The Rolling Stones are touring once more, this time without their heartbeat, or at least their backbeat.
The incredible rockers launched their pandemic-deferred “No Filter” tour Sunday at the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis without their drummer of almost six decades. It was obvious from the beginning exactly how much the band members — and the fans — missed Charlie Watts, who died last month at age 80. With the exception of a private show in Massachusetts last week, the St. Louis concert was their first since Watts’ death.
The show opened with an empty stage and just a drumbeat, with photographs of Watts blazing on the video board. After the second song, an awakening version of “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It),” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood went to the front of the stage. Jagger and Richards fastened hands as they thanked fans for the outpouring of help and love for Watts. Jagger recognized it was passionate seeing the photographs of Watts.
“This is our first-ever tour we’ve ever done without him,” Jagger said. “We’ll miss Charlie so much, on and off the stage.”
The band then, at that point, committed “Tumbling Dice” to Watts.
The tour had been planned for 2020 before Covid virtually shut down the touring industry. Indications of the pandemic were wherever at the show in Missouri, a state hit hard by the virus’s delta variant.
The huge number of fans wore masks as needed by St. Louis’ anti-virus protocol. The actual Stones showed up in a public service declaration encouraging anybody with symptoms to stay home. A vaccination site was set up at the dome, with plans for comparative sites at each tour stop.
The actual concert included a similar driving beat personified by Watts, on account of his substitution, Steve Jordan. The drummer might be new to fans yet he’s not really new to the Stones — Jordan has performed for years with Richards’ side project, X-Pensive Winos, alongside numerous other leading acts.
In any case, die-hard fans couldn’t resist the opportunity to miss Watts, generally viewed as one of rock’s greatest drummers, despite the fact that his real love was jazz. He joined Jagger and Richards in the Rolling Stones in 1963. Wood joined in 1975.
For Laura Jezewski, 62, of Omaha, Nebraska, seeing the Stones without Watts was bittersweet.
“It’s really sad,” she said. “He’s the first of the old Stones to pass away.”
The show included the band’s long litany of hits. Jagger barely resembled a 78-year-old man, swaggering around the stage like a man half — or 33% of his age; a constant whirl of movement. His vocals, and the guitar work of Wood and Richards, sounded as great as could be expected.
After St. Louis, the tour will include stops for Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Nashville, Tennessee; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tampa, Florida; Dallas; Atlanta; Detroit; and finishing off with Austin, Texas, on Nov. 20. The band additionally added new dates in Los Angeles on Oct. 14 and Oct. 17, and a concert in Las Vegas on Nov. 6.
Jezewski and her 60-year-old husband, Brad, brought their 30-year-old daughter, Sarah, to St. Louis for the show. It was Sarah’s first opportunity to see the Rolling Stones. Her mother and father have seen them in different places — Ames, Iowa; Boulder, Colorado; Denver; even Wichita, Kansas — dating back to the 1970s.
With the surviving band members well into their 70s, the Jezewskis would not like to pass up on this opportunity.
“If it is their last time — we’re here,” Brad Jezewski said. “And if there’s another tour, we’ll be there, too.”
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