Ruminations on the Rolling Stones’ Return to the Rose Bowl

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In 1994, the Rolling Stones opened their Voodoo Lounge tour at the Rose Bowl with a quirky version of the Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ song Not Fade Away, a cheeky nod to the fact that, yes, the boys in the band were now elder statesmen of rock but they weren’t going anywhere. By my calculations, at the time Mick Jagger was 50 and Keith Richards was the same age as the half-life of uranium. And they had something to prove. According to a review in Variety, the 1994 stop in Pasadena was “an exhilarating, two-hour stadium spectacle that provided a blistering, nonstop musical attack by the venerable rockers, using vintage and recent tunes.”

This August, 25 years later, Mick, Keith, Ron, and Charlie are baaaaaack, because apparently they are never going to freakin’ fade away. And that’s alright with me. Because as long as the Stones are still rocking and rolling, or, frankly, even standing upright, I get to stay young. That’s how it works, right? I call it the No Sympathy for the Devil Theory of Aging. When the Rolling Stones stop touring, the rest of us age a generation overnight. So keep strutting, Mick!

Twenty-five years ago, Pasadena was a city with virtually no public transportation, no ride sharing, and no smartphones, yet somehow thousands of people made it to the stadium on a chilly October night, including a list of celebs that reads like mid-’90s royalty: Alan Thicke (!);  a tanned and rested James Caan in an inexplicable white tuxedo shirt; a very young Leonardo DiCaprio;  the ever-glorious Cindy Crawford in a black leather jacket and jeans; and music producer/murderer Phil Spector. I’m sorry I missed my shot at seeing Alan Thicke in person, but it was the first of many concerts I’d enjoy from my backyard, being a neighbor of the Bowl then and now.

When I grilled my husband on why we didn’t go, he claims it’s because he didn’t like the Voodoo Lounge album (rock snob) and that we’d recently seen Keith Richards on a solo tour (true). And then he took the opportunity to retell his “I saw Prince open for the Stones at Dodger Stadium and get booed offstage” story that he trots out on a regular basis at cocktail parties. I’m pretty sure the real reason we stayed home was because I was in the first trimester of pregnancy and not really feeling like a Honky Tonk Woman.

Being in the family way didn’t stop my friend and Pasadena girl Sally from the ’94 show. Sally’s loyalty to the Stones goes back to a 1980 concert in Boulder, Colo., when Mick pointed straight at her as he sang Beast of Burden (she has witnesses). That night in 1994, Sally rolled in for her 22nd Rolling Stones show at eight and a half months pregnant, wearing a black Norma Kamali-esque catsuit. Needless to say, she’ll be at the show in May, catsuit pending.

When I put out the call on Facebook for other concertgoers from back in the day, Crown City delivered. Cynthia recalled a fantastic show and some “shenanigans,” about which she did not elaborate. (Ah, yes, shenanigans! Remember those?) Michelle, who was single and a self-described alt-rock girl, was dating a Pasadena boy at the time. Now she’s married to that Pasadena boy with three kids and is a converted Stones fan, thanks to that show. Soraya took her sister, who was 14 at the time and in recovery from the recent Milli Vanilli scandal. Today her sister in is in the music business and Soraya thinks that seeing the Stones do Satisfaction changed the trajectory of her life. Truly. See, real music changes hearts and minds. Can Milli Vanilli say the same?

As a Rose Bowl neighbor, I’m supposed to shake my fist and complain at community meetings about the noise, the traffic, the trash, and the backup of limos onto the 210 Freeway during every concert event.  (My dog could do without the slow-moving and threatening blimp overhead, but that’s another issue.) But I can’t add my voice to the cacophony of complainers. I love hearing the sound check from my back porch. I love walking to shows and walking home. I love that the Rose Bowl has become a signature venue for big-time concerts: The Stones. U2. Green Day. Queen Bey. It’s only rock ’n’ roll, but I like it.

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