Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Wednesday 12th November 2003

Despite the threat of a crocodile on the loose, The Rolling Stones finally made it to Hong Kong last weekend. The menace of SARS had scuppered earlier attempts to visit, and for a while it didn't look as though their rock 'n' roll pantomime would be passing through town this time either.

Perhaps this was why I was fairly indifferent to their visit, and hadn't really registered they were playing on Friday night until someone mentioned it to me on the day. After a moment's contemplation spent considering my current plans for the evening - slouched in front of the television watching a couple of DVDs and snacking endlessly on pistachio nuts and raw pasta - I decided to head out at lunchtime and buy a ticket. By the time I was leaving work I was quite excited - this was, after all, the legendary Stones, a band whose music I'd gone through a short phase of listening to constantly when I was about 16 and who could lay a credible claim to being one of the biggest live bands in the world.

On entering the Harbour Fest open-air enclosure I noticed that this was the only gig I'd been to where the bouncers outside the venue openly carried guns (they were the police), ironic perhaps for a Rolling Stones concert, when you think about their past mishaps with bouncers. Unfortunately by the time I was settling into my (very expensive) plastic chair, the support act, an Elvis impersonator, had more or less finished his set. The seats around me gradually filled up - mainly with 'westerners', mostly middle-aged Americans, such as the moustachioed man over the aisle to my left, tapping along to the 60's folk songs blaring out of the speakers, in his stone-washed blue jeans and brown brogues, or the German guy behind me, apologetically bringing back drinks for his friends ('Sorry guys, the queue for beer was like you don't want to know, so I went for coffee'). This was to be a gig where the only smokey fragrance floating over the crowd was the smell of cigars.

I waited happily. On the stage, behind which rows of skyscrapers pushed into the night air, roadies pretended to fiddle with equipment, while powerful lights surged on and off. Would Keith Richards crumble into dust during the set? Would Bill Clinton, rumoured to be in the audience, join them on saxophone? Would they play Cash and Carry? Where is Barry? Before I could give much thought to these vital questions, a Knight of the Realm pranced onto the stage, wearing a thigh length sky-blue coat and very tight trousers. The arena erupted into life and the show started.

In my part of the arena everyone was standing on their chairs by the first few bars of Brown Sugar, the opening number. Moustache-Brogue man started double-punching the air and occasionally clapping out of tune (something he would persist in doing throughout), while I abandoned my seat in an attempt to get a bit further forward. Sadly, my progress was blocked by another armed policeman, so I scuttled back and hopped on the seat. The view was great, as were the band. They motored through the hits, as they have done thousands of times before - Start Me Up, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Satisfaction, Paint it Black, erm, Angie and the rest, but, for me, the musical highlight was an excellent version of Sympathy for the Devil. Mick attempted to speak Cantonese (such a shame that the majority of the audience, including me, only knew their address in that language) while his English between-song chat was disappointingly uninspiring for a band who spend most of their time playing live - 'Are you having a good time? I said, are you having a good time?'...

But as well as sounding great and coasting through the set with confidence and ease, not once lacking momentum or verve, they were also hilarious. Mick's trademark dancing, all arms and hips, Keith's terrible solo spot, the ridiculous projected cartoon of a naked woman riding a giant tongue during one song (the image eradicates the memory of which tune it actually was), the excessive use of saxophone and the band's rock posturing kept me smiling until the end.

The encore consisted of just the one song - Jumping Jack Flash - during which large squares of multi-coloured confetti were sprayed into the arena - it looked stunning - and then, they took a curtain call, and were off, presumably to their hotel, to enjoy a mug of cocoa or perhaps a Mars bar or two.

A memorable gig, but I suppose, nothing less than I expected. As I wandered into Wan Chai to find a bar I reflected on the fact that those men have the same energy they had 30 years ago. It's slightly worrying, as I don't have the same energy I had 30 minutes ago.

38 - posted at 01:38:47


The Rolling Stones are the best live band I've ever seen. A close second was when I went to see the trio of Pop Will Eat Itself, Jim Rose Circus, and Nine Inch Nails.

I still kick myself every day for missing out on the Elton John/Billy Joel concert.

1: angel (tech writing hell) - 10:28:32 on Thursday 13th November 2003 (permalink)

Clapping out of tune? How the hell do you clap in tune?

2: Dave - 13:34:01 on Sunday 16th November 2003 (permalink)

i know a german guy who has coffee when he's in a bar. he really wrestles with the second one too. whether to have it that is. not literally.

3: plucky - 17:30:30 on Tuesday 18th November 2003 (permalink)

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