The Rolling Stones honored late drummer Charlie Watts in their first live show without him. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood paid tribute to Watts as they kicked off their pandemic-delayed No Filter tour in St. Louis, Missouri Sunday night.
The show opened with an empty stage with just a drum beat as photos and videos of Watts, who died in August, were projected onto four huge screens. When the group emerged onstage, Jagger told the packed crowd at The Dome at America's Center that "it was really quite emotional" seeing the photos of the band's drummer of nearly six decades up onscreen.
Jagger, Richards and Wood came to the front of the stage, clasped hands and thanked fans for the outpouring of love for Watts. "This is our first-ever tour we've ever done without him," Jagger said, as reported by the New York Post. "We'll miss Charlie so much, on and off the stage." The band then dedicated "Tumbling Dice" to Watts.
Watts died in August at the age of 80, with a spokesperson for the musician saying at the time that he passed away peacefully in a London hospital surrounded by family, adding that he was "one of the greatest drummers of his generation." The band previously announced that Watts wouldn't take part in the U.S. tour while he recovered from an unspecified medical procedure.
Ahead of Sunday's show Jagger said in a video on Instagram that Watts' absence would be felt during the tour. "I must say, though, at this point, it's a bit of a poignant night for us because it's our first tour in 59 years that we've done without our lovely Charlie Watts. And we all miss Charlie so much."
"We miss him as a band, we miss him as a friend on and off the stage and we've got so many memories of Charlie - and I'm sure some of you that have seen us before have got memories of Charlie as well," Jagger continued. "I hope you will remember him like we do, so we'd like to dedicate this show to Charlie."
The rock band's 13-date tour had been rescheduled for May 2020 before the coronavirus restrictions caused it to be postponed yet again. The band is scheduled to stop in Florida, Atlanta and Los Angeles, among others, before wrapping up in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 20. Touring musician and longtime Rolling Stones associate Steve Jordan will replace Watts on drums for the tour.
The Stones are no strangers to tragedy as of late; in addition to Watt's death, Mick Brigden, who worked as a touring manager for the band, died suddenly in an accident at his home in Santa Rosa, California, earlier this month. The 73-year-old was helping dig a grave for his family's dog when the accident happened, his wife Julia Dreyer Brigden said. Mick Brigden directed tours for the Stones but is best known for the last three decades managing guitarist Joe Satriani.