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One Great Rock Show can change the World

“One great rock show can change the world.” So says Dewey Finn (played by Jack Black) in the movie, “School of Rock”. Of course, it is just a movie and movies are great for inspired idealism. The thought was running through my head. It was 4:47pm. I was in downtown San Diego, and I had parked my car ($15) in the lot by 4th & B so I could walk to Petco Park to see the Rolling Stones. The city was abuzz downtown November 11. As I walked closer to the ballpark, there was no question about where the energy came from. It was Petco Park. The energy was electric in a way that even I, a grizzled concert snob, could feel.

And I began thinking of how much San Diego has changed.

I live here. I’ve seen the progressive change. But what if you’ve been coming to San Diego every few years since you were in your early twenties? And what if your impressions of downtown are colored by what you’d remember if you were only here for a few hours. And what if you are Mick Jagger? The first time the Rolling Stones came to San Diego they played in 1964 in Balboa Park. The largest indoor venue was Golden Hall.

Just in case you haven’t left the bomb shelter since 1989, downtown San Diego has changed. I’m sure the hookers are still there somewhere. After all, we are a seaport and the old saying “any port in a storm” still applies to sailors, swabbies and gringos on business trips. Maybe they dress nicer or maybe there are too many people to make working safe. (Maybe because it’s the weekend, they’ve all flown to Vegas.)

This night was coming quickly. It was not even 5 pm. Darkness was coming faster and faster. So were the Stones. Me? I was wondering what’s going through Mick’s mind. He’s a savvy guy. He still parties. The reason I was having this thought was because Mick’s been to San Diego with the Stones 10 times with the band since 1964 but he’s never seen a San Diego like this. When was the last time Mick Jagger was in downtown San Diego?

Mick’s been coming to San Diego with the Stones since 1964 when they played the Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park after an afternoon matinee in Long Beach at the LB Convention Center. In 1965, the Stones played Golden Hall at the City Concourse twice (once in May and once in December.) That was the last time Mick and the Stones played downtown. All the other shows in San Diego were at the Sports Arena or at Qualcomm/ Jack Murphy. So according to my math the last time Mick and the Stones played downtown is just less than a month shy of 40 years.

How long have you lived here in San Diego? I’ve lived in San Diego since 1989. I remember how the downtown was a ragged-out haven for bums and hookers when I first went downtown. San Diego has changed light-years since ’89. So, because I’m riding this thought train, I had to project my thoughts onto the lead singer for the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band. How much has it changed to someone who has been coming to San Diego for almost 40 years?

Musicians are people just like the rest of us and I imagine it’s only natural that they look back on this stuff. Typical musician conversation follows. “Remember those chicks? Remember how we were almost tossed out of the hotel? Remember what a dump this place was?” That’s a genuine rock and roll band conversation. It’s not always “Save the World” stuff.

The Rolling Stones music will soon echo all over downtown San Diego. And the Rolling Stones were about to pop the rock and roll cherry at that symbol and monument to ingratitude and opportunism… John Moore’s folly (aka Petco Park) with it’s first ever Rock and Roll Concert. Not bad for a band on “Virgin” records.

I saw Mick briefly backstage prior to the show. I got the impression that he was beaming. He was in great spirits. So was I. Forty-five minutes of pounding the meet-and-greet room’s Kendall Jackson Chardonnay had me ready to rock.

And rock we did. Mick was conscious enough of being at Petco Park to mention former Padre and Ocean Beach native, David Wells. "I told management you'd be careful with the sacred dirt of Petco Park," Jagger told the crowd, "or else David Wells may never return."

I’ve been around enough pre-show events and enough musicians to get a sense of their energy. Musicians draw off the crowd. Mick was on fire.

The Stones finally have a venue that’s worthy of them in a thriving vibrant city. Contrast that to the last 20 years or so when their shows have been at the Sports Arena or at Quallcom.

Those other venues? Impressive? Hardly.

Mick’s grown up… his audience has grown up… and our city has grown up. From my point of view, San Diego became a world-class concert city on Friday November 11, 2005. I think Mick knew it. One great rock show can change the world. There may be something to that statement.