Waldbühne in 2014 – on a sweltering June evening. Mick Jagger dedicated the song “Waiting On a Friend” to the BER airport under construction. And now again he brings a BER joke (“A bargain for seven billion euros”). Years and decades pass like this. They landed there on Monday. Airports open and close, but the Rolling Stones take off with great precision. Without delay. Mick Jagger makes a lot of announcements in German, about the praise of currywurst and hackepeter rolls – since when has he been eating meat? – until the conclusion that it was all a “summer fairy tale”. It is. They dedicate the show to their drummer Charlie Watts, who died last year. Two full hours of guitar storms with Keith Richards and Ron Wood and Mick Jagger as animator. If you want to put it in one word: sensational. A few days ago he celebrated his 79th birthday. He runs shorter distances on stage, jumps around less, which is even better than the marathons he used to run. He no longer has to prove that he is fit, seemingly ageless. Which of course is nonsense. They’re touring with sixty years of age and risking themselves into “Out Of Time”, a hit from 1966. The wide circle claps and sings along. If the Stones are out of date, then so is everyone here. Rock ‘n’ roll is a time capsule, a comfortable mode of transportation. Once invented to scare and scare adults away, it has long functioned as a link across generations.
But doesn’t that apply to music in general once it has reached a certain level of popularity? When the 86-year-old Zubin Mehta recently conducted “Turandot” at the State Opera, the roof almost lifted off. The maestro has performed this work by Puccini so often in his long career that he is now really letting it rip. Heavy metal Unter den Linden in front of a mixed crowd. And “Street Fighting Man” to kick off: The forest stage is set. Nobody keeps it on the seat. And then right after that “Tumbling Dice”. Jagger, Richards and Wood gyrate at the front of the catwalk like musketeers. A thoroughly new experience: Mick Jagger seems relaxed and friendly overall, there is nothing cynical or aggressive about it, he wants to take people with him, not disappoint him. The atmosphere gets something family. The voice has power for a setlist that surprisingly gets a lot out of one or the other classic. And again and again the choir of the 22000 agrees. Jagger gets the acoustic guitar, there is now “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and a big compliment: “You sing really well.” The Rolling Stones feel comfortable in Berlin. Also says Keith Richards when he gets his gig with “Happy” and Mick Jagger on a break.
It’s an interesting change when you look around the rows and the people fervently blare: “But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” What sounded precocious at the time is now wisdom from lived life. The song dates back to 1968 and was released as a B-side to “Honky Tonk Women” – which is coming soon. Even the intro by Keith Richards triggers cheers. It’s one of the Stones’ tracks that goes a little bit deeper than the rest. Same play on Start Me Up. You can hear the riff before Richards hits the strings, dirty, raw, soothing. Darryl Jones is a fabulous bass player. On “Miss You” he enters into a long, intense dialogue with Mick Jagger. One of the special moments of this concert, where Steve Jordan on drums – not an easy task – worthily replaces Charlie Watts. The singer Sascha Allen throws herself into a wild duo with Mick Jagger: “Gimme Shelter”. Images of shot-up, destroyed cities run on the video wall. The War in Ukraine. “Gimme Shelter” is on the dark side of the repertoire. A kind of memento mori, reminding us how fragile peace is. “Paint It Black”, on the other hand, becomes a sing-along and feel-good number again. There will be many of these in August 2022 at the Waldbühne. Almost a Beatles feeling. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is too loud for that, the band turns it up again. Mick Jagger also adds a few meters, sometimes he jerks and twitches like Jacko. Dumps two buckets of water over the fans at his feet. They don’t get his jackets and shirts, which he quickly takes off because of the heat. He throws them carefully backwards onto the stage, where large fans are supposed to bring cooling.
It stays very warm to the end. It takes a lot to be there, apart from the ridiculous ticket prices. The long walk there, the wait at the entrance, and the opening act, the Ghost Hounds, were very mainstream. But if you haven’t found your happiness with the Stones by then, you’ll still have to deal with an extended “Midnight Rambler”. Darkness falls, streaks of sunset appear in the sky, and the Rolling Stones recall their origins, the blues. One thinks of films like “In the Heat of the Night”. Cracking, shimmering, provocative slowdown. Clear announcement that this band, this music, was about sex. Something else is flickering, dangerous, seductive. That’s why parents condemned this whole culture fifty or sixty years ago: If they had known back then that you could make so much money as Rolling Stone and grow old with such energy, the verdict would have been different. Incidentally, the youngest visitor to the Waldbühne that evening was only six years old. What will he remember one day if he doesn’t forget? And then, as mentioned, the two songs with the devil and so on. Was actually almost too much, the duty after the freestyle.