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Rolling Stones' audience ages like their music

October 14, 1997

PHILADELPHIA - It took forever to get into the Rolling Stones concert Sunday night. No, it wasn't the traffic, it was just that I got stopped frequently and asked for autographs because all the people thought I was Keith Richards.

I admit I haven't aged well.

But neither had anyone else. Everyone, not just me, looked like Keith Richards. Even some of the women - the ones with short tank tops leaving the midrift bare, wearing black jeans with the button unfastened. Remember when that was the fashion, what, 54 years ago? It peaked right after the fad where women wore their sweaters inside out and let their belt droop halfway down their pants.

Yes, as an audience, many of us were old. A sea of people who probably knew how to look cool once upon a time and thought they could recreate the image. It was a bit sad. Several times I wanted to take a leather-and-turquoise encrusted mother of three aside, hold her hand and whisper softly into her ear. "It's over."

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Like I was a good one to talk. The only thing I had most of the guys there was hair. And the only thing they had on me was kids - whom they brought along to the concert. I'm all for family outings, but that just would have been too weird.

I gave it a real try, but I think my major concert-going days may be toast. I will get down no more forever. I was tired after the drive. I missed the opening act entirely, which I used to do because it was cool but that night I did because I didn't want to miss "60 Minutes."

I worked myself into a rabid, Stone's-like frenzy with an extra-large Coke and two Snickers bars. Bloodstream surging, I was OK for a while. I rocked through "Satisfaction," and then I faded.

The stage had a rather bronzed, antique-look, which as my friend Kate pointed out later was probably an unanticipated metaphor for the group. It almost looked like the Maryland Theatre, in a baroque sort of way. Over the stage was a 50-foot ovoid much in the fashion of an old broach, which served as the Jumbo Vision for those of us who were not fortunate enough to be within 230 miles of the stage and for people whose eyesight at this point is somewhat poorer than a bear past rutting season.

Mick, from what I could see, had on a white dinner jacket, a silk shirt and blue velvet scarf. Charlie Watts looked amazed about something. Amazed to be alive perhaps. But maybe more amazed that 60,000 people - more than who came to see the Phillies during the entire month of May - would make the effort to witness such an event.

And in truth, it was pretty darned impressive that four AARP eligibles could sound so good and keep up such a pace.

It was a beautiful moon over the stadium, it was a perfect night and the Rolling Stones were an entirely plausible rock group. But the best symbolism came when, crashing badly after the Snickers I was standing in the concession line for a hot dog.

A woman, who was 40 years old if she were a day, came up to me and asked if I would buy her a beer since she "had forgotten her ID." I wanted to tell her that if they carded her they would just as likely card George Burns.

No concession boy would have questioned, for example, that she had possibly signed off on the Dead Sea Scrolls.

But it hit me then that she FELT young - young enough to recall the halcyon days of road trips and fake IDs.

And as much as the music, isn't that what the Rolling Stones bring us? And isn't that really the crux of their appeal?

Well no, of course not. It's the music. But at least it gives us an excuse for feeling like young fools who may still have a few good years left in us.

If Keith Richards can party on, so can we.

I bought the woman a beer.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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