The Rolling Stones Honor Charlie Watts in Intimate Memorial Show at London Club

by Jennifer Shea

It was a modest move that paid proper tribute to their late bandmate Charlie Watts. On Tuesday, Rolling Stones stalwarts Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and a few members of their touring band played an intimate memorial show in Watts’ honor at the small London club Ronnie Scott’s.

Attendance was capped at 200 people. And the band asked concertgoers not to take photos or video, Rolling Stone reports. A private photographer did reportedly attend the event, however.

The Watts family, including Watts’ granddaughter Charlotte, hosted the event. The setlist included “Blues dor Charlie,” written by saxophonist Tim Ries, “Trouble in Mind,” “Up Above My Head,” “Shame, Shame, Shame,” and “Down the Road Apiece.” The latter two songs, both R&B classics, were reportedly frequently played during the Stones’ early years in the U.K. club scene.

Among the group onstage at Ronnie Scott’s along with Jagger, Richards and Wood were drummer Steve Jordan, background singers Bernard Flowers and Lisa Fischer, Ries, bassist Dave Green, pianists Ben Waters and Axel Zwingenberger, and Jools Holland, who led the house band.

The Rolling Stones Contemplate 60th Anniversary Tour

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, drummer Steve Jordan revealed that the Watts family sent him a gracious message shortly before his first appearance with the Stones.

“It said they were sending their support,” Jordan said. “Not only did I have support from my wife Meegan Voss, but to get the message from the family saying they were behind me and to go and get it… This was basically an hour or less before the show. That meant the world to me at that time. That’s when I felt, ‘OK, let’s go.’”

For his part, Jordan did nothing to tamp down speculation that the Stones will tour Europe next year, marking their 60th anniversary in style. But he acknowledged that losing Watts was a blow to the band.

“As a Stones fan, I would say you have to do a 60th-anniversary tour,” Jordan told Rolling Stone. “But they have to really see how they feel about it knowing that their mate of 59 years is not going to be with them. It’s not that easy a decision, in my view.”

Watts’ Death Came As a Surprise

The Rolling Stones were reportedly caught off-guard by Watts’ death. And so, too, for that matter, was Jordan. When he spoke to Rolling Stone, Jordan said the initial plan was just for him to fill in while Watts was recovering.

“I was surprised because, first of all, I didn’t know that Charlie was in the hospital,” Jordan said of hearing about possibly stepping in for Watts. “That was news to me. And troublesome news to me. But it was still the thing where Charlie was recovering. And so I was just going to fill in for maybe some rehearsals.”  

When Jordan got the news that Watts had died, he said it was “one of the worst days of my life.” And in hindsight, it still is. But Jordan, along with the rest of the band, wanted to honor Watts. They decided to keep making music. And that is what they have done ever since. To include playing the show at Ronnie Scott’s today.