'Classic Stones Live' brings look and sound of rock legends

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MANCHESTER — Keith Call didn't set out to make a living out of duplicating the experience of seeing The Rolling Stones in concert when he and Bernie Bollendorf decided to form their own tribute band.

Ten years later, Call is still taking the stage in the role of Mick Jagger, with Bollendorf as fellow Glimmer Twin Keith Richards, and ther band, Classic Stones Live. They'll be performing at Southern Vermont Arts Center's Arkell Pavilion at 7 p.m. on Friday, as part of SVAC's "Friday Night Live" concert series.

Classic Stones Live — an eight-piece traveling outfit, complete with saxophone, piano and female back-up vocals -- has built a reputation for recreating the sound, look and feel of the Rolling Stones' live shows during their mid-1970s salad days, when they were widely regarded as the greatest rock and roll band on the planet. And it all starts with the Stones' iconic music, Call told the Journal.

"It sort of comes natural to me only because i've been a Rolling Stones fan for so long. I was a Stones fan long before I started doing this," Call said. "So it when came time to do it, it almost became second nature because I was such a big fan."

That;s not to say it's easy, mind you.

"It's always challenging," Call said. "Jagger's got to be one of the hardest singers to emulate vocally. He has such a bluesy voice. It's not easily imitated."

And then there's the challenge of walking the line between playing the character of an iconic rock star on stage — and not taking it so seriously that you can't have fun with it. Call said he and Bollendorf occasionally bicker in the manner of Jagger and Richards, the original "frienemies" of rock and roll.

My thing is when I'm on stage I don't break character. I'm trying to make the audience feel like they're in a real Rolling Stones concert," Call said. "At the same time I don't take myself so seriously, I don't think."

Having an eight-piece band gives Classic Stones Live flexibility to tackle virtually any piece in their catalogue. They've got a keyboard player to handle Ian Stewart's contributions, a saxophonist to play Bobby Keys' iconic solos (think "Brown Sugar") and a back-up singer who can tackle Merry Clayton's goosebump-raising vocals on "Gimme Shelter."

"We've got all the parts covered. It's fantastic to have such a great band behind you," Call said.

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