Stones Fans Make It A Family Affair

One couple even drove from Florida without tickets to be a part of it.

CHICAGO -- Baby boomers Jerry Shay and his wife, Margaret, have seen the last three opening shows of the Rolling Stones' tours. The band has followed them from their early courtship straight through their marriage.

And now that Margaret is with child, it seemed only appropriate to be there again.

On Tuesday, the Shay's fulfilled that chapter of their lives with the Stones, driving from Media, Pa. to Chicago's Soldier Field for the opening night of the much-hyped Bridges To Babylon tour. There they saw Mick Jagger and company back on stage doing what they do best, blasting out their classic bluesy rock 'n' roll and making a lot of people happy in the process.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world... the electricity in the air, the anticipation of the song list... What could be better?" After a quick nudge from Margaret, Jerry added, "Well maybe our first born."

As the show began, thirty-something Jerry smiled lovingly at his wife, who is expecting to give birth this fall, before turning his attention back to the stage. The lights dimmed and the crowd roared. Appropriately enough, the opening notes of the mega-hit "Satisfaction" blasted through the new $3 million state-of-the art sound system.

Many multi-generation families in the crowd saw this chance to see the Stones with their children as the experience of a lifetime, or two, and in some cases, three. "They're the only serious musicians out there today working hard and not just putting an oldies act on the road," said one father, who bought his 6-year-old along.

If the first show's mixed audience of generation Xer's and baby boomers

was any indication, this tour should be a major success -- at least from a sociological standpoint. And with tickets sales climbing to 92 percent thus far, it's possible the Stones will top their own record-breaking 1995 "Voodoo Lounge" tour.

John MacNamara, 64, and wife, Lois, 57, said they had been anticipating the Bridges To Babylon show for months since tour rumors first surfaced. "We love this kind of music and no band today even comes close to the Stones in terms of pure rock 'n' roll," John MacNamara said.

Fans flocked from all over the country. Some flew from Boston, others from New Jersey and still there were those die-hards who drove all the way from Florida with no assurance that they'd score tickets.

Meet Kevin Reed and wife, Donna.

"We drove up without tickets," Reed said, as the couple frantically searched for a pair to scalp.

But why bother coming all the way from Florida when the Stones are scheduled to play Miami later this fall?

"The opening show is special... It's the biggest show of the tour because nobody knows what to expect," Reed added. "Besides, this could be the last tour."

That's something Stones fans have been fearing since 1981 even as the Stones, who are all now in their 50s with children and grandchildren of their own, again and again have proved these fears unwarranted.

One family of four packed the car with snacks, blankets and binoculars before embarking on the four-hour drive from the Iowa City area to Soldier Field for some rock 'n' roll family bonding. "I've been a Stones fan since the beginning," said the 39-year-old father, who didn't want his name used. He added that he was proud that his daughters Susan, 6, and Karen, 9, have embraced the Stones' music.

"They're awesomely good," exclaimed Karen, who became a fan while hearing the Stones played all-day long as her mother cleaned the house every Saturday. She said she hoped Mick Jagger would give her his best version of "Ruby Tuesday" and her favorite, "Paint It Black."

She was sure he wouldn't disappoint her.

When all was said and done though, not everyone was impressed. One mother said she was disappointed that her 14-year-old son "thought they were like soft rock." When the show was over, the teenager insisted that he would be picking the next concert they attended. "Maybe Metallica or Prodigy," he told his mom. [Wed., Sept. 24, 1997, 5 p.m. PDT]