Highs and Lows From the Rolling Stones’ 2021 Tour
The Rolling Stones played the final show of their 2021 No Filter Tour last night, bringing an eventful run for the band to a close.
That the tour even took place was something of a minor miracle. Originally scheduled for summer 2020, the trek was pushed back to 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.
Even before that postponement, the band had planned to tour without Charlie Watts. The legendary drummer underwent a medical procedure and was "unlikely to be available" for the tour as a result. In his place, Steve Jordan, a close friend of Watts' whose relationship with the band traces back to 1986, was asked to fill in.
"It was laid out that this was a work in progress. Charlie was going to come back, and they would be rocking again,” Jordan later recalled.
That’s not the way things played out.
On Aug. 24, Watts died "peacefully in a London hospital." The news sent shockwaves throughout the music world, as fellow rockers paid tribute to the beloved drummer. Despite Watts missing from their ranks for the first time, the Rolling Stones decided to go forward with the tour as scheduled.
The Stones played a private event for New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on Sept. 20. "I must say though at this point it’s a bit of a poignant night for us," singer Mick Jagger admitted, noting how much everyone missed Watts. "We all miss Charlie so much, we miss him as a band, we miss him as friends, on and off the stage."
Six days later, the band played the first official date of its 2021 North American tour in St. Louis. Again, Watts' legacy was felt throughout the evening. Images and videos of the drummer played on the stadium's big screens, and the group dedicated "Tumbling Dice" to their late bandmate.
Watch the Rolling Stones Dedicate 'Tumbling Dice' to Charlie Watts in 2021
Though emotions were understandably running high to start with, a return to touring ultimately proved good for the band. Jagger, in particular, seemed to appreciate life on the road a little more this time around. The singer made a habit of tweeting pictures at various local haunts in the cities where the Stones were playing. Amazingly, the iconic frontman - who ranks among the most recognizable stars in rock history - seemingly went unnoticed on all of these occasions.
The tour also proved to be good for the band's bank account. The Stones took in a reported $10 million per night on each stop of the tour, a testament to their ongoing popularity even as the group approaches its 60-year mark.
Even though the band used virtually the same set list during each stop of the trek, it utilized a fan vote at every show to keep things fresh. “Wild Horses,” “Let It Bleed,” “Angie,” “Dead Flowers,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Monkey Man,” “Far Away Eyes” and “She’s a Rainbow” were among the fan-chosen songs heard during various shows.
Watch the Rolling Stones Perform 'Ruby Tuesday' in 2021
One song that wouldn’t be heard from the stage: “Brown Sugar.” The band opted to shelve the classic following an inundation of criticism regarding the song's references to slavery. "Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery?" Keith Richards pondered to the Los Angeles Times, before noting activists were "trying to bury" the tune. For his part, Jagger suggested the band may have been burnt out on the on the song, considering they'd played it "every night since 1970."
Meanwhile, Jagger continued to show his signature stage energy and charisma while performing, even at age 78. He was even happy to rekindle the decades-old rivalry with the Beatles - even though he insisted such a rivalry never existed. After Paul McCartney referred to the Stones as a "blues cover band," Jagger responded during a performance in Los Angeles. “There are so many celebrities here tonight,” Jagger noted from the stage. “Megan Fox is here, she’s lovely. Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga, Kirk Douglas – misread that one. And Paul McCartney is here - he’s going to help. He’s going to join us in a blues cover later on.”
Watch the Rolling Stones Perform 'Wild Horses' in 2021
With the No Filter dates behind them, the Rolling Stones can now ponder what’s next. The band has been noncommittal about future plans, with Jagger admitting that recording new material without Watts will be "difficult." Still, the drummer recorded various drum parts before his death, and it's possible the band will look to build upon those sessions for its next album. Regardless of what the next step is, the Stones will find a way to soldier on.
“Some people said, ‘Oh, Charlie died, and you should have not done the tour — and stopped,” Jagger noted during an October interview. “And other people would think, 'The thing about the Rolling Stones throughout their career has been their resilience in the face of adversity.’ And we’ve had ups and downs, mostly ups, to be honest — but we’ve had adversity. And this was probably one of the most difficult ones.”