The Rolling Stones have dozens of songs worthy of consideration for a tribute concert, stretching from the raw rock & roll of their Swinging London days through their gritty, drug-hazed R&B ’70s output to spotty pop-rock in the ’80s and beyond.
But picking a set list for July’s Stones-themed show at Provo’s Rooftop Concert Series is still a challenge, according to show organizer and local singer/writer Paul Jacobsen, given the nature of the gig as a community event geared to please all manner of families and music fans—not just Stones geeks.
“I think part of the reason I get asked to do this is because I’m willing to be the guy who makes the soul-selling populist decisions,” Jacobsen says. “This is a show that nobody has to pay to watch, that can be a social event, where sometimes the music might even be secondary. That said, I still try to make it as great and surprising and fun and moving as possible. Because there are a good chunk of folks there ready to feel something.”
Don’t let Jacobsen’s modesty fool you—he’s become adept at putting together these one-off nights full of Utah musicians tackling the work of classic artists. Two years ago, it was the Beatles’ Abbey Road, delivered in its entirety. In 2012, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ catalog got worked over by a group that included members of Neon Trees, The Devil Whale, The Blue Aces and many more.
For this year’s edition, called Get Off My Cloud: The Songs of the Rolling Stones, Jacobsen started as he has in the past, by first assembling a core “house band” of seven musicians, plus three backup singers and a horn section, and then picking songs based on local singers he could rope into performing.
“The Stones made sense because there were a few singer/song combinations that really got me excited and the players we have are really suited to do the Stones thing,” Jacobsen says of choosing the band. “The challenge is that every bar band on every continent has a full set of Stones songs learned, so we really push to focus on the detail and the feel and the heart of these songs to keep it from being a three-chord bash-off.”
Jacobsen’s own Stones fandom came later in his music life; he always considered himself a “Beatles guy.” A buddy and a cousin eventually turned him into a Stones man as well, and he traveled to the Rose Bowl in 1994 to catch the band live.
“Talking about it now, it strikes me how many Stones songs align with really distinct moments in my life,” Jacobsen says. “If I listen to ‘Moonlight Mile,’ it takes me right back to my tiny apartment in NYC in 2003. If I hear ‘Salt of the Earth,’ suddenly I’m back in my parents’ basement as a teenager in ’91. I’ve been covering ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ for more than a decade now. One of my kids’ current favorite songs is ‘Get Off of My Cloud.’ They’re everywhere for me.”
Jacobsen’s hand-picked band rehearses sans singers for a while, “to get the band cooking” before the vocalists join the fray for a couple of rehearsals before the show. While some song/performer combos remain secret, Jacobsen is willing to relay that Marie Bradshaw and Kiki Buehner of The Hollering Pines and Folka Dots “sound amazing” doing “Tumbling Dice,” while Debra Fotheringham is slated to deliver her fiery take on “Time Is on My Side.” “I’ve loved the Irma Thomas version of that song forever, and Debra seemed like somebody who could really own it,” Jacobsen says. Among the other artists taking part are Ryan Innes, Ryan Tanner and members of The New Electric Sound, Mideau and Fictionist.
His past experiences putting the tribute shows together for the Rooftop Concert Series have Jacobsen feeling more comfortable with the process, and he thinks he’s getting better at matching singers with songs, and creating an arc to the show. Still, “bringing it all together is a new challenge every year, especially because we feel compelled to make it as great as possible,” he says. “There really is no one in the group of people who wants to ‘just get through it.’ From top to bottom, everyone is really into making this the best thing we can.
“I never feel like we get enough rehearsal, but the players are great and it always amazes me [when the show comes together],” Jacobsen continues. “I feel like once I get a few magic singer/song combinations together and we rehearse a couple times, I can finally breathe again. Hearing these singers kill these songs while the band destroys it underneath them is really the best thing.”
GET OFF MY CLOUD: THE SONGS OF THE ROLLING STONES
w/The National Parks
Provo Town Square Parking Terrace Rooftop
100 N. 100 West, Provo
Friday, July 5, 7:30 p.m.