Zip Code Tour Heinz Field
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It had been 10 whole years since the Rolling Stones last graced Pittsburgh, PA with their presence. In 2005 during the Bigger Bang Tour they played PNC Park (Pirates baseball stadium), on a perfect September day. But, here we are 10 years later and the 2015 Zip Code Tour is rolling into 15121 Heinz Field (Steelers football stadium). If the stars ever aligned for a Rolling Stones show for me, this was it. This was my 80th Rolling Stones show.
There is nothing more exciting than the Stones coming to your hometown. And, this was to be my 5th hometown show since 1994. My first was at 3 Rivers Stadium (now torn down) during the Voodoo Lounge Tour in 1994, then 1999 during No Security at the Civic Arena (also now torn down), 2003 at the Mellon Arena (aka Civic Arena) during the Licks Tour & the aforementioned PNC Park in 2005. Here is a great read from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on those prior Pittsburgh shows.
I get the jitters on show day, but this wasn't just any other show day. I had a bunch of friends flying/driving in from Florida, DC, Chicago, NJ, Philly, etc. so it was a friends' reunion as much as a Stones reunion. I had heard rumors that the Stones would most likely stay at the new Fairmont Hotel, instead of the Renaissance & that turned out to be true. Thankfully, my friend's booked the Renaissance, which is just a block or two down. The afternoon before the show we gathered for drinks,appetizers, Stones chat and cackles at our hotel. I had picked up my tickets from Shelley at the Stones hotel that morning and I was more than thrilled and she was as usual, more than generous. We took a pic together and I got a few extra VIP passes in an attempt to accommodate all of my out of town friends. I also met Bolts at the Stones hotel and he and I had a lovely catch up chat. He gave me a gift I can't repay, but for all he has done in the past 13 years of our friendship I gifted him a sterling Stones tongue wallet chain from my collection. I saw Keith's daughter, Theodora, on the way out, but was told that Keith's family was actually leaving town and would not be attending the Pittsburgh show. Sorry to say, but that was to my definite benefit.
See My Pittsburgh Photo Album
The weather on show day was what everyone was worried about, and I was worried because I was invited to attend sound check, a Stones bucket list dream since my invite during the Licks Tour got foiled by Bill Clinton and the Secret Service in LA. There had been torrential downpours in the past few days in Pittsburgh and unfortunately more rain and storms with possible flooding were also called for on show day. If it was raining, there would be no soundcheck. I prayed that Keith's rain stick would work magic as it did in the past.
It began to really look like rain, and I began to worry. Heinz Field was on the other side of the river from our hotel and Pittsburgh is not an easy city to get a cab in on a normal day, let alone a day when 60,000 Stones fans are in town. So I decided to leave early and walk to the stadium before the skies opened up. There was a pre-party for the Shidoobee group on the North Shore near PNC Park, and although there were plenty of people I'd have loved to have seen, I was not able to attend if the stars were to align for me this afternoon/evening.
I walked to the back gate of Heinz Field, they checked my pass and I waltzed into the bowels of the stadium. Kinda cool for a Pittsburgher, let alone a Stones fan. I walked right out onto the floor of the stadium and just looked up at all those empty seats and the empty stage, pinching myself, because this was something I had NEVER had the access to do before. It was surreal from that moment on. No one was on stage yet, so I milled around under the stadium, and eventually I heard some noise from the field as "Tumbling Dice" started to play! Wow! I was finally at my very first Rolling Stones soundcheck. And, basically, there was no one there, less than 10 people. We were gathered under a tent midway out on the floor where family & special guests would be seated, near the soundboard. No one was allowed to come closer, so we were near the end of the catwalk basically. No photos are allowed, and I certainly respected that. I was never one to pat myself on the back for posting "inside info", and not to sound like a bitch, but I've had a lot of it over the years that I kept to myself, because I'd rather be trusted and respected by Stones personnel than to be seen an as internet spy. So, not even my closest friends were told what was played at soundcheck. And my close friends are cool with that. I soon found out that "Paint it Black" was the fan choice song, even though 2 hours later people were still claiming it was "Shattered", LOL. See what I mean? If I'm announcing news, Id' much rather be accurate, than first ( and wrong).
