ST. LOUIS – The Rolling Stones are on tour again, this time without heartbeats, or at least with backbeats.
The legendary rockers kicked off their pandemic-delayed “No Filter” tour on Sunday at the America’s Center Dome in St. Louis without their nearly six-decade drummer. From the start, it was clear how much the band members – and the fans, missed Charlie Watts, who passed away last month at the age of 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 only a drumbeat, with photos of Watts flashing on the video board. After the second song, a catchy rendition of “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)”, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood took center stage. Jagger and Richards joined hands in thanking fans for the outpouring of support and love for Watts. Jagger admitted that it was touching to see the photos of Watts.
“This is our very first tour that we have done without him,” Jagger said. “Charlie will be missed so much, on and off the stage.”
The group then dedicated “Tumbling Dice” to Watts.
The tour was scheduled for 2020 before the coronavirus virtually shut down the tourism industry. Signs of the pandemic were all over the living room in Missouri, a state hit hard by the delta variant of the virus.
The tens of thousands of fans wore masks as required by the St. Louis anti-virus protocol. The Stones themselves appeared in a public service announcement urging anyone with symptoms to stay home. A vaccination site has been set up at the dome, with plans for similar sites at each stop on the tour.
The concert itself featured the same driving rhythm personified by Watts, thanks to his replacement, Steve Jordan. The drummer may be new to fans, but he’s hardly new to the Stones – Jordan has played for years with Richards’ side project X-Pensive Winos, as well as many other lead actors.
Still, diehard fans couldn’t help but miss Watts, widely regarded as one of rock’s greatest drummers, even though his true 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. “It is the first of the old stones to die.
The show showcased the group’s long litany of successes. Jagger barely looked like a 78-year-old man, strutting about on stage like a man half – or a third his age; a constant whirlwind of movement. His voice and the guitar work of Wood and Richards still sounded great.
After St. Louis, the tour will include stops in Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Nashville, Tennessee; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tampa, Florida; Dallas; Atlanta; Detroit; and ending in Austin, Texas on November 20. The group also added new dates in Los Angeles on October 14 and 17, and a concert in Las Vegas on November 6.
Jezewski and her 60-year-old husband Brad brought their 30-year-old daughter Sarah to St. Louis for the concert. It was Sarah’s first chance to see the Rolling Stones. Their mother and father saw them in various places: Ames, Iowa; Boulder, Colorado; Denver; even Wichita, Kansas – dating from the 1970s.
With the surviving band members well into their 70s, the Jezewskis didn’t want to miss this chance.
“If this is their last time, we are here,” said Brad Jezewski. “And if there’s another tour, we’ll be there too.”