John Bartus

Last weekend, the Rolling Stones kicked off their Hackney Diamonds American tour in Texas. The first concert opened to rave reviews. It surely seems, some 60+ years on, that Mick and Keith and Ron haven’t lost a whole lot.

There are several fan-shot videos on YouTube, and the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band is firing on all cylinders. Octogenarian Mick Jagger still struts around the huge stadium stage like he’s in his 20s, and his voice somehow sounds better than it did in concerts from back in the ’60s and ’70s. Eighty-year-old Keith Richards and 76-year-old Ron Wood keep the six- (and 5-) strings working in that magical Stones guitar interplay that no other band does nearly as well. It’s really incredible to watch Richards play those riffs he came up with all those decades ago, especially if you’ve ever seen a close-up photo of his hands.

The legendary Steve Jordan drives the band on drums. Original Stones drummer Charlie Watts suggested to Mick and Keith that if something happened to him, they should use Jordan to replace him. Jordan is a veteran of recording and live performances with artists as diverse as Don Henley, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, Donald Fagen, Neil Young and many more. He was also the drummer for the Saturday Night Live house band in the 1970s (and played on the Blues Brothers’ debut album). He also held the drum chair in Paul Shaffer’s Late Night with David Letterman band. He really captures Charlie’s spirit and feel on the Stones’ older and newer material.

Other Stones stalwarts on tour include Chuck Leavell on keyboards, a job he’s had on Stones tours for the last few decades. The 72-year-old Leavell was a member of the Allman Brothers, and since then he’s worked in Sea Level and with artists as varied as Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, John Mayer, the Black Crowes, George Harrison, the Indigo Girls, Blues Traveler, Train and more. He’s been the Stones’ chief keyboardist and musical director since 1982.

Bassist Darryl Jones joined up with the Stones upon founding bassist Bill Wyman’s retirement in 1993. Before that, he was a member of Sting’s first post-Police band. Other artists he’s worked with include Miles Davis, Patti LaBelle, Eric Clapton, Philip Bailey, Joe Cocker, B.B. King and Rod Stewart. He’s a relative youngster at only 62.

Background vocalist Bernard Fowler has been with the band since the Steel Wheels tour in 1989. He shares vocal duties with Chanel Haynes, a singer who played Tina Turner in a musical staged in the West End in London. She’s Mick’s vocal foil for the classic “Gimme Shelter,” and is also featured on the new “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” where she captures Lady Gaga’s incredible duet with Mick.

The tour opener’s setlist featured a great selection of classic Stones hits, some deeper tracks, and three songs from their new album “Hackney Diamonds.” (I’m hoping that they add a couple more of the newer songs as the tour goes on.) As they’ve done in several tours, fans were able to vote for a specific song at each tour stop. The first fan-voted request was “Beast of Burden” — yet another classic from their vast repertoire.

It’s that catalog of songs and great material that keeps generations of fans coming back, decade after decade, to experience one of the greatest shows on Earth. I’ve seen the Stones several times, the last time in Miami in 2019 — sadly, the last show Watts played with the band. Sarah and I will be heading up to Orlando in June to see them one more time. The fact that the Rolling Stones, a band formed in 1962 (the year after I was born), is still out there rocking should give us all hope as we experience the consequences of the passing of time. And maybe we’ll all get just a little satisfaction as the days and years march on.

– Catch John live Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Friday with Jade Storm at Lorelei, this Saturday at Boardwalk on Big Pine Key, and Sundays at Skipjack Tiki Bar. Find his music anywhere you download or stream your music. •

John Bartus
Very few towns or cities could ever claim that their Mayor was a smokin' hot guitar player. The island city of Marathon in the Florida Keys is one of those towns. While politics is a temporary call to service, music is a life sentence. John Bartus, a more-than-four-decade full-time professional musician, singer, and songwriter, continues to raise the bar with his groundbreaking solo acoustic show. It’s easy to catch John on one of his more than 200 shows a year throughout the Keys on his Perpetual Island Tour. His CD releases include After The Storm, Keys Disease 10th Anniversary Remaster, and Live From the Florida Keys Vol. 2. John’s music is available wherever you download or stream your music.