About halfway through the Virginia Arts Festival’s “Music of the Rolling Stones” performance Friday night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center—after the song “Miss You”—the singer, Brody Dolyniuk, said, “We’ve got about a thousand people here. Five people stood up and danced.”
It wasn’t an exaggeration.
Images used with permission of David Polston Freelance.
It was a set-up for Dolyniuk to teach some of Mick Jagger’s classic dance moves before the next song, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” but it was also indicative of how hard he had to work to get the audience involved. (Given the single-digit temperature outside, maybe it took everyone a while to thaw out?)
I can only speak for myself, but the show was not quite what I expected—which is to say: I didn’t expect to dance at a symphony performance, and I certainly didn’t expect to be cajoled into dancing at a symphony performance.
But that’s the thing: Even though it was billed as a Virginia Symphony Orchestra show with a “Full Rock Band,” it would have been more accurate to list them the other way around. It was good, but the rock band was featured more prominently than the orchestra. And I might not have bought tickets (which ranged in price from $20 to $60—before fees) to see a Stones cover band.
The setlist featured the band’s biggest hits—from 1965’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” to 1981’s “Start Me Up.” The best songs were those that featured the orchestra the most. The strings were highlighted beautifully in “Sympathy for the Devil” (which was playfully introduced as “Symphony for the Devil”), and the brass was strong in “Under My Thumb” and “Paint It, Black.” “Ruby Tuesday” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” also featured nice arrangements. The rest of the show was pretty straight-ahead rock with a few orchestral touches here and there—the kind of stuff you might see in a theatrical revue at Busch Gardens.
Dolyniuk, who flew in from L.A. for the show, proved to be a very good entertainer. His voice was strong—especially on “Angie,” where it was exposed the most—and his dance moves were spot-on. He also played a mean harmonica on the aforementioned “Miss You,” and he even did an impressive Christopher Walken impression, setting up the cowbell intro for “Honky Tonk Women.”
Curiously, the first half of the show featured a keyboard solo by Bart Kuebler, a local musician with some national theater credits. The solo was good but felt out of place in that it wasn’t a Rolling Stones song—not a recognizable one, at least. By contrast, when George Cintron played a guitar solo in the second half, he played a blistering version of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” that led into “Paint It, Black.”
A final note about the setlist: The Stones’ catalog is so big, it would be impossible to include enough songs to please everyone. That said, I thought “Bitch,” which opened the second half, was an odd song choice. Instead, I would have played “Gimme Shelter,” which was conspicuously absent and presumably would lend itself to a great symphonic arrangement. (I also would have been impressed if they had included “She’s A Rainbow” or “Waiting On A Friend.”)
Brent Havens, who arranged and conducted “Music of the Rolling Stones,” has produced similar shows for the Doors, Pink Floyd and U2, among others. I like those artists enough that I’d consider going to see those shows too; I’d just go in with different expectations.