The Rolling Stones, who have not recorded anything of consequence for 20 years, have become a road show with their best songs behind them. No matter how large an arena spectacle, musically the Stones are loved for the band they used to be. What if Brian Jones had lived and Mick Jagger had died? It’s almost heretical even to ponder, such is Mick’s stature, but consider the question. Would they have been a better band? There was a lot of grand music put forth by the Rolling Stones during their earliest days, considered by most to be essential listening of the ’60s and ’70s. Today, one is hard pressed to recall a single Stones title from the ’90s on. The most interesting news in years surrounding the world’s greatest rock and roll band would be the recent media announcement that police may be opening a new investigation into Jones’s untimely death. Yawn.
As for that Stones road show, the band has always surrounded themselves with the best sidemen that money can buy. One of them is singer Bernard Fowler, who has been a backing Stone since 1989’s Steel Wheels. He’s got a rich powerhouse of a voice that never breaks down. Raspy and wide open, Fowler can let loose with a force that fits everything from dub reggae to metal. I caught Fowler in the early ’90s in support of Ronnie Wood’s Slide on This. They tore up a version of the Stones’ “Black Limousine” and made it all Faces, with none of the faux blues camp of the original. I suspect that Wood may have been, mmm, liquored up at the time, but no matter. Fowler’s gravitas, and not the presence of his famous elder, anchored the band.
So, could Bernard Fowler replace Mick Jagger? Will never happen. Could he front the Stones for a night? Not a problem.
BERNARD FOWLER: Brick by Brick, Saturday, October 3, 8 p.m. 619-275-5483. $12 advance; $14 day of show.