Charlotte, NC – With only the drum track for “Can You Hear Me Knocking” echoing through the stadium, four video panels are lit up with images of Charlie Watts. Sometimes smiling, sometimes rude, but always drumming with his unique touch, initial tribute Recently defunct Rolling Stones mainstay Easily set the tone for the next two-plus hours of one of Rock’s most gorgeous catalogs.
On the second date of the band’s “No Filter” tour, which resumed on 26 September Louis, tireless leader Mick Jagger acknowledged the loss of two songs to the band’s set after a 16-month pandemic delay.
Along with guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, Jagger reminded the nearly full Bank of America stadium that it was The Rolling Stones’ first tour without Watts in 59 years. Watts died in a London hospital on 24 August at the age of 80.
“It’s great to see those images of Charlie on the video,” Jagger said. “It always reminds us of the shows we did together … I’m sure a lot of you have memories too.”
He dedicated the show to Watts’ memory as the band rolled into “tumbling dice” as usual, just the way Watts would have preferred.
Earlier this week, Chuck Leavell, Music Director and Primary Keyboardist The Rolling Stones spoke via Zoom from their Charlotte hotel room, from the mid-’80s (the band is following COVID-19 protocols, though Documenting Jagger on Social Media His trip to a local dive bar Wednesday night about an emotional comeback).
“We think about him every minute of every day,” Leavell said. “Charlie Watts would never want to be the reason for this band to shut down. (Mick and Keith) are doing well under these circumstances. We miss (Charlie), but it’s exciting for all of us to finally do that. Let me tell you Can’t get over how great it felt to finally be back on that stage in St. Louis. And Ronnie is in great shape – clean and calm and physically strong for a long time. I think rock ‘n’ roll can keep you young helps.”
A few weeks before Watts’ death – which Levelell said was “absolutely surprising” – the drummer pulled out of the tour to recover from an unknown medical procedure. Ace stickman Steve Jordan, whose resume includes stints with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, John Mayer, and Richards’ side project, Ex-Pensive Vinos, allowed a smooth transition given his years in the Stones’ class.
“Steve is doing a fantastic job. He’s worked very hard,” said Levelle. “He’s respecting Charlie’s part but being his own man at the same time.”
Indeed, at Thursday’s show in Charlotte, Jordan integrated Watts’s signature swing—and his unusual way of playing without hitting the high hat and snare simultaneously—with his own muscular approach. His groove with bassist Darryl Jones during “Miss You” was so terrifying it was terrifying, while an extraordinarily taut “Start Me Up” benefited from Jordan’s guidance.
Their presence has allowed the band to change their set list, so far adding “19th Nervous Breakdown”, being performed live for the first time in 16 years.
As music director for The Rolling Stones, Leavel had a special relationship with Watts, especially during live performances. His absence is clearly visible.
“I gave them a lot of direction during every show to indicate changes to parts or endings of songs, so I’m used to looking the same way and I still do. It’s in my DNA to create those motions, Lewell said. “On a personal level, it has affected me to see and he is not there.”
During the Charlotte show, reliably packed with classics and perfect moves from 78-year-old Jagger (remember that heart valve replacement surgery in 2019? Yes, no problem for this dynamo), the band infused a newfound enthusiasm.
wood – who won the battle with cancer last year — and Richards, a canary yellow knit hat drawn over his head, looked like mischievous schoolchildren who were clearly having a blast.
The pair cheered Leavel while rolling the keyboard solo “Honky Tonk Women”, talked to each other during the song and laughed and enjoyed the music. Wood opened a blazing single during “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, while an upbeat Richards often placed a hand on Jagger’s shoulder, which the singer reciprocated with a smile.
Levelell noted that the week that Watts died, “there were three themes in the news: Afghanistan, Hurricane Ida and Charlie Watts. And it’s great to see the way Charlie has been showered with so much love.”
Perhaps the loss of a core member as well as the uncertainty of touring again (their previous pre-pandemic “No Filter” date was in August 2019) has reintroduced a new level of admiration and affection within the band.
There was definitely a lot of hobby on display at the end of the show.
Following the entire lineup, Jagger, Richards and Wood joined arms on the catwalk as a picture of Watts, smiling slightly in his trademark suit and tie, had his soul rooted in this band’s legacy.