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The Rolling Stones at Washington, DC RFK Stadium July 4th 1972
I grew up in the late 1960s as a huge Rolling Stones fan. My goddaughter (does that make her my godmother?) was the US President of the Rolling Stones Fan Club in 1966. I had all their records and was desperate to see them perform live.
Imagine my delight when tickets became available for the 4th of July concert at RFK Stadium in the spring of 1972. They sold out quickly, but I managed to score a pair. For me, the time from that day to the concert itself passed very slowly.
We all piled into my friend’s VW and headed out. It was festival seating so we wanted to get there early enough to get decent seats. As it happens, we arrived around 1:30pm and got perfect seats (for the baseball game – front row behind the 3rd base dugout), and as the stage was being set up in 2nd base, great seats for that evening.
And so there we were, with 5 hours to kill before Stevie Wonder entertained us as the opening act. The pungent smell of wacky tobacco wafted through the air, and bottles of cheap wine were scattered about. The atmosphere was great and everything was going swimmingly until we started hearing a loud disturbance coming from behind us. It was shouting and chanting and coming from outside the main gate. Apparently, some kids were trying to rush security at the entrance and crash the venue!
Well, this was all mildly amusing until someone shouted “they’re shooting tear gas!” Which made us all laugh until the wind changed direction and started blowing gas into the stadium. At that point we stopped giggling and tried to hold our breath. This worked for a while, until we needed to actually breathe, and then it was uncomfortable to say the least. Our eyes burned and we all suffered.
Finally, the police got a clue and stopped with tear gas. The air cleared and the first act took the stage. Stevie Wonder was fine. Almost no one cared about him (which was a shame), but he did his thing for about half an hour, and then walked off the stage to much acclaim from most of the audience. Such is the life of the opening act.
Then another 45 minutes passed and finally the Stones took the stage. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Rolling Stones,” it was the same tour. Probably their best tour ever. They supported their new album “Exile on Main Street”. Lots of good songs on that one, plus they did all their old hits (the same hits everyone wants to hear today). Mick noted the historic occasion (he did graduate in economics and history from the London School of Economics after all) and congratulated us all on our independence.
I’ve been to four Stones concerts over the years and each one created an atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a knife. I don’t know what it is about that band, but they do two amazing things every time. They create an amazing atmosphere like I said and treat the audience like you are equals. Absolutely no “hey, I’m a rock star, thanks for your bread man and we’ll play what we want or not play, whatever” signs. It’s weird, but you really feel like they’re your friends from the neighborhood and they’re just hanging out with you for those 2 hours.
Well, they played for just over 2 hours and 3 encores, and then it was time to head back to the car and try to find our way home again. All in all, just the best experience a 20-year-old could have had back then that didn’t involve Robert Redford and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Come on, use your imagination.
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