Rolling Stones in Abu Dhabi

Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie bringing 50 years of music to Yas Island


Can you believe your eyes and ears? We couldn’t believe it when we first heard, in fact we couldn’t believe it for weeks afterwards. But our dream really has come true. The greatest band in the history of music is coming to the Middle East for the first time.

That’s right, The Rolling Stones are performing at du Arena, Yas Island on Feb 21. Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie are bringing 50 years of touring, 10 No.1 albums, 8 UK No.1 singles and 4 further US No.1 singles to what is guaranteed to be an adoring Abu Dhabi audience.

The generation-defying rockers are still going strong, having already played sellout gigs both sides of the Atlantic to mark the band’s 50th anniversary at the end of 2012. More shows followed in 2013, including landmark performances at the Glastonbury festival (the first in the band’s history) and Hyde Park, and now it’s Abu Dhabi’s turn to feel the force of The Rolling Stones in action.

Kicking off the Asian and South Pacific leg of the 2013-14 tour (branded The Rolling Stones 14 ON FIRE), this month’s concert is without doubt the most important music event happen in Abu Dhabi recently, with some commentators going so far as to say that the gig might be the most important imported one-off cultural event to have happened in the UAE to date.

Whether you’re a fan of the Stones’ music or not (and you really should be), this is an event you simply cannot afford to miss. It may only be February, but one of the biggest highlights in the UAE in 2014 is already here.
Du Arena, Yas Island 7.30pm-10.30pm (02 509 8000)

The history

When Mick Jagger ran into forgotten childhood friend Keith Richards in a train station on the outskirts of London, neither could have possibly predicted that a Muddy Waters vinyl Jagger had clutched under his arm would be a spark that would go on to create the biggest band in music history. Realising a shared passion for the sound of American blues, the pair began playing covers together at Jagger’s house, and attending events at jazz and blues clubs in West London, where they would go on to meet the original members of The Rolling Stones.

The pair, alongside bassist Dick Taylor and keyboard player Ian Stewart, answered an advert placed by guitarist Brian Jones who was looking to form a Chicago Blues covers band to tour the club scene. The group’s first gig was at The Marquee Club in 1962, and when the band were booked over the phone the venue asked what the group’s name was. Jones’ picked up a Muddy Waters LP from the floor of the flat he was sharing with Jagger and Richards, scanned through the tracks, and picked the first one that sounded like a viable band name; the track was called Rollin’ Stone, and then and there the legend was born.

Taylor and drummer Tony Chapman were replaced by bassist Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts on drums in 1963, creating the first official lineup of the band. They quickly found fame, playing to sellout crowds of adoring fans and scoring their first No.1 in June 1964 with a cover of The Valentinos’ All Over Now. The band’s big worldwide breakthrough would come a year later, when the Jagger and Richards original song (I can’t get no) Satisfaction went to No.1 across the globe, including in the United States.

Aftermath, the first Stones’ album free of covers and written entirely by Jagger and Richards, went to No.1 in 1966, and contained two further No.1 singles, Get Off of My Cloud and Paint it Black (on the US version of the album only). By this time it was clear that Jagger and Richards had taken the reins from Jones’ as the leaders of the band, and despite the increased success and adoration they received Jones became more and more disillusioned with his role in the group.

After a series of clashes Jones was asked to leave the band in June 1969. A month later he would be dead, after drowning in his swimming pool.

Jones would be replaced by Mick Taylor, a superior musician who bought an extra element of flare to the band’s sound. Taylor’s tenure as Richard’s dueling guitars foil lasted five years, and is regarded by most fans as the period when The Stones’ were at their best creatively. The band recorded four consecutive number No.1 albums, Let it Bleed (1969), Sticky Fingers (1971), Goat’s Head Soup (1973) and Exile on Main St (1972), the record almost universally accredited as being the band’s creative masterpiece.

Taylor left the band at the end of the 1974 tour, and after many auditions it was decided that Ronnie Wood, the guitarist of Faces, would replace him. The band would only go on to have two further No.1 albums, but would continue as a touring goliath up until the present day. Bill Wyman left the band in 1993, leaving Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood as the last men standing.

After a dip in popularity and infighting that marred the 80’s, the band roared back in the 90’s, and have been smashing touring records ever since. Voodoo Lounge 1994-95 ($320 million), Bridges to Babylon 1997-98 ($274 million), Licks 2002-03 ($311 million) and A Bigger Bang 2006-07 ($630 million) all rank in the top 15 highest grossing tours of all time, when inflation-adjusted The Rolling Stones have raked in over $2 billion of tour revenue since 1980.

No matter how you measure it, whether it be the longevity of surviving 50 years of the industry, number of records sold, number of fans played to worldwide, or total revenue grossed, there is no doubt that when it comes to 20th century music, The Rolling Stones are the best there is, the best there ever was, and the best there ever will be.

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