The Rolling Stones honor Detroit with spirited show at Ford Field

Legendary rock band covered the Temptations and Mick Jagger talked coney dogs, the Detroit Lions and more during Monday night's show at Ford Field.

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Mick Jagger said "whatupdoe" — and possibly goodbye — to Detroit on Monday night at the Rolling Stones' energetic two-hour, 15-minute concert at Ford Field, which included a Motown cover, a shout out to the winless Detroit Lions and even a mention of downtown Detroit's warring coney establishments. 

It was the Stones' first Detroit show since a July 2015 outing at Comerica Park, and obviously a lot has changed since then, both inside and outside the confines of the world's greatest living rock band.  

The biggest change to the Stones came in August when Charlie Watts, the foursome's drummer since 1963, died at age 80. Are the Rolling Stones still the Rolling Stones without Watts? Well, they're a version of the Rolling Stones, but they'll never truly be whole again.

And Monday's show at Ford Field came under markedly different conditions than that comparatively carefree summer evening back in 2015. (Ah, remember 2015?) This was a Monday night, in 30 degree temperatures, a week after the time change, two days after the season's first snow and in the midst of a still-ongoing global pandemic. "Gimme Shelter" takes on a different meaning after a year spent in quarantine.

The Stones — and Jagger in particular — seemed to take all that into account Monday. They worked the crowd of 30,000-plus for the duration of the 19-song performance, which marked Ford Field's first concert since Garth Brooks played to 70,000 fans in February 2020, just three weeks before COVID-19 shut the world down. (There were no vaxx checks or mask requirements at Monday's concert.) 

Mick Jagger, front, and new drummer Steve Jordan.  The Rolling Stones perform at Ford Field in Detroit on Nov. 15, 2021.

Though Keith Richards seemed to mentally come and go in and out of the show (just as his guitar seemed to magically switch on and off), Jagger was a nonstop source of energy and entertainment, a bouncing, strutting, preening figure with more pep in his step than a Peloton instructor. He's always been unbelievable to watch, but to be doing what he's doing at 78 years of age makes him nothing short of superhuman. (At least he wasn't trying to hide his chugs of water between songs, or his occasional nose blows.) 

Jagger's so good he isn't even fair. Certainly not to the other members of the band, for any time spent looking at them is time you're not watching Jagger, and who knows what kind of hand-waving, finger-pointing, shoulder-shimmying, head-nodding move you may miss from him. He zooms around the stage like a 5-year-old buzzed up on sugar, dancing to his own rhythm and without a care in the world, brandishing a blazing sense of self-confidence more powerful than the sun. He's hands down the greatest rock and roll performer of all-time, and Bruce Springsteen will probably tell you the same thing. He's more than a force of nature; Mother Nature herself wishes she had moves like Jagger. 

The Stones didn't waste any time paying tribute to Watts, opening Monday's show with images of the Stones' stickman on the stage's towering walls of video screens. A few songs into the set, Jagger dedicated the concert to Watts, leading the crowd along in chants of "Char-lie! Char-lie!"

The concert opens with a montage of photographs of Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer who died on Aug. 24, 2021.  The Rolling Stones No Filter tour at Ford Field in Detroit on Nov. 15, 2021.

Touring drummer Steve Jordan filled in for Watts, part of an up-to-eight member backing band which included two backup singers, two sax players (including Michigan native Tim Ries) and a pair of keyboard men who rounded out the group's raw but muscular sound.

"Street Fighting Man" opened the greatest hits-heavy set, just as it has most of the current leg of the "No Filter" tour, which kicked off in late September and wraps next week. It was followed by the "Voodoo Lounge" cut "You Got Me Rocking" and 1966's "19th Nervous Breakdown."

Mentioning the band members' love of Motown — guitarist Ronnie Wood made a stop at the Motown Museum a day before the show — Jagger told the crowd, "we can't come to Detroit and not do a Motown number, right?" before launching into the Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," a song the band initially covered in 1974 and included on their album "It's Only Rock 'n Roll."

Jagger, who was in a chatty mood, gave out several shout-outs to Detroit and the surrounding cities, and told the crowd "whatupdoe!" before launching into a charged "Start Me Up." (Props to whomever schooled Mick in local colloquialisms prior to the show.)

He later talked about the group's nearly 60 years of playing in Detroit (21 concerts, by their count) and their own history inside Ford Field — they played the venue's first concert in 2002, and played a little gig at Super Bowl XL in 2006 — before going down a rabbit hole of Detroit references.

"Things are looking up for the Lions!" Jagger said, to a chorus of laughter from the crowd. "I mean, they tied the match!" (Referring to a football game as a "match" is honestly better than if he had just gotten it right, and any mention of Sunday's dismal tie to the Pittsburgh Steelers was bound to draw groans.) 

The Rolling Stones Ronnie Wood, left, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and new drummer Steve Jordan, rear, take the stage at Ford Field.

To celebrate the Lions' tie, Jagger said he "rented a MoGo and went fowling" — MoGo is downtown's biking service, fowling is the native-to-Detroit combination of football and bowling — "and then, I got a bit hungry, so I wanted a coney, but I didn't know whether to go to the Lafayette or American. So I tried both! And I finished the night with a Boston Cooler, some Pepto Bismol and I went to bed early." 

(Judging from a social media post that went up in the wee hours of Monday, it looks like Jagger actually tooled around downtown Detroit in the dead of night, posed for photos at several area landmarks and went to bed the opposite of early, but maybe he meant early for him.)  

Richards' mid-show two-song set was a lull at a time when the show needed a pick-me-up — he cracked a "it's good to be here, it's good to be anywhere" joke for what must be the 7,000,000th time of his career — but things came roaring back with "Miss You" and "Midnight Rambler," the latter of which was stretched out to 10-plus minutes, built up then broken down to its bones and built up to a big ol' fire once again.

From there it was all fastballs — "Paint it Black," "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" to close the set, "Gimme Shelter" and "Satisfaction" for the closer — and the band members took a bow at center stage to close out the evening as fireworks popped off on either side of the stage. 

Throughout the night, Jagger showed he's not only the glue that holds everything together, he's the oil that keeps the machine running. If there's no Jagger, there's no any of this. And for a long time, it was thought that without the four of them together, there was no any of this. So how long do they keep going from here? How long can they keep going from here? And is anyone taking bets against Jagger's ability to do this as long as he wants? 

No one is saying that Monday night is the end of the Rolling Stones in Detroit, and there's a lot of money to be made from farewell tours, and the Rolling Stones aren't exactly known for leaving money on the table. But if Monday winds up being the end, it was a sweet goodbye and a happy farewell, a charming evening even given the rough conditions under which it unfolded. And goodbyes don't always get to be on mutual terms. Like the song says, you can't always get what you want.

You get what you need.


Set list: 

"Street Fighting Man" 

"You Got Me Rocking" 

"19th Nervous Breakdown"

"Tumbling Dice"

"Ain't Too Proud to Beg"

"Wild Horses"

"You Can't Always Get What You Want"

"Living in a Ghost Town"

"Start Me Up"

"Honky Tonk Women"


"Before They Make Me Run"

"Miss You"

"Midnight Rambler"

"Paint It Black"

"Sympathy for the Devil"

"Jumpin' Jack Flash"


"Gimme Shelter"

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"