Rolling Stones open American tour, drummer Charlie Watts pays tribute

St. Louis – The Rolling Stones are touring again, this time without their heartbeat, or at least their backbeat.

The legendary rockers kicked off their pandemic-delayed “No Filter” tour on Sunday at the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis without their drummer of nearly six decades. It was clear from the start how much the band members – and fans – miss Charlie Watts, who died last month at the age of 80. Aside from a private show in Massachusetts last week, the St. Louis concert was the first since Watts’ death.

The show began with an empty stage and just one drum beat, with photos of Watts flashing on the video board. After the second song, a rousing rendition of “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It),” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood took the stage. Jagger and Richards folded their hands as they thanked fans for their support and love for Watts. Jagger admitted seeing the photos of Watts was emotional.

“This is our first tour we’ve ever done without him,” said Jagger. “We’ll miss Charlie so much, on and off the stage.”

The band then dedicated “Tumbling Dice” to Watts.

Ronnie Wood, from left, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Steve Jordan of the Rolling Stones perform during the

The tour was scheduled for 2020 before the coronavirus practically paralyzed the touring industry. Signs of the pandemic were seen all over the show in Missouri, a state that has been badly hit by the Delta variant of the virus.

The tens of thousands of fans wore masks as required by the St. Louis anti-virus protocol. The Stones themselves appeared on a public notice urging anyone with symptoms to stay home. A vaccination site has been set up at the dome, with plans for similar sites at each tour stop.

The concert itself featured the same driving beat embodied by Watts, thanks to his replacement Steve Jordan. The drummer may be new to fans, but he’s hardly new to the Stones – Jordan has performed with many other leading acts for years on Richards’ side project X-Pensive Winos, along with many other leading acts.

Enter Ronnie Wood, from left, Steve Jordan and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

Even so, die-hard fans couldn’t help but miss Watts, widely regarded as one of rock’s greatest drummers, even though his true love was jazz. In 1963 he joined Jagger and Richards with the Rolling Stones. Wood joined in 1975.

For Laura Jezewski, 62, of Omaha, Nebraska, it was bittersweet to see the Stones without Watts.

“It’s really sad,” she said. “He’s the first of the old stones to die.”

The show featured the band’s long hit litany. Jagger barely looked like a 78-year-old man, strutting around the stage like half a man – or a third of his age; a constant vortex of movement. His singing and the guitar work of Wood and Richards sounded as good as ever.

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After St. Louis, the tour includes stops in Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Nashville, Tennessee; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tampa, Florida; Dallas; Atlanta; Detroit; and ends November 20th in Austin, Texas. The band also added new dates in Los Angeles on October 14th and 17th and a concert in Las Vegas on November 6th.

Jezewski and her 60-year-old husband Brad took their 30-year-old daughter Sarah to a concert in St. Louis. It was Sarah’s first chance to see the Rolling Stones. Her mother and father saw her in different places – Ames, Iowa; Boulder, Colorado; Denver; even Wichita, Kansas – from the 1970s.

With the surviving band members well into the 1970s, the Jezewskis did not want to miss this opportunity.

“If it’s her last time – we’re here,” said Brad Jezewski. “And if there is another tour, we’ll be there too.”

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