The Rolling Stones have gone from the bad boys of rock ’n’ roll to classic rock’s poster geezers.

The Rolling Stones have gone from the bad boys of rock ’n’ roll to classic rock’s poster geezers.

Visitors to Unzipped, a dazzling new exhibition about the band that opens today at the new Expo Live! venue at Portage Place, can follow Mick and the boys on their 60-year musical journey and view decades of concert footage, memorabilia, costumes and artwork along the way.

Fans of the band and core members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood and Bill Wyman, plus former members Brian Jones and Mick Taylor will, without a doubt, enjoy what the Stones have put together and remember old concerts, including their show at the Winnipeg Arena in 1966.

<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p><em>Unzipped</em>, an international exhibition devoted to the Rolling Stones, will make a stop in Winnipeg at Expo Live! at Portage Place.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Unzipped, an international exhibition devoted to the Rolling Stones, will make a stop in Winnipeg at Expo Live! at Portage Place.

For skeptics who think the Stones are just a "blues cover band," as Paul McCartney described the group last year, the outlandish costumes and lifestyle can provide a chance to scoff at their legendary penchant for excess.

"There’s enough cool things to look at and enough energy in the room to keep you occupied and if you’re a fan, there’s nothing better," says Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of venues and entertainment for True North Sports and Entertainment, which is hosting Unzipped in partnership with TheMuseum in Kitchener, Ont., the show’s only other Canadian stop this year.

<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>True North’s Kevin Donnelly says there are ‘enough cool things to look at and enough energy in the room’ to keep visitors occupied.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

True North’s Kevin Donnelly says there are ‘enough cool things to look at and enough energy in the room’ to keep visitors occupied.

By following the Stones’ six-decade history, Unzipped also traverses most of rock’s lifespan, from the band’s humble origins to performing around the world on grandiose stages.

Those origins are depicted in a re-creation of a flat at 102 Edith Grove in London’s Chelsea neighbourhood, where Jagger, Richards and Jones lived while playing small gigs and enjoying their shared love of the music of Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.

They would eventually team up with Watts and Wyman, and that combo would blossom into the World’s Greatest Rock ’N’ Roll Band and a multimillion-dollar corporation built on the realization that there were wads of cash to be made from fans who seek Satisfaction while knowing You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A replica of the band's flat in Chelsea.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A replica of the band's flat in Chelsea.

The two rooms from Edith Grove, along with a larger depiction of Olympic Studios, where the Stones recorded some of their 1960s hits, highlight the early part Unzipped’s journey, with the latter including a control panel’s knobs and switches, recording relics from an analogue era.

"It’s not a small undertaking. There’s shipping containers and everything you see. It’s meticulously conceived and constructed and it’s not easy to put together," Donnelly says.

In all, it took more than 1,500 hours for workers to set up the 20,000-square-foot pop-up museum, which included building walls to hang priceless artworks and memorable photographs, set up display cases to hold Richards’ 1963 Les Paul electric guitar, among other collectibles and hook up more than 300 metres of data cables so 50 televisions and video monitors can show concert footage and pump music throughout the galleries.

Unzipped focuses heavily on Jagger’s stuff; a whole salon is filled with 42 mannequins adorned in his stage costumes. All the frippery is a testament to his fashionista style that’s become his over-the-top trademark.

<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Various costumes worn during Rolling Stones shows are on display.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Various costumes worn during Rolling Stones shows are on display.

Richards has his share of memorabilia and a couple of costumes as well, but it is his museum narration and archived interviews — his accent is definitely unique — that punctures Jagger’s pretentious duds.

"It’s not quiet," Donnelly says of the show. "It’s definitely interactive in that you’re encouraged to talk and take photos and get your picture with a guitar, but don’t sit (by) Charlie’s drums, though. You can’t do that."

Watts’ drum kit on display is from the mid-1960s, and the way it is placed, in the centre of one of the exhibition’s early galleries, serves as a bit of a memorial to the Stones co-founder, who died of cancer last August at the age of 80.

<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>A life-size replica of the Rollling Stones’ recording studio.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A life-size replica of the Rollling Stones’ recording studio.

While the band continues to tour — performing in Europe this summer with Steve Jordan on drums — Richards has said Watts was the "secret essence" of the band.

"I saw this maybe five months ago, closer to his passing and I literally stopped in my tracks," Donnelly says when he toured Unzipped in Kitchener while negotiating to bring the show here.

"This one, I think, has more emotion attached to it. It’s an empty drum kit. He’s not here and I think there’s some symbolism to that."

Watts was the low-key bedrock to the Stones’ sound, and a bank of tablets near the recording studio re-creation offers visitors the opportunity to find out how important his steady beat was. They allow listeners to adjust the mixes to several Stones songs to see how they would sound with louder vocals or more bass, for example.

Miss You, the single from the 1978 album Some Girls, is one of them. Jagger’s slinky vocals are so memorable, but remove Watts’ backbeat from the mix and the song loses its mojo.

<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p><em>Unzipped</em>, an international exhibition devoted to The Rolling Stones, runs from June 11 to July 31.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Unzipped, an international exhibition devoted to The Rolling Stones, runs from June 11 to July 31.

While Watts is fondly remembered, there is little in Unzipped to honour Jones, who died in 1969 at 27 shortly after leaving the band, or Wyman, another co-founder who left in 1992 after 30 years of touring.

The show revels in the Stones’ rebelliousness, but the band’s seamier side — the sex and drugs — is only hinted at.

Unzipped would rather have visitors focus on the celebrities who have sought and continue to seek to be part of the Stones’ circus. Garments by famed fashion designers such as Gianni Versace show up among Jagger’s costumes and a multimillion-dollar wall of rare Andy Warhol prints and sketches of Jagger show how the pop-art legend’s depiction of a rock legend contributed to the Stones’ mystique.

The second-half of the Rolling Stones’ history is remembered in Unzipped for larger-than-life touring shows, and it includes architectural models of the Voodoo Lounge and Bridges to Babylon stages, both of which made their way to Winnipeg Stadium for concerts in the 1990s.

<p>MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>An exhibition room full of various costumes that were worn during concerts.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

An exhibition room full of various costumes that were worn during concerts.

For a final encore is a gallery bedecked a semicircle bank of video monitors showing different views of the Stones’ 2016 concert in Havana. The surround-sound speakers put you in the middle of the crowd for 18 minutes of one of the band’s historic performances and a taste of what it would be like to see them perform classics such as Paint it Black or Jumpin’ Jack Flash once again.

While ticket prices are high when compared to other museums in Winnipeg — a weekday adult admission is $38 and it’s $47 on the weekend — it’ll take a while to give the museum, the exhibits and the music their due.

"If you’re going to be there for an hour, you’re going to miss a lot," Donnelly says.

Alan.Small@winnipegfreepress.com

Twitter: @AlanDSmall

If you value coverage of Manitoba’s arts scene, help us do more.
Your contribution of $10, $25 or more will allow the Free Press to deepen our reporting on theatre, dance, music and galleries while also ensuring the broadest possible audience can access our arts journalism.
BECOME AN ARTS JOURNALISM SUPPORTER Click here to learn more about the project.

Alan Small

Alan Small
Reporter

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.