Time is on their side: the Rolling Stones in Pittsburgh
June 18, 2015 12:00 AM
Mick Jagger performs in 2005 at PNC Park during the Rolling Stones' most recent show in Pittsburgh.
The Rolling Stones’ visit to Heinz Field on Saturday will make it an amazing 51-year span between shows in Pittsburgh.
Here is a look back:
June 17, 1964, West View Park: Although the Beatles were the spark of the British Invasion, it was the Rolling Stones who got to Pittsburgh first, in a small-scale invasion at West View Park Danceland on a nine-city debut U.S. tour. While the Stones were causing riots in England, in the States the band’s only hit was a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” that peaked at No. 48.
Unlike the Beatles, who had thrilled American audiences on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February, the Stones didn’t get that showcase until October. Instead, they were stuck with a June 3 appearance on “The Hollywood Palace,” where they were ridiculed by host Dean Martin for their scruffy hair.
There were those in the Danceland crowd of a few hundred people who weren't quite ready for them. “They were heckled at West View,” recalls Ed Salamon, who went on to an illustrious radio career. “They were pelted by wadded-up paper cups and called names because of their long hair. Danceland was a conservative venue where Beatle-type hair was not yet accepted. It wasn’t Walnut Street in Shadyside.”
The 20-minute set sounded “really raw,” according to local music historian Dave Goodrich, opening with “Hi Heel Sneakers” and closing with “Not Fade Away.” The opening acts were Bobby Goldsboro, the Pixies 3, Patti and Emblems, and the local band The Fenways
Nov. 24, 1965, Civic Arena: With a pair of No. 1 hits — “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction” and “Get off My Cloud” — to their credit, the Stones returned to play the same stage that had hosted the Beatles and Dave Clark Five. A more receptive crowd of 9,131 turned out for the KQV Thanksgiving Shower of Stars with opening acts including The Byrds, Bo Diddley, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. “I had seen ‘The TAMI Show’ [film] and, wow, I was impressed,” says singer Frank Czuri, of The Igniters and Silencers, who was at the Arena show. “That film shows what they sounded like at that time. They had a real grind to them.”
June 25, 1966, Civic Arena: The crowd was down for this “Aftermath” tour stop (6,214), even though the Stones had a No. 2 hit that year with “19th Nervous Breakdown” and a No. 1 with “Paint It Black.” The band played Cleveland in the afternoon, where the headline in the Plain Dealer read “Stones mobbed as concert ends,” and then arrived in Pittsburgh with opening acts the Standells and the McCoys. The Pittsburgh Press story, with the tamer headline “Weird hairdos, garb greet Rolling Stones,” focused mostly on the “avant garde clothing designer's fashion show” in the crowd and how long the boys' hair was.
Mick Jagger sings during the Rolling Stones' 1989 performance at Three Rivers Stadium. (Post-Gazette)
Ben Clark, right, and Robin Gaffney jam to the warm-up band at the Rolling Stones concert in Three Rivers Stadium in 1989. (Susie Post/The Pittsburgh Press)
Here is an excerpt:
Inside, the 7,000 shouting fans went into near hysteria when one of their idols, Mick Jagger, fell to the stage, grasping his hand, which apparently was shocked by the microphone he was holding.
The show was interrupted when he was helped to his dressing room.
“What the heck are they talking about?” asked an electrician, called in to repair the mic. “It only has 150 ohms going through it, and that's less than one watt ... and they were standing on a wooden stage. My kid gets shocked worse than that when he pokes his finger in a light socket.”
Jagger, feeling more like an embarrassed pebble, returned gallantly with his partner and completed the show.
July 22, 1972, Civic Arena: The Stones skipped Pittsburgh on the ’69 tour, so by the time they returned they had quite a bit more firepower, having churned out “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Brown Sugar.” This tour was legendary, following the release of “Exile on Main Street.” At the tour opener in Vancouver, 31 policemen were injured in a fan stampede. On July 18, Jagger and Keith Richards were arrested after a fight with a photographer and were bailed out by the mayor of Boston, who feared a riot if they didn't play that night.
On the next to last date, The Stones were greeted in Pittsburgh by a crowd of 13,845 (breaking the record of 13,759 set a week earlier by The Jackson Five). Tickets were $5.50 and $6.50 and were being scalped for up to $20 outside. Several hundred fans outside were shut out of tickets and caused trouble for police, resulting in four dozen arrests, according to the Press.
Stevie Wonder and Martha and the Vandellas opened, and then Jagger refused to go on if the band was introduced by the radio people in attendance, according to promoter Pat Dicesare. The Press review didn't mention a single song, while noting, “It was nearly impossible to hear the words to the songs, but no one could care less.” I'm guessing if you actually knew the words, you could probably hear them.
Sept. 6, 1989, Three Rivers Stadium: Pittsburgh fell off the list for tours after “It's Only Rock ’n Roll” (1975), “Some Girls” (1978) and “Tattoo You” (1981), and the ’80s were marked by tensions within the band and solo projects, making it 17 years before they returned here. About 63,000 fans packed Three Rivers Stadium for the spectacle of the “Steel Wheels” tour, the band's first in seven years, with Living Colour and giant inflatables. In what would be the final tour for Bill Wyman, the band played a 27-song set opening with “Start Me Up” and ending with “Jumpin' Jack Flash.”
Keith Ricahrds and the Rolling Stones return to Pittsburgh this Friday. (Post-Gazette file photo)
Fans at Three Rivers Stadium cheer on the Rolling Stones during a 1989 concert. (The Pittsburgh Press)
Sept. 29, 1994, Three Rivers Stadium: The Stones returned on the “Voodoo Lounge” tour and “put the band's ’89 appearance to shame,” according to the PG review. It was another elaborate stage with a lounge motif, giant inflatables and the world's largest video screen at the time. The review said, “As for Jagger, his voice may not be surviving middle age quite so well as his body, but that hardly seemed to matter as he led the all-ages crowd in massive shout-alongs on everything from ‘Start Me Up’ to ‘Brown Sugar’ to ‘It's Only Rock 'n' Roll.’” Blind Melon was the opener — a far cry from Stevie Wonder.
March 11, 1999, Civic Arena: “No cornball concepts. No fancy stage sets. No giant inflatables. And no bad new album to take up unnecessary space in the set list,” according to my PG review. The first show in the Civic Arena since 1972 was a nice stripped-down affair mixing Hot Rocks with a few lesser-known nuggets. With ticket prices reaching upward of $250, the sold-out show (17,500-plus) was the highest-grossing event in the history of the Civic Arena at the time. Surprises included “Fool to Cry,” “Some Girls” and “Route 66.” The clear highlight was the hot “Midnight Rambler” performed on the B stage.
Jan. 10, 2003, Civic Arena: The Licks Tour, with a great opening set by Ryan Adams, had the Stones focusing on the “Let it Bleed” songs.
Sept. 28, 2005, PNC Park: The Stones came in promising “A Bigger Bang,” and got right to it, with fireworks and flames shooting out of the floor on opener “Start Me Up.” At one point, they rolled a portion of the stage out to the middle of the crowd for a mini set that included “Miss You” and “Honky Tonk Women,” with a giant inflatable tongue. Eddie Vedder, of opener Pearl Jam, joined the band for “Wild Horses.”
Keith Richards performs during the Rolling Stones concert at PNC Park in September 2005. (Alyssa Cwanger/Post-Gazette)
Maureen O'Friel, left, and Kimberly Karabinos, hold up their Rolling Stones tickets as they enter PNC Park for the 2005 show. (Alyssa Cwanger/Post-Gazette)
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg.
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