Every single time I've asked someone in the past few weeks this question, "Are you going to see the Rolling Stones?," the following scene has played out: Deep, anguished sigh. The words, "I've been thinking about this..." followed by a momentary silence. And finally, the inner debate is released into the air...
That debate? If you see them, you'll probably have a nice time, but any highs are going to come with deep lows, as you may find it impossible not to focus on how old they are, and in turn, how old you are. This isn't about ageism, it's about staring death in the face, because death is close now... so much closer than it was when these guys were making absolutely insane memories.
Going to see the Stones in 2019 is not like attending an Intimate Evening With [Insert Legendary Musician Who Is Now Older And Stool-Bound], these guys aren't going to deliver an acoustic set while taking frequent sits on stage. They are a very different beast—they have an explosive energy that propels them around stage as they perform the songs of their youth, like a troupe of Peter Pans who just downed a handful of Black Beauties.
So maybe you'll think about their mortality while this spectacle unfolds, or your own mortality, or maybe you'll just feel grateful to see them and shocked at how youthful they seem from the cheap seats. But undoubtedly, while making your decision about whether or not to attend the show, you'll be confronted with how we're losing so many legends to the unrelenting grips of time. Which brings us to another side of the debate table: If you don’t see them now, you will very likely never see them—can you live with this?
Sure, it's possible that Mick will live forever as this video below seems to be indicating, but what this article presupposes is: what if he doesn't?
— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) May 15, 2019
There aren’t many of these great bands left, and after Tom Petty died in 2017—a death that followed David Bowie's in January 2016 and Prince's in April 2016—it made many people I know regret missing his show at Forest Hills earlier that year. "Should I see Tom Petty?" they had all asked themselves before the show, but either decided there would always be some other show down the line, or assumed—like some Stones fans may be assuming right now—that the show wouldn't be as good. Because age.
So is seeing your idols aged out better than never seeing them at all? Let me present the ultimate argument to see the Stones, no matter what goddamn year it is, from Marc Maron, who examined the issue in his 2017 comedy special. Maron asked, "Why didn’t I want to go see the Stones?" Below, a rollercoaster of emotions and an ultimate understanding of why, yes, you should see these old timers.
"There were a couple of levels of excuses, part of me was like, 'Well, you know, Bill Wyman’s not playing bass anymore, so, they’re not really the Stones'... It’s just not a viable excuse. So, I thought about it more and I realized: 'Oh, you know what it is? It’s because they’re old.' Now, I’m not being an ageist, right? I just didn’t want it to be sad. I have a lot of belief and faith and love for the Rolling Stones. They’re bigger than life. They’re my favorite band. They’d been there for me forever. They need to stay the Rolling Stones. I can’t go to a Rolling Stones show and be like, 'Oh, no'... I can’t let that happen. I was concerned. I was concerned for the Stones. I’m like, 'I don’t think they should be doing it anymore... I don’t know how this is gonna go."
Maron did end up going, and recalls the mixed emotions throughout.
"When Mick came out... part of me was like, 'Oh, my. Isn’t he a little old to be… I don’t know if he should be doing that. A man his age.' I was embarrassed, you know? But then I settled into it. I was like, 'He’s Mick Jagger. He does that. If anyone’s gonna do that, let Mick do it.' So, I settled in and I was like, 'All right, okay. It’s not sad.' But then something happened... It’s working. And out of nowhere, I just start crying. I’m crying. I look like those black and white photographs of those 16-year-old girls in the ’60s. Tears are running down my face. In the middle of that moment, something horrible happened. They’ve got the big screen. They go right in on Mick’s face. And there it is, 50 feet big. And I’m like, 'Oh, God! Why are you doing that to Mick?' You could see everything, all the lines and dyed hair. I’m like, 'Stop it! Take it down!' And all of a sudden it just hit me. I’m like: 'Whoa, wait a minute. This is amazing.' That these guys are still doing those songs, now with all this experience, and pain, and wisdom, and just life behind them. It brings a depth to it that wasn’t there before. It’s fucking unbelievable."
If you want to get existential with this, look to the Ship of Theseus, which ultimately argues that after Thing A (which we'll call The Rolling Stones) has gone through enough changes, it is no longer what it was. One resolution to this is that The Rolling Stones do not exist. Their name is simply "a label for a particular organization of matter and energy in space and time. The old [band] is just a concept in the human mind. Similarly, the new [band] is another concept in the human mind." Therefore, the old band and the new band are not the same band, and as Maron learned, that's okay.
The Rolling Stones, 1960s. (Shutterstock)
The Rolling Stones, 2019 Edition, are playing in New Jersey in August — you can get tickets here now, or regret not going later.