ST. LOUIS >> Sunday night in St. Louis, the Rolling Stones pulled off what would have seemed inconceivable at any other time in the band’s long history: touring without venerable drummer Charlie Watts.
The “No Filter Tour,” which initially kicked off in 2017 and was delayed in 2020 because of the pandemic, resumed in front of 40,000 fans at The Dome at America’s Center.
The band originally was scheduled to perform here June 27, 2020.
Watts — part of the classic lineup with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood — died in August. The band had announced shortly before that he was ill and that it would tour without him.
The two-hour-plus concert started with images of Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts flashing on video screens. The final image, a photo of a smiling Watts, cued the band’s entrance onstage for “Street Fighting Man,” from the 1968 album “Beggars Banquet.”
The Rolling Stones wasted no time acknowledging their recently departed comrade, huddling closely after the show’s second selection, “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It),” to pay homage.
“This is our first tour we’ve ever done without him,” Jagger said, holding Richards’ hand. “We all miss Charlie so much on the stage and off the stage, and we’d like to dedicate this tour to Charlie.”
As the crowd cheered, Jagger concluded with “Here’s to you, Charlie,” as the band launched into “Tumbling Dice.”
The concert was technically the Rolling Stones’ second without Watts, following a private show last week in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Steve Jordan now occupies Watts’ role and kept the beat moving.
The Rolling Stones — 10 pieces, also including Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell (keyboards), Tim Reas (saxophone), and Sasha Allen and Bernard Fowler (vocals) — played a 19-song set with many of the expected hits, including “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Paint It Black,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Honky Tonk Women” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” along with occasional surprises such as “Living in a Ghost Town,” a new song making its tour debut.
The band sounded invigorated after its unscheduled break, revving up “Start Me Up” to the max, basking in a gospel-revival feel for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and applying an epic sheen to “Miss You” and “Midnight Rambler.”
On the latter, Jagger played a harmonica solo before dramatically falling to his knees. The 78-year-old rocker, outfitted in a series of shiny, colorful jackets and shirts, energetically strutted up and down the stage, showing that he still has the moves (like Jagger — thanks, Maroon 5).
Votes from fans led to a performance of “Wild Horses,” Jagger explained. The song, an excellent choice, beat “Angie,” “Ruby Tuesday” and “Fool to Cry.”
Richards, whom Jagger said was glad to be in Chuck Berry’s hometown, assumed the front-and-center position for “Slipping Away” (from the band’s “Steel Wheels” album) and “Happy” (from “Exile on Main St.”). Watching Richards take the wheel remains a thrill.
Jagger paused to point out that, since arriving in St. Louis, he’d visited the Gateway Arch, City Museum (and its 10-story slide), Ted Drewes Frozen Custard and Crown Candy Kitchen.
He also pointed out that Olympic gymnast Simone Biles was in the house. And he referenced the band’s first St. Louis performance, a 1966 show at Kiel Convention Hall. That show was half empty.
After a pyro-filled “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the show ended almost as it started, with a large image of Watts as the stage faded to black.
Though no one has said so definitively, it’s easy to surmise that this tour could be the Rolling Stones’ last hurrah. But based on what transpired onstage, the band shows no signs of slowing down.
Still, the tour officially ends in November, and it seems unlikely that another is in the band’s future, considering the time it would take to mount. (Richards is 77, and Wood is 74.)
But if this is indeed the Rolling Stones’ farewell to the road, the band can tumble off into the sunset, confident in a job well done.
New Orleans-based rock band the Revivalists, whose addition to the tour was announced just days before it began, warmed up the crowd amiably with selections such as “You Said It All,” “Change,” “Soulfight” and “Celebration.”
“I know you’re not here for us, but it feels good to be playing again,” lead singer David Shaw said. “We’ve been sitting on the couch for too long.”
There were no COVID-19 vaccine or testing requirements for concertgoers, but the band has said its members are vaccinated and are advocating for fans to also be vaccinated. BJC HealthCare representatives were offering vaccinations at the concert.
>> “Street Fighting Man”
>> “It’s Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It)”
>> “Tumbling Dice”
>> “Under My Thumb”
>> “19th Nervous Breakdown”
>> “Wild Horses”
>> “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
>> “Living in a Ghost Town”
>> “Start Me Up”
>> “Honky Tonk Women”
>> “Slipping Away”
>> “Miss You”
>> “Midnight Rambler”
>> “Paint It Black”
>> “Sympathy for the Devil”
>> “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
>> “Gimme Shelter”
>>(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”