Published March 27, 2019
Lake Champlain Weekly
By Joshua Miner
Known across America as the Glimmer Twins, Keith Call and Bernie Bollendorf live and breathe the Rolling Stones. The spitting image of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the pair work to create an authentic Rolling Stones experience night after night, hailing back to the 1970’s prime of one of the most popular bands of all time. While the Rolling Stones continue to sell out arenas all over the world, tickets averaged $624 for their 50th anniversary tour in 2013. On April 5 the Classic Stones Live aim to create the same wild and theatrical show when they visit the Strand Theatre April 5 – only without breaking the bank.
The Rolling Stones have sold over 250 million albums worldwide over their career, logging eight number one hits during that time. As one of rock and roll’s most popular bands ever, a free show played in Brazil in 2006 brought an estimated crowd of 1.2 to 1.5 million people. While the real Mick Jagger and Keith Richards are both still dancing around the stage at the age of 75, the Classic Stones Live look to keep the music alive for many more years to come.
Call’s obsession with the Rolling Stones started at a young age. As a young kid, his life was changed when his older sister brought home her first Rolling Stones album. From that moment on, he would fall in love with the Rolling Stones’ raw energy and style.
“I started when I was really young,” Call says of his imitations of the band. “I had an older sister who had the album ‘Sticky Fingers.’ Just hearing ‘Brown Sugar,’ that first riff, I was hooked right there. So, I’ve always been a fan of the Rolling Stones.”
Over the years, Call studied Jagger, emulating his unique mannerisms and flashy stage presence. His passion paid off years later, when he was approached to play the role for a tribute band. While he was initially asked to play Jagger due to the uncanny resemblance, it was his attention to detail and knack for impersonation that would really sell the role.
“I was asked if I would be interested in a part because of the strong resemblance to him. And being such a Stones fan, I kind of took it as a challenge,” Call says. “A lot of it came natural because I had watched so many videos.”
Call’s tenure in the band didn’t last long, however, as he and Classic Stones Live guitarist Bollendorf would part ways with the group. With Call on the harp and Bollendorf on guitar, the singers would become known as the infamous Glitter Twins.
“Bernie [Bollendorf], who plays Keith Richards, and myself were in another band, and things weren’t quite going to our liking at that point in time. So, we reached out to Mike [Rubino], who’s the other guitarist, who had his own Rolling Stones tribute band,” Call recounts. “We got together and had a meeting and decided ‘Hey, let’s form our own.’ So, we kind of took the best pieces of everything and formed it together, and that was about 11 years ago.”
Over those 11 years, Classic Stones Live have toured nationwide, setting dates in over 30 states. From California to Florida and everywhere in between, the band has found plenty of success with their act.
Call says one of the keys to this continued success, is the undying love that fans all over the world have for the Rolling Stones. Crossing every generation gap, the Stones’ music continues to bring people together.
“The Rolling Stones have been around for so long, and [have] so many hits, so many recognizable songs. So, what’s great about that is it’s relevant to audiences from a large variety of ages. We see senior citizens to their grandkids come out and enjoy the show.”
An eight-piece group, Classic Stones Live is able to faithfully reproduce the sound of the Stones, complete with backup vocals. This attention to detail sets the group apart, as they strive to replicate all of the Stones’ hits note-for-note.
“They have so much good material, and the way we’re able to present it, because we’re an eight-piece band, we can stay true to the original arrangements, with no backing tracks,” Call explains. “For example, fully play ‘Brown Sugar,’ play the note-for-note sax solo. So, it’s very recognizable. If we do a song like ‘Angie,’ we have the strings in that. Or ‘Ruby Tuesday,’ we reproduce the recorder part with a flute. So, we’re very diverse and there’s really no song that we can’t do.”
While some tribute bands make do with what they have, doing their best approximation of the original material, the Classic Stones work to not only cover every song note for note, but to also give the look and feel of the Rolling Stones’ world-renowned theatrical performances. This includes banter between the members of the band, using the same kind of humor that was common in the original shows.
“Mick has also been kind of a character on stage. So, it’s really fun to kind of try and recreate that without being too over the top, right? You got to kind of draw the line a little bit. We mix in a little bit of humor with it. As you know, the stories go that Mick and Keith bicker a little bit,” Call explains about the sometimes-tumultuous relationship between the singers. “So, we kind of lightheartedly fit that in on stage to kind of round out the show. It’s a fun time to kind of take you back in, but we don’t take it too seriously.”
Filling out the rest of the lineup is Bobby Corea on drums, Rob Ekstedt on bass, Bobby Michaels on sax and flute and Rocco Notte on organ, piano and keyboards. Valorie Steel sings backup, providing the feminine vocals so crucial to many of the Rolling Stones most well-known hits.
While the Classic Stones Live can certainly play any song from the Stones’ catalog, they focus on where the Rolling Stones were as a band circa 1973.
“Musically, their golden age or whatever you want to refer to it [as], is probably between ’60 and ’73, in that era,” Call says. “We do other [songs] as well that predate that, and some major ones too, but we kind of focus on that cool time period in the 70s.”
What also sets their performances apart from an original Rolling Stones show, is a chance to see songs you wouldn’t when see today when seeing the Rolling Stones, whose setlists now tend to stay the same from show to show.
“While we play a lot of the hits, we also delve into some of their other songs,” Call explains. “The Rolling Stones, they kind of just play the same setlist, pretty much every night. We mix it up. I mean, we could play over 70 songs with the snap of a finger because we rotate the songs so much. So, someone that saw us one time might come back, and they would get a totally different show the next time.”
What makes their shows so special for Call, is the opportunity to transport people to another time, allowing fans to relive happy memories and past glories as they flash back with the help of the Rolling Stones. Because of this mission, the band doesn’t use their platform to improvise, with Call saying the Classic Stones Live are very much dedicated to giving the audience that authentic sound. Rather than take liberties with the music, or reinterpret it as some tribute acts might, the Classic Stones Live work to create performances as close to the original recordings as possible.
With countless hit songs transporting an endless number of fans to their glory days, the group takes pride in this perfection.
“There’s a lot of great tribute bands out there. And there’s other Rolling Stones tribute bands, but ours being an eight-piece, we’re able to replicate everything down to almost how it sounds on the record. We’re very meticulous about doing songs in their original tuning. So, that’s why we’ll have 13 guitars on stage, two keyboards, and so on and so forth. So that we can replicate those songs just like people remember them.”
From the musicianship to the flamboyant stylings of the lead singers, the Classic Stones Live are sure to not only bring back memories of another time, but also create plenty of new ones in the process.
It’s just this combination of nostalgia and fun that makes the job of being Mick Jagger the role of a lifetime for Call.
“I think the most rewarding thing about it, is after the show, when we get to talk to some of the fans. When someone comes up and says, ‘You brought me back to 1975, when I saw the Stones at Madison Square Garden,’” he recalls. “You could just see the happiness, that we actually brought him back to a point in time. They can revisit the memories, and being part of that, making people happy, I feel like we did our job if we can do that.”
The Classic Stones Live will be playing at the Strand Center Theatre on Friday, April 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29-$49 in advance, or $34-54 the day of the show, and can be purchased at the Strand Center Box Office, (518)-563-1604, Ext. 104, or online at strandcenter.org.