Story and photos by Ken Billett, originally published in StoryBoard Memphis Quarterly, Vol. 1 Issue I
September 26, 2021, approximately 9:00 am: the stainless steel of the Gateway Arch gleamed in the morning sun—a picture-perfect, cloudless start to a gorgeous day. Standing in the same spot where Mick stood earlier in the week, we shielded our eyes from the bright sun while staring out at the Mississippi River.
Through the modern miracle of the internet, Mick Jagger, while posing in front of this massive structure, told legions of fans that he would see them in St. Louis on Sunday.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Jagger, he is the seventy-eight-year-old lead singer of the British rock band, the Rolling Stones (aka the Stones). Arguably the greatest rock band of all time, the Stones would begin their No Filter Tour—delayed by the pandemic—in the Gateway City.
Meet Me in St. Louis
A few months ago, we decided to meet Mick—and the rest of the Stones—in St. Louis, Missouri. We originally planned to see the Rolling Stones last year in Louisville, Kentucky, before everything came to a halt because of COVID. Unfortunately, the Louisville concert was not rescheduled, so we settled on St. Louis, a four-hour drive from Memphis.
There’s probably a little karma at play in replacing Louisville with Saint Louis. In addition, dates for other possible venues conflicted with our October travel plans: Vicki’s friends’ reunion in Austin knocked out Nashville (October 9) from consideration, and our upcoming wedding anniversary trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast removed October 29th at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa (my hometown) as a possibility.
How many times in one year do I want to stand around in Baggage Claim at Tampa International Airport, anyway?
Vicki and I rolled into town Saturday afternoon, a day before Sunday night’s performance. Tired and a little mentally drained after our drive from Memphis, we were, nonetheless, immediately taken with the cool architecture and the cleanliness of downtown St. Louis.
You may recall from prior Get Out of Town columns that I love old buildings and their history, and St. Louis has plenty of old buildings—renovated and repurposed— with great stories to share.
Our own hotel, for example, a Marriott Courtyard and a stone’s throw (sorry for that one.) from the concert venue—the Dome at America’s Center—was the former Lennox Hotel, completed in 1929. The Marriott Courtyard has a boutique hotel feel to it, yet the designers preserved many of the Lennox’s original trappings—the green marble of the grand staircase, dark wood paneling in the lobby, and even the original elevators. Our gorgeous corner room was both modern and stylish. We had a great view of downtown.
Clang, clang, clang went the…bucket
While bucket list—a list of things to do before you die—is highly overused in today’s online lexicon, it accurately described the key reason we made the pilgrimage to St Louis: a chance to see the Rolling Stones perform live.
After all, we’re not getting any younger, nor are the original Stones.
Seeing the Stones in concert offered us an opportunity to explore downtown St. Louis and all that this river city had to offer, in a short amount of time. We haven’t visited St. Louis in more than ten years, so my recollection of downtown was blurry at best.
Sunday morning and most of Sunday afternoon were spent wandering around the central core of downtown. Much of this area is walkable, peaceful, and inviting.
We took a stop at Busch Stadium, home to the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball, and the Ballpark Village entertainment complex. The beautiful retro-style stadium with wonderful external amenities convinced us that a return trip to St. Louis—during baseball’s regular season, of course—was another item to add to our own bucket list.
Downtown St. Louis also has an abundance of food options, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and taverns. Despite our time constraints, we managed a good bit of foodie investigating.
Quick recommendation: the huge, delicious calzones at Sauce on the Side, located outside on the ground floor of the Magnolia Hotel—another old St. Louis hotel (built in 1924 as the Mayfair Hotel).
Hotel crashing is one of our favorite past times while on vacation.
Thump, thump, thump went…the drum
September 26, 2021, 8:45 pm: the Dome went dark. A drumbeat pounded through the speaker system. Slowly, images emerged on four massive video screens, which surrounded an equally massive stage. Pictures of Charlie Watts— the Rolling Stones’ drummer, who died on August 24th at the age of 80—filled the screens.
The crowd cheered, and some of us cried. It was a beautiful moment to begin the concert, and the tour, and a fitting tribute to a talented man who stayed true to himself. After the opening numbers and after Mick, Ron Wood, and Keith Richards addressed the audience, thanking us for our heartfelt love and support during a difficult time, the Rolling Stones seemed to enjoy themselves. They were back! Doing what they loved.
Frankly, the rest of the night was a blur—but in a good way. Hit song after hit song mixed with incredible individual performances.
Anyone who doesn’t understand why Mick Jagger is a master showman needs to go see him perform live.
Along with the rest of the crowd, we made our way out of the Dome and walked the short distance back to our hotel. A chorus of “Woo, Who”—the famous refrain from Sympathy For The Devil—echoed against the buildings.
Our bucket was now a little lighter.
We enjoyed our quick visit to St. Louis, its downtown alive and its people genuine. Of course, we loved seeing the Rolling Stones. If Mick Jagger ever says meet me in St. Louis again, I believe we’d be there.
Maybe we’d run into him outside the Gateway Arch. If so, I might walk up to him and say, “Please allow me to introduce myself.”
I’m sure Mick has never heard that one.
Ken Billett has called Memphis home for more than thirty years. A freelance writer, fiction author, and nationally known advocate for skin cancer prevention and research, Ken volunteers his time at the Blues Hall of Fame on South Main in downtown Memphis. When not tending to his flowers, Ken and his wife Vicki travel extensively. StoryBoard Memphis is proud to present Ken’s columns Time Capsules and the newest, Get out of Town as, ongoing features here on StoryBoard.