Personal Faves: How I Spent My Rent Check On A Rolling Stones Concert

Instead of ending the year with a slew of Best Of lists, BlackBook asked our contributors to share the most important moments in art, music, film, television, and fashion that took place in 2012. Here, Hillary Hughes writes about dropping a load of money on the greatest living rock ‘n’ rollers, The Rolling Stones.

“You paid HOW MUCH FOR ROLLING STONES TICKETS?!”

I had made the mistake of casually mentioning to my mother that I spent a month’s rent (literally) on a pair of tickets to watch The Rolling Stones perform at the Barclays Center, and she was completely shocked and appalled. “You’re irresponsible! I’m not gonna tell you how to spend your money, but Jesus, Hilary … they’re just so old. I wouldn’t have paid half that to see them twenty years ago let alone now.”

Mom wasn’t alone in thinking that. When The Rolling Stones announced the handful of select cities they’d visit on 50 and Counting…, the band’sfiftieth anniversary tour, their age (“But Keith Richards is probably gonna die soon!”) and the $100-$900 price range for seats were topics more avidly discussed than the fact that this rock band had made it through to the better half of a century together. My friends thought I was borderline institutional for entertaining the idea of wasting two hours and hundreds of dollars on The Rolling Stones, and so a volley of YouTube clips hit my inbox, a damning reel of highlights recorded from recent awards shows and other anniversary tours that displayed an exhausted-looking Richards and a flailing, shouting Mick Jagger in a most unfavorable light. Even my dad—the man responsible for my Rolling Stones fandom and the one whose glove compartment I lifted a tape of Tattoo You from at the age of ten—was taken aback by the fact that I was so determined to find tickets to the Brooklyn show of 50 and Counting… just to watch a band of senior rock musicians “who’ve seen better days” play through a predictable set list.

No one seemed to get why I was so hell-bent on seeing The Rolling Stones, so when the time to hit the “Confirm Reservation” button came, I had forgotten why I had decided to hand over my rent check to TicketMaster in exchange for the chance to see the greatest rock band in history play songs that mean more to me than even I understand—and I subsequently freaked the fuck out. I forgot about how, while driving back and forth between Brooklyn and Boston this fall, Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed anchored my sanity on I-84, especially because “Call Me Maybe” and “Some Nights,” two of the most lyrically inept songs ever written, were also Clear Channel’s favorite singles to play and therefore unavoidable unless I dodged Connecticut’s airwaves throughout the course of the four-hour drive. I forgot that the first real conversation I had with my dad about music was about The Rolling Stones, one about his favorite song of theirs, “Bitch,” and how it was overshadowed by “Brown Sugar” on 1971’s Sticky Fingers. I forgot about how I’d told an ex-boyfriend that I wanted to walk down the aisle to “Happy” should we ever get married, and I forgot about how many times I opted to belt the chorus to “Gimme Shelter” into a hairbrush in front of a mirror as a teenager.

I more or less forgot about the fact that The Rolling Stones have provided the off-peak soundtrack to my life, despite the fact that I was born fourteen years after the release of Exile on Main St. I sought solace in the straightforward tenacity of their choruses instead of settling for the shitty, manufactured pop songs that my friends sang along with when they came on at the dive bar, and the musical inclinations of Jagger, Richards & Co. have set the standard for my taste as a listener, fan, and critic from the get-go.

I had forgotten all of this, and yet with one play of “Doom and Gloom,” the first single from their newly released greatest hits collection, I came to. I clicked “Confirm” and that was that. I was going to see The Rolling Stones, and I was going because I needed to see them—to hear the steady build of “Gimme Shelter,” to groan when “Miss You” made an appearance, to jump up and down like a maniac during “Get Off Of My Cloud”—and this was the first time I’ve ever felt so compelled to declare my love for a band so openly before, despite the fact that I knew that I was potentially setting myself up for the kind of epic disappointment that can only occur when your expectations of meeting your idol fall short.

Thankfully, Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie eviscerated every skeptic thought in the house when they took the stage at the Barclays Center for the big event on December 8. Though 50 and Counting… could’ve been the safe and tired victory lap of a final tour, the scene that unfolded was that of a jovial reunion, one where Ronnie Wood galloped across the stage without hitting a wrong note while Richards took to his solos with the effortless dexterity of a person who has cradled the neck of a guitar in his hands more frequently than he hasn’t over the course of the past fifty years. Jagger’s bellow reached the highest and lowest recesses of his range, and though his gait and the topography of his face tell the truth about his age, the flamboyant frontman ran at the crowd with an identical fervor to that of himself thirty years prior. (Or so I’m told, anyway). Richards and Wood sauntered back to the drum kit and turned and faced the arena before them in unison, and as Jagger shimmied, clapped and convulsed while the room erupted as the hits flew into the ether, I stood there slack-jawed thinking about how impossible it was for them to be so good when time, logic and the basic truths of the human form seemed to be working against them.

The show may not have been perfect—my prediction of a Beyoncé cameo during “Gimme Shelter” disintegrated when Mary J. Blige showed up, and “Midnight Rambler,” well, rambled—but to say that I got what I paid for would be an immense understatement. 2012, for me, was the year when Autotune became a superficial stylistic choice as opposed to a performance crutch, where The Black Keys farmed out the track list of El Camino to any studio that wanted to opt it for a movie trailer and a song like “Call Me Maybe” earned more accolades for its saccharine hooks than any other single on the charts. It was also the year of The Rolling Stones, in that the rock icons showed the world, and me, that a good song is an immortal thing that can only grow stronger with age—and that a fiftieth anniversary tour isn’t to be met with the same expectations of a retirement party. 

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