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Still Rolling

High ticket prices and an ageing line-up are not enough to curb Spaniards’ enthusiasm for the Stones

The date is Wednesday, March 26. My regular newsstand vendor watches me approach with evident signs of joy: “Diego, los Rolling are coming!” he exclaims. I know, I know: the Madrid date has been posted on the band’s biggest fan site since March 1; the only question was which soccer stadium would host the concert.

“But... it’s the Santiago Bernabéu!” he says. As a soccer fan, my newsstand vendor attaches legendary significance to this venue, and glimpses a unique combination of raw power in the coming together of the Stones and the home of Real Madrid.

But I have my reservations. I think back on the luxury of watching Frank Sinatra in a semi-deserted Bernabéu, but I also retain a very real fear of being trampled to death after the U2 concert of 1987, which suffered massive overbooking: thousands of extra tickets were sold, and as is known, the millions earned did not travel to Dublin.

It’s nothing that should come as a surprise: many are the soundrels who use the implacable conditions set down by the superstars (for instance, keeping 95 percent of the profits) as moral justification for their dishonest business. Thousands of tickets for the June 25 gig are appearing for sale online. You know, deals of the “I am selling a pen and will throw in a free ticket to see the Rolling Stones”-type. The offer is so vast that someone like Roberto Saviano, the Italian journalist famous for uncovering the inner workings of the Camorra, might well discover the cloven hoof of organized crime there, too.

I also retain a very real fear of being trampled to death at the Bernabéu

What a paradox. Earlier visits by the Stones, especially to coastal towns, did not feature so many “sold out” signs. Because those concerts were sponsored – ah, those were the good years! – wads of tickets would be discreetly passed out as the concert date approached, to allow the generous government authorities to save face. I was able to watch the Stones in Málaga in 1998, sitting among civil servants who, from what I overheard, had never been to a large-scale concert before.

When I shared information about the upcoming date at the Bernabéu on the social networks, the general reaction was negative: people bristled at the prices. There was only one person who actually got it right: Lorenzo Rodríguez, a veteran of Madrid's legendary Rock-Ola club, said the tickets would “be sold out the same day they go on sale.”

What a perfect combination! There was the drama of a suicide (L’Wren Scott, Mick Jagger’s longtime girlfriend and fashion designer), the uncertainty created by the canceled tour dates, the endless “this-could-be-the-last-time” spiel, the fact that the band will only play one night in each European country, and the usual anxiety resulting from poor handling of ticket sales.

The ongoing crisis has hit but not sunk the main flotillas of candidates for watching the Rolling Stones. The band’s fans view it as a matter of honor, the younger crowd considers it an initiation rite, and we cannot forget the contingent of preppy kids who will go to any event that sounds exclusive.

The crisis has hit but not sunk the main flotillas of candidates to go watch the Rolling Stones

Never mind the fact that for years now, the Stones have been reduced to a sound and light display that is but a stage reflection of its own distant legend. It is imperative to be able to say: “I was at the Bernabéu.” Not that it is essential to be physically there: there will be a video release of the tour, including footage of everything that couldn't be seen or heard. Remember: there were no more than 400,000 people at Woodstock in 1969, yet years later, a survey showed that several million Americans had stated they had been there, stomping on the mud with their own two feet.

The point is, better not to get into an argument over los Rolling. So I enthusiastically reply to the newsstand vendor: “The Stones at the Bernabéu? That’s going to be historic, there’s no way I’m going to miss it.” The good fellow thinks that we journalists sit in the same box as the authorities, and he asks me to get him a Cristiano autograph while I’m there. “You got it.”

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