He’s The Boss! Perry S On Why Mick Jagger’s Still The Best Frontman In Rock

A couple of weeks ago I Tweeted the following after seeing Mick Jagger on the 2011 GRAMMY Awards:  “And that kids, is how it’s done. Mick Jagger. The ONLY frontman in music.”

There was a lot of buzz leading up to the show because Sunday, February 13, 2011 would mark Mick’s first ever live performance on the GRAMMYs.  Hard to believe that almost 50 years into his career Mick has never performed on the show – I think this says more about the GRAMMYs and the Recording Academy then Mick’s willingness or ability to perform.
Over the past few weeks I have watched Jagger’s epic six minute tribute to R&B legend Solomon Burke a number of times.  It’s amazing.  Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Mick still has it.  It left me wondering when we’re all going to admit that’s he’s always had it and, until he decides to hang up the silk shirts and tight pants, he’ll never lose it.

What makes the performance so remarkable is that Jagger is 67 years old.  Sure the definitions of old have changed –  there’s no denying that 60 is the new 50 and Viagara has levelled the playing field (see what I did there) –  but I remember getting jazzed to see the Steel Wheels tour in 1989 when Mick was a mere 45 years of age and the media referred to the event as the “Steel Wheelchair” tour.  I wonder how many of those pundits are working at the same level today, or dare I say it, better, all these years later.
This year’s GRAMMY telecast was one of the best in recent years.  From Gaga’s jaw-dropping Madonna redux and Beiber’s Michael Jackson-inspired pop extravaganza, to the generational mash-up of Bob Dylan with Mumford & Sons and Avett Brothers, the show had something for everyone.  Even Streisand brought the house down with her impeccable (and live) vocals.

But go back and watch the clip of Jagger working the crowd.  From the moment he tosses aside the gold cape and invites the audience to join him in saying “Yeah!” he owns the room.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these award show performances get the entire crowd off their feet and dancing in the aisles.  When Mick takes to the catwalk in front of the stage, the entire crowd erupts and everyone in the room simultaneously becomes a fan – not a celebrity, not a producer, not an ‘A-lister’ and not an artist – simply a fan – heck, even  Nicole Kidman looked human grooving with her husband Keith Urban, and Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyoncé looked simply awestruck.
The performance even made me forget about the classic performance of the song in the penultimate scene in the Belushi/Aykroyd classic The Blues Brothers (not an easy task).
This got me thinking about what’s next for Mick Jagger and possibly the Rolling Stones.  Rumours of an upcoming tour continue to percolate but one has to wonder if there’s enough in the tanks for founding member Charlie Watts who will turn 70 later this year, and guitarist Ronnie Wood who continues to battle the bottle, ex-wives and who knows what else (Ronnie was the weak-link during the Stones’ A Bigger Bang tour in 2005).
Then there’s the relationship between the Stones’ co-chairmen Jagger and Keith Richards.  I recently read Richards’ autobiography Life.  While the book is a solid read for any Stones fan, the most shocking parts of the book occur when Richards takes personal shots at Jagger calling him everything from ‘Brenda’ to ‘her Majesty’ while describing his working relationship with Jagger as increasingly ‘unbearable’.  Jagger hasn’t said much about the book publicly, but one has to wonder how these two get on with each other these days seeing as there’s enough water under the bridge to practically swim all the way to Babylon.
I had always thought of Keith as the heart and soul of the band while Mick was likely the brains.  This may ultimately be true, but following his GRAMMY performance I would also argue that Mick is likely the blood and oxygen that keeps the Stones rolling.  Can you imagine what that tribute would have been like if it were Keith up there in that room?  It would have been cool, but there’s no way people are talking about it the next day like they were with Mick. 
So here’s my suggestion on what could be next for Mick Jagger.  Take a page out of Rod Stewart’s book and record an album of American standards – not the pop stuff that Rod is doing, but rather the blues and R&B tunes that turned him on to American music as a kid.  Then, put together a killer band (guitars, bass, drums, piano, horns and background vocals) and hit the road – not an extensive tour, but a tour of America’s great halls and theatres (think Riviera Theatre in Chicago or The Apollo Theatre in Harlem).  The entire venture could culminate with a show back at London’s Royal Albert Hall (bringing the American blues back to the UK). 

I have read where Mick doesn’t like looking back or being nostalgic about the past.  Even though he was a 67 year old man singing a 47 year old song, there was nothing nostalgic about that GRAMMY performance. It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t a slick production.  It was raw energy and the purest performance of the night.  Even without the bells and whistles of a Stones tour, Mick Jagger remains the greatest front-man in the history of rock ‘n’ roll and as long as he’s alive, the likes of Bono, Vedder, Daltry, Tyler, Plant and Rose will have to fight over #2.

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