The Rolling Stones drive 70,000 Brazilians wild during their last show in São Paulo

This text was first published on February 28, 2016. I felt I should republished it now after the death of Charlie Watts this week. This is for him.

Feb 27th, 2016: Rolling Stones Latin America Olé Tour. After the competent and traditional paulista band Titans, who opened for the Rolling Stones in their two São Paulo shows, completed their participation, the stage began to be cleaned up and prepared to receive rock’n’roll royalty. 

The atmosphere of anticipation was almost unbearable; you could sense the electricity in the air. The Stones’ clever choice of Jumpin’ Jack Flash to kick off the evening struck the unfailing spark to detonate an explosion of historic proportions. The crowd went crazy. It may be only rock and roll but we love it!

For the next two hours, some 70,000 fans, composed of grandparents, parents and kids, rocked, sang and responded, as if in a trance, to Mick Jagger’s antics, which, besides great singing and dancing, included greetings, swearing, and jokes in clear, yet heavily accented, Portuguese – he introduced the circumspect drum player Charlie Watts as Rainha da Bossa Nova (Queen of Bossa Nova). I hope poor Charlie did not get the joke.

In certain moments, the show just felt like some sort of ritualistic exorcism, with people jumping up and down, yelling, sobbing and pulling at their hair – I hadn’t seen this kind of fan hysteria since the worn-out footages of the Beatles arriving in the USA in the early 60s.

As the Stones were not promoting any new record, the show was a dizzying succession of classic hits (Wild Horses, Brown sugar, She’s a Rainbow, Miss you, Paint it Black, Honky Tonk Women, You Cant Always Get What You Want – the latter accompanied by the members of the Coral Sampa – which both moved the older guys who packed the Morumbi stadium, and drove the teenagers and 20-somethings wild. I don’t think the younger generations had ever experienced anything as good in terms of a rock and roll concert here in Brazil. Even better: the band seemed to be having the time of their lives: playing like fiends, smiling widely, being nice and friendly to their adoring Brazilian fans.

The show was indeed iconic, offering the public, at least, two sublime moments:

1. Mick Jagger and the beautiful black vocal singer Sasha Allen took the stage catwalk, which jutted into the audience, and sang what will surely become a legendary version of GIMME SHELTER while the light rain that began to fall shone against the bright spotlights, providing a wonderful and unexpected cinematographic context to the song. As the singers danced, embraced – and even simulated copulation on the stage – I noticed people’s eyes welling up at the exquisiteness of the performance. The rain lasted for the entire number and felt like a momentous gift from heaven to enhance the show. See the unedited, raw video clip below:

2. The audience was also awarded a historic 10 min long rendition of MIDNIGHT RAMBLER, electrifying the crowd, who either sang along or just stared wide-eyed at that mysterious 73-year-old sage, a force of nature, with the face of an old and battered seaman who’s been exposed to the harshest elements, yet carrying the body of a supple teenager, serpentining across the stage with his trademark moves, and slyly raising his t-shirt now and then to show off his well-defined six-pack abs!

But when we hear the first chords of Sympathy for the Devil (three-quarters into the show), and witness Mick Jagger stepping onto the stage in a flaming red boa (repeating an act he had already performed in Martin Scorsese’s documentary SHINE A LIGHT – with the difference that, in the movie, they used real fire!!) everything falls into place: we get confirmation of what we have known all along and yet refused to believe. Mick Jagger is either Faust, having struck a pact with Satan, or an alien dropped by mistake and forgotten on this planet!

To say the concert was perfect would be accurate, if only Keith Richards had refrained from singing two songs half-way into the event. Embarrassingly out of tune, he must abandon this recurring fit of narcissism and stick to what he does best: playing the guitar like a god.

The concert finished with the anthemic I can’t get no satisfaction, followed by a discreet display of fireworks. To its credit, the whole show keeps visual effects and pyrotechnics to the barest minimum. What we get is two hours of solid, raw, and uncompromising rock and roll. Worth every cent you may have spent on the ticket!

On a final note, let’s just point out that, although Mick Jagger avoided making political comments on the situation of the country during the show, whenever the movie crew who was registering the event trained their cameras at the audience, small groups would spontaneously break into offensive chants against President Dilma Rousseff.

Jorge Sette

6 Myths about Art Most People Share

Art tends to be surrounded by awe and respect. Museums resemble cathedrals in the way people move around the halls speaking in hushed tones and looking humbly at the works on display. Art or Hight Art – as it’s sometimes called – should be regarded in a more natural and intimate way by the viewers. The lack of great museums in the region makes the contact with art a particularly formal  experience for us Latin Americans. But things are changing as more and more people go abroad, frequent museums, and substitute pleasure and fun for the old sense of respect infused in them when they stood in front of a famous painting or sculpture not many years ago. The myths we are outlining below concern more that kind of art you find in museums and galleries: the visual art produced by the great masters.

