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Exhibition Review: The Rolling Stones Exhibit – ICC Darling Harbour

The first thing that got my attention when I walked into this extremely well-organised, highly elaborate exhibition, is a very large video screen with Sir Mick Jagger in conversation with someone, with Mick saying:

First you shock them, then they put you into a museum.

This amazing exhibit chronicles The Rolling Stones extraordinary and well-documented career.

There are over 500 different pieces and artefacts (that’s how old they are now) on display.

Influences of Muddy Waters & Chuck Berry

Your first introduction to the band is obviously in their early years. You get to walk through a re-creation of the one-bedroom London flat that Mick, Brian, Charlie and sometimes Keith shared back in 1962. It’s downright filthy. Dirty dishes are in the sink, there are unmade beds and cigarette butts stubbed out everywhere and unwashed clothes on the floor. The old record player is playing Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry.

Then you get to go along on their journey from young blues enthusiasts sharing a small room to eventually stadium superstars who became the social scene’s ‘A list-ers’.

There are original guitars, well-worn photos, recording studios and original master tape boxes with names of classics with ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Beast of Burden’ written in pencil on the top. There are original sketches and designs for album art there – even the Andy Warhol inspired ‘Sticky Fingers’ cover with the original zipper.

You follow the band through their rise to the top of the stadium and concert ladders, and obviously as the band grew, so did their stage size and technical creativity. The designs and footage of some of the tours are monstrous, especially the audaciousness of the 1989 ‘Steel Wheels’ world tour and the over the top video screens for the 2003 Forty Licks tour.

By listening in on the discussions and interviews that Mick and Charlie are having with stage and lighting designers, it’s quite clear that in the beginning showmanship was not a priority at all – only the sound of the band to impress. They quickly realised that (whilst still staying true to the music) the band owed the audience a lot more from a live perspective.

There are whole rooms of displays and set re-creations and massive amounts of footage of concerts that quickly show the band to be the biggest live act in the world.

The ‘Bigger Bang’ stage design says it all. It’s totally out of this world!


There are more costumes on display than you could possibly imagine (they were and still are clearly fashionistas), but the highlight for me was at the end of the exhibition, where you end up ‘backstage’ with the band. You go through make-up rooms, road cases, clothes racks and catering, and you finally make your way through the thick black curtains onto the stage in front of Mick at the 2016 Hyde Park performance. I didn’t mention that you are now wearing 3D glasses, and the effect is mind-blowing! You truly feel as if you’re on stage with the band performing ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’. The atmosphere and volume are overwhelming.

Whether you are a Stones fan or not, this is one almightly awe-inspiring exhibition of one of the greatest rock bands of all time – and the entire culture they created.

Go see it!

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