The one song I had hoped to hear at Heinz Field was "Moonlight Mile". I tried to memorize every moment of soundcheck, but I was so in shock and awe that other than being there, it's hard for me to remember specific details, except that I cried when they rehearsed "You Can't Always Get What You Want" because "if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need". And here I was 13 years after my first soundcheck invite was foiled and I definitely got what I needed. It was a private moment, just me and the Stones in Heinz Field. Wow! And lastly, when Keith & Ronnie left the stage, Mick grabbed a guitar and strummed the opening chords to "Moonlight Mile" and I knew my one setlist wish was gonna also come true later this evening.
After soundcheck, as I was still floating, I met Bolts stage left and he said "Let's do this!". Oh God, was this wish gonna come true a SECOND time? Incredible. When I first met Keith in 2006 during the Bigger Bang Tour, I met him just outside the Band Wardrobe area, where Keith was about to get ready to go on stage in Las Vegas. That was a life time dream come true, meeting privately with Keith and getting photos taken with him. To EVER think it might happen again was not logical, nor did I think probable. But. here I was strolling down the hall to Camp X-Ray, Keith's dressing room! OMG. On the way I saw Chuck and Rose Lane and said hello and gave hugs. At the entrance to Keith's dressing room stood Jesse Keys & Tony Russell and we exchanged pleasantries. There was a man and woman in Keith's dressing room when we entered and I marveled at Keith's Shrine to Jerry Lee Lewis (thinking "Ian Hunter would dig this") and waited for them to finish chatting, not wanting to appear too anxious. And within a minute, the other couple left and here I was, Blue Lena, FINALLY alone in Camp X-Ray with just Bill and Keith Fucking Richards! So, it's not like I was able to stay and hang out and I certainly did not want to overstay my welcome or worse yet make an ass out of myself. I mean, once you're in there, all the shit you really wanted to ask or say your entire life (when you rehearse the moment in your head) to Keith goes completely out the window. I mean, I wished we could have sat down on the couch and had a drink & a chat, but the man is busy and other guests are waiting and Bill knew pictures were a priority. So, Bill took my iPhone, Keith gave me a hug, I gave Keith a (real) Alexander McQueen silk turquoise blue & yellow skull scarf, which he promptly put around his neck and then I asked "Can I kiss you on the cheek?" and Keith answered, "You can do anything you want to me baby!" (the sound of that phrase is ingrained indelibly in my brain) & leaned in towards me. Swoon. And the photos are history. Hugs, thanks, and a stroll (float) back down the hall & out to the field where doors were about to open and rain had just begun. Wow!!!!!
I headed upstairs to the VIP room, which had not quite opened yet. I was on cloud 9 of course. Little did I know, the night would get even BETTER for me. I chatted with the security lady at the entrance to the VIP and then was the first to enter when doors opened. Good thing, because it was a small room, which was soon to become over-packed. I secured a table by the window for 6 and awaited my Stones sistahs and my husband and a few other friends. By now it was full scale pouring outside and I figured my poor sisters would be drenched. Almost everyone came prepared with ponchos and the like, thanks to GS in Florida. When Dave arrived he brought me a beer to calm my nerves and when my sisters arrived I began to unravel the story of what had taken place so far. Then a bit later, Bolts texted me and asked where I was and told me to meet him on the floor. He said he forgot to do something else that had been on my Stones bucket list and why hadn't I mentioned it? Well, I figured he had done enough. But once on the floor, he led me through the rain drops onto the Rolling Stones stage and back to Keith's road case. Because it was raining, everything on stage was covered with plastic and so someone had to actually come out and uncover Keith's guitar case and open it...for ME! This can't be happening? Yet it was, and here I was graced with Micawber, Malcolm, Sonny, Dice, Black and Red ES-355's etc. I was sure to lovingly TOUCH and CARESS each and every one of them. We took a few pictures, but due to the dark skies and rain they didn't come out that great. I also got a photo standing part way out on the catwalk, where Mick would be standing in a few hours. It was my second time on a Rolling Stones stage (first was at the Hollywood Bowl in 2005), but my first tour of Keith's guitars. On the way off the stage I saw Karl Denson practicing his flute and asked him if I could take a photo and he obliged.
