European way of life

June 13th, 2014: I saw the Rolling Stones at the Stade de France

It’s hard to imagine that this could be the Rolling Stones’ last concert, at least in this configuration, when it feels like just another reunion between old pals. Still, 75 000 people, the population of an average-sized French town, and tickets sold in less than an hour on March 28th, 2014. Almost three months later, fans are there and the Stade de France was certainly the it-place on that nice summer evening of June 13th, 2014. Manuel Valls apparently were of the same opinion.

On the fourth day of the railway workers strike, the 13 train of the Parisian « métro » is taken over by commuters and a constant flow of people swarms out of the « Saint-Denis – Porte de Paris » station towards the Stade de France. I cross the « périph » in a high-spirited buzzing atmosphere.

A first stop outside the stadium, between a spaceship-shaped food-truck that sells meat from the « Limousin » region and a few warm beer stands, just long enough to observe the audience of the grandpas of rock, as always very diversified age-wise, and to exchange a few tips about how to fool the entrance guards so as to sneak in a few prohibited items (the cap of an Evian bottle, am I right?).

Stade de France, extérieur, 13 juin 2014 © Eurofluence.

Stade de France, outside, 13 June 2014 © Eurofluence.

And then, we go in. The proud owner of a special kit from England (via the official Rolling Stones website), I stop by the goodies stand to get: a tote bag, a numbered poster, a magazine and my pass.

Stade de France, goodies, 13 juin 2014 © Eurofluence.

Stade de France, goodies, 13 June 2014 © Eurofluence.

I head towards the first rows on the Western terrace to get to my seat. A little late on schedule, the Struts, composed of 4 young Englishmen invited by the Rolling Stones, makes its entrance on the stage to play the first part of the concert.

Stade de France, vue scène, 13 juin 2014 © Eurofluence.

Stade de France, stage, 13 June 2014 © Eurofluence.

Luke Spiller, the singer, moves in a way that is very similar to Mick Jagger, but has a Robert Smith look to him, with some additional glitter. In a very glamorous blue sparkling outfit, the powerful voice of the Struts rolls his r’s and tries his best to warm up a somewhat lukewarm audience. The stadium wasn’t full yet, the sound wasn’t as good as it could have been and the Struts are refused their share of spotlight, but the band has a nice energy and deserves our attention. Nice garageband tones, with a touch of twitchy pop catch the ear in Could Have Been Me; a surprising and well-done cover of Lorde’s Royals doesn’t jar with the other songs of the band, Kiss This, on a melody by Queen, or Put Your Money On Me. Somewhat close to the Black Keys whose songs they cover from time to time, the Struts are a good band who deserved a better exit than the one they got, when the sound was turned off and they were driven off the stage by technicians (« the show business workers! it’s the show business workers again! » I heard next to me), without even so much as a goodbye to the Parisian audience who was just starting to enjoy the show.

Stade de France, vue gradins, 13 juin 2014 © Eurofluence.

Stade de France, view from terrace, 13 June 2014 © Eurofluence.

A bit of a long interlude after the forced exit of the young generation, and the gods of the stadium come in. Their rendition of Jumpin Jack Flash, as well as It’s Only Rock’n’Roll, is a bit muddled and they’re still looking for the right sound, but who cares? Mick Jagger, in a green glittering jacket and blood red satin shirt my eyes are burning, adresses the audience in a very good French he perfected by living in a château in Anjou. Keith Richards looks like he comes straight out of a Pirate of the Caribbean movie and jokes around with Ronnie Wood, while Charlie Watts stays unfazed and professional. Every one is in very good shape, even more so than at the O2 Arena in London, on November 25th, 2012, at the first concert of the 50-year tour (I was there too).

Stade de France, Keith Richards, 13 juin 2014 © Eurofluence.

Stade de France, Keith Richards, 13 June 2014 © Eurofluence.

The concert really takes off with Out Of Control, as a full moon shines on the only Friday 13th of 2014. We didn’t run out of luck that day. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – the standards keep coming: Miss You, Gimme Shelter, Start Me Up, and an incredible Sympathy For The Devil, bathed in an infernal red light. Jagger shakes the red and black feathers of the costume he had made especially for this song. It feels like reuniting with old pals, seven years after their last show at the Stade de France. Beers are drunk as Jagger talks casually about the World Cup and promises to « zlataner » (in French, please). Mick Taylor, as a guest musician, is a bit magisterial and Keith Richards is very moving in the two songs that put him in the spotlight, You Got Silver and Can’t Be Seen, as though he relishes every second of his presence on this oversized Parisian stage. Fans could vote on the official website of the band for one song out of a selection of five that they wanted played at the concert. It is Bitch and it’s for the best, as it was my choice too.

My legs start to feel sore, but Mick Jagger, great grandfather, keeps running from one end of the stage to the other. « I will retire when I die », as his colleague from kindergarten Keith Richards usually says.

Stade de France, Mick Jagger, 13 June 2014 © Eurofluence.

The night has come, the moon faces the stage and the encore is a small concert of its own. A choir, the Allegri ensemble from Reims, starts singing You Can’t Always Get What You Want and the song slowly shifts into (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, that gets the audience completely electrified. There is something of a religious fervor in these last riffs, a form of communion. We’re here, we tear up as we watch the band go, we breathed the same air for two hours.

It was a job well-done, let’s hope they come back.

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