1. Art is usually spontaneous and organic. The legend says the talent lies dormant in the artist until it’s suddenly awaken by the muses. In fact, the development of artistic skills is a long and hard path, involving a lot of academic learning, Of course, there are more or less intuitive artists, and mentors may sometimes replace art schools. Formal learning, however, is integral to the process and only practice makes perfect.

2. The best art has idealized versions of  mythology, history or biblical themes as its subject matter. This tradition started being disputed around the time the pre-Impressionists, such as Manet with his mundane and realistic nudes, and the social art of Courbet. Their fight against tradition and academicism was taken to a whole new level by the Impressionists, especially by Monet, who understood art as the apprehension of fleeting moments in time such as the effects of light bouncing off trees, water and plain people in everyday situations. That was what mattered and deserved registering.Colors became bright and more vibrant.

Argenteuil, c. 1872-1875, by Monet.

Argenteuil, c. 1872-1875, by Monet.

3.  The best art is realistic. Fauvism, Cubism and Modern Art in general showed that there was not much point in replicating what film and photography had  started doing so well as of the XIX century. Art couldn’t and shouldn’t compete with them. So art needed to change. It should remain an expression of what is human, including reality, but as seen through the eyes, emotions, neuroses, and obsessions of the artistic self. Art was a personal way to express the artist’s inner world. Unlike previous painters,  the sense of perspective developed since the Renaissance and the concepts of beauty and balance taken as tenets by the artistic community underwent an earthquake which  shattered those ideals to pieces. This is still going on.

Young Girl Reading a Book on the Beach, by Picasso.

Young Girl Reading a Book on the Beach, by Picasso.

4. Art dealers and critics are the experts and they know it all about good and bad taste. We all know how the Impressionist group struggled to have their works exhibited in the tradition-dominated Salón in XIX century Paris. There are no absolutes in art and if you read Tom Wolf’s iconoclastic The Painted Word – which I strongly recommend – you will laugh widely and be infused by  a sense of liberation as he dissects and analyses ironically the American art of the XX century. There is also a hilarious chapter in  his latest book, Back to Blood,   which mocks merciless the Modern Art World of contemporary Miami, with its dealers, experts, artists and stupid billionaire clients. A must-read.

The Connoisseur: Rockwell's sarcastic take on Modern Art used as the cover for Tom Wolfe's THE PAINTED WORD.

The Connoisseur: Rockwell’s sarcastic take on Modern Art used as the cover for Tom Wolfe’s THE PAINTED WORD.

5. You have an innate predisposition to love, hate or be totally indifferent to art. Not so simple. Just like marmite – for those who have had a chance, like me, to live in he UK for a while and see this initially disgusting jam-like spread sitting on the breakfast table every morning,  or even Japanese food,  whose ever-present ripe odor coming out of restaurants may put you off getting in at first – art is an acquired taste. You don’t have to like it right away, but you may grow to love it by exposure. There is no need to enjoy every famous artist either.  Be selective. Art grows in people. And I strongly defend that by offering  history of art as a subject in the secondary and high school – not very common in most schools in South America –  or by parents exposing their kids to art books at home or visiting museums, young people’s taste will get more refined and we will see a growth in art appreciation over time.

6. Art is for older people. The younger you are the more appealing iconoclastic  and unconventional art will look to you, especially if you have a rebel streak (who doesn’t?) in you. Therefore your initial interest for the drama and violence in Caravaggio,  as you grow more mature,  may be replaced by calmer Monets or a more contained Velàzquez later on in life.  Their beauty and absence of direct conflict can be refreshing as you grow more mature. I still love Janis Joplin, The Stones, Jim Morrison and Sid Vicious. Sometimes it was not even the quality of their music but their life style, perfomances and stage persona – some of them very short-lived, by the way – which captivated me. However,  as I grew more mature,  classical music started to show its charms and take over my musical taste.

We will be talking more about art in the next post. Watch this space.

If you are a language teacher and interested in art you may want to check out our new series of ebooks TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, available for download from the Kindle Store. We focus on vocabulary learning, speaking and writing skills in the series. Check it out by clicking here: :

Teaching English with Art, the series.

