I saw a jaded, drug damaged, and erratic Rolling Stones play several spotty shows in the later '70s. If I had been told the Stones would be the most dynamic, dependable, and lucrative live act in the biz 30 years hence, my incredulity would have been seismic. Even the notion that certain band members (cough, cough – Keith) would still be alive, let alone feisty, festive, and highly functional, would have seemed the longest of odds.
And yet, here we are deeply into the first decade of the 21st century and the Stones — sans the retired Bill Wyman — are still alive, kicking, and generating half a billion dollars or more on a wildly successful tour likely to stretch across three calendar years.
The rejuvenated sexagenarian rockers have not shown much of their age, either, other than some vocal stress for Mick Jagger, a little alcohol rehab for guitarist Ronnie Wood, and of course Keith Richards' date with a tree in Fiji this spring necessitating some minor brain tweaking via craniotomy.
"Definitely there was drama and hurdles, but at the end of the day, if you tour long enough, everything's gonna happen, isn't it?" tour producer Michael Cohl told Billboard.com. "We had to reschedule a couple here and there, but other than the ones in early summer in Europe, which we couldn't make up, we played everything. And they were great."
The Stones epic A Bigger Bang journey is now the top-grossing tour in history, currently sitting at the $437 million mark, luring over 3.5 million fans to 113 shows dating back to the fall of '05. Not included in those tallies are the estimated two million who saw the band perform one concert at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro in February.
With makeup dates for the canceled European shows possible into '07, the $500 million mark seems assured. "I don't think we're done," Cohl said. "There are still a lot of cancellations in Europe that the band the band feel obligated to try and make up. So I wouldn't be surprised if it keeps going next year."
After playing to massive throngs at stadiums throughout the tour, the World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band stripped away the bloat for some special performances at New York's Beacon Theater earlier this month, which were filmed by the legendary Martin Scorsese, whose filmic relationship with music stretches back through his recent Dylan documentary, to his '04 blues series on PBS, back to his classic '78 doc of The Band's final concert, The Last Waltz.