So, here I go, floating back up to the VIP with more tales. And on my way in, I ran into Chuck Leavell, who was on his way out and we got a photo together. Chuck has been a great supporter of the Keith Shrine (and the Stones Planet Fanzine) over the years, so it was great to say hello in person again.
Need another beer. Phew. And maybe a half hour passes and all of the sudden Bill reappears AGAIN, hands me something folded and whispers (don't show anyone), and I'm thinking "what could possibly happen now?". And I opened it and peeked and it was a signed setlist from Keith to me! Good Lord, the show hasn't even started yet and it's already the best Stones show I've ever attended. It is show #80. In my hometown. Amazing. And I still had people in the VIP telling me the band was going to play "Shattered" that night, LOL.
It is finally time to head to our seats. Dave and I are row 3, I'm one seat in from the catwalk. Best seats in the house. On Keith's side of the stage. Awaiting the boys, and here they come with JJF! They looked amazing, totally energized...could Mick move even more than he did in Newark in 2012? I think so! Admittedly, after my pre-show experience, the Stones could have come out and sang "Miss You" 20 times and I would have still enjoyed the show. I, of course, knew the set since I had the setlist, and honestly, I thought it was a great setlist. All Down the Line as song 3 was superb. Getting Paint it Black (and Gold) as fan choice, a slamming version of Bitch, all great. Yeah, there were a few mistakes in this show, only evident to diehards because of the professionalism and recovery ability of the band. the biggest was Keith starting Satisfaction too soon, right when Mick went to introduce the Penn State Choir after You Can't Always Get What You Want (they never did get their intro, but were fantastic). I took photos throughout the show, although I tried to not overshadow my show focus with photography. Keith's set was the usual, BTMMR and Happy and he said "We don't get here often, but we always enjoy it!". Kudos to Charlie and Ronnie for wearing black n' gold. Keith was in black with a green vest, later a green silk shirt. Mick has his usual variety of vast wardrobe changes. When he was on the catwalk he was literally right next to me! He paid homage to Andy Warhol with his image on the big screen. Andy is a Pittsburgher, and the Warhol Museum is about 2 miles down the road from Heinz Field. I admit, I can always get into Honky Tonk Women and still like my "yeah, yeah, yeah woooos" during Brown Sugar. The ultimate setlist highlight for me tonight was hearing "Moonlight Mile", which I don't think I've heard since 1999 and I sang every word and it was breathtaking and beautiful.
I know in retrospect that many people who saw Pittsburgh and Buffalo, claimed Buffalo was the slightly better show of the two, the band was tighter with no mistakes. Buffalo was also the last US show of the tour. But for me, Pittsburgh, surpassed Buffalo in my personal setlist preference and of course in my overall personal experience. Doubting it will ever be topped. When people used to ask "What's your favorite Stones show?", I'd always answer "The next one"...but now I think I'll probably change that answer to Pittsburgh June 20, 2015. Thank you Bill & Keith for making this girl's Stones dreams come true more than she ever imagined possible!
That evening I partied at the hotel with my girlfriends and in the morning we had our traditional Bloody Mary breakfast and then I chauffeured those awesome ladies to the airport. Upon my return to the city I was happy to see a few friends were still in town and met them on the North Shore for lunch and few beers before everyone left town. "HAPPY!"