Teaching English with Art, the series.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

Mick Jagger is Dorian Gray

Today I read in the paper that the killer of John Lennon, Mark David Chapman, appealed to be released from prison for the third time now. It has been denied. Now he can try again in two years’ time. I don’t think he will be able to lead a normal like outside of prison. There is always the danger of his being lynched. Besides, it looks like Yoko Ono is against the measure too. She must be really afraid he will be coming after her. It makes sense. I can only imagine the amount of publicity he is going to get the minute the steps out of jail: book deals, reality shows, record contracts (Chapman sings Lennon) and what not.

Although I started off as a fierce Beatles fan in my childhood and early adolescence, things changed as I came in contact with the Stones’ music through a close friend while we lived in England in the late eighties. We were language students in Bournemouth and borders in the same house. He introduced me to the Stones and I’m very grateful to this day. The roughness and wildness of the Stones’ music were a lot more reflective of my personality in those days. They are still my favorite rock band.

It’s not only the music that fascinates me, but the whole persona of their lead singer, Mick Jagger. I may have read three or four biographies about him (the one I would recommend is Philip Norman’s) and I can’t get enough of his personal and public story. Mick reversed many assumptions that most people have. He turns ugly into sexy and even cute at times. He makes looking old cool. He makes rock and roll professional and businesslike. He will not have his disturbingly wrinkled face and drooping oversized lips be touched by plastic surgery in an age when even 30-year-olds are having their features altered to look like weird Kens and Barbies.

Mick Jagger is Dorian Gray

Mick Jagger is Dorian Gray

Mick Jagger did not share the most common prejudices of his era. Legend says all he wished to be, back when he started, was Tina Turner. She opened for his shows a number to times in the sixties. Rumor has it he would imitate Tina’s moves for hours in front of a mirror. She was the coolest person in the world for him.  This is one of the funniest things I heard about Mick. There is also gossip that he’s bisexual, but whatever his sexual preferences may be, the fact is he has always treated gays and blacks friendly.

However, it’s undeniable that Mick Jagger has a very dark side to his personality. His whole attitude towards life reminds us a little bit of Oscar Wilde: especially on the occasion when he was put in jail in the sixties for drug consumption at what looked more like an orgy than a party. It’s said prison really broke him for a while, just like it damaged Mr Wilde badly at the end of the XIX century. Even more precisely, he seems to bear an uncanny similarity to one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous characters,  Dorian Gray.

Unlike Gray, however, whose aging process and corrupt and criminal lifestyle were all reflected on a portrait of himself he kept hidden in an attic, while he himself remained young with features as angelical and fresh as when he was a teenager,  Mick Jagger’s  parched and wrinkled canvas of a face certainly bears all the marks of sins and experience of someone who’s been sailing against rough winds for the most part of his life. His 70-year-old body, however, just like Dorian Gray’s tight, flexible and muscular structure, does not seem do be different than a 25-year-old man’s, when you see him on stage. The Stones’ song Time is on My Side seems to say it all about the mythological figure.

Besides, very much in Dorian Gray’s fashion, he is famous for having destroyed and corrupted many lives who dared to get too close to the light and got burned by its brightness. Marianne Faithfull, for example, the troubled young singer of the 60s who dated Jagger, especially reminds me of a modern Sybil Vane, the first woman Dorian Gray destroyed on his path to utter corruption and crime. Some will say that Jagger sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for the success of his career and eternal youth of his body. No wonder he continuously thanks the dark forces through the ultra popular ode Sympathy for the Devil.

Not only until the mid-nineties did I have a chance to actually attend a Stones concert. An unforgettable experience at the Pacaembu Stadium in Sao Paulo, under heavy rain, with some of my closest friends.  Also, in the summer of 2012, I visited a great exhibition in London at Somerset House, where they showed rare pictures of the Stones in poster-like sizes.  This was part of a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the band. I had a great time attending the exhibition, being in the heart of London, and looking at this rare collection of Stones pictures. The gift store was a rip-off, however, and the same T-shirt you could buy for 10 pounds in Camden Town would cost close to 50 at the museum. I was rational enough not to give in to the temptation.

Unlike Lennon, we are fortunate Mick Jagger is still among us. I know we will always have his music and his taped shows, but it’s good to know that this force of nature is very much alive and kicking. In the movie SHINE A LIGHT, Martin Scorsese manages to capture much of his energy and charisma. You feel like Mick is not performing for the camera at any moment, he is just doing his thing, being his difficult-self, while Scorsese and his crew are running around trying to capture his best on camera. Good thing the director managed to do so. Now we have this wonderful performance frozen in time on our bookshelf and can watch it whenever we need to infuse more energy and inspiration into our dull and unglamorous lives.

What do you think of Mick Jagger and the Stones? Share your opinion with us as you rate this post.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.