MiG Ayesa Takes the Stage for The Music of the Rolling Stones

David Lewellen

Tagged Under: 2021.22 Season, Guest Artist, Pops

MiG Ayesa, who has had a varied career on Broadway and as a front man for tributes to classic rock acts of the 1970s, is taking on the Rolling Stones for the first time this weekend. He will perform with the Milwaukee Symphony on April 30, with a rock band and conductor Martin Herman, to present “Music of the Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards 1969.”

Ayesa talked by phone recently with Backstage writer David Lewellen.

Q. How do these tribute concerts come together?

A. Windborne Music creates concerts for Queen, the Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, etc. Brent Havens does beautiful orchestral arrangements of classic rock pop songs and creates a wall of sound that really elevates the original music. We had a couple rehearsals together in Virginia last week, but with the Milwaukee Symphony, we’ll get only one. That element of danger is always exciting. It keeps us on our toes, and it keeps them on their toes. But it always works out beautifully in the end.

Q. You’ve done Queen a lot, but this is your first time out with the Stones. What has that been like?

A. It’s taken a while. We’re going deep into the catalog of their early period. “Point Blank,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Salt of the Earth” – a lot of songs I hadn’t heard or didn’t know much about. It’s been a journey of discovery, but the more I get into learning the songs, the more I appreciate it.

Q. How much do you try to channel the original performance?

A. I don’t want to be a Mick Jagger impersonator. I’m not going to try to imitate the strut or the clothes. If you want Mick Jagger, go see the Rolling Stones. He’s still alive. But there are certain attacks and phrasings that I do try to emulate, to perform the song the way that it should be done. And the Rolling Stones in the studio were quite free and loose. It’s a little messy in some parts. That’s some of the charm. It’s scatty, and they say things that don’t make much sense.

Q. What sets the Rolling Stones apart from their rivals, The Beatles? Or from Queen or other bands of that general era that you’ve performed?

A. They loved the blues. So did all of the British Invasion bands, but they took it further, with that gritty sound. That love of rawness is something I want to be able to portray. They didn’t pretend to be polished. If you listen to the recording and try to figure out what Mick Jagger is actually singing, it’s hard. They were scary. The Beatles wore suits and ties at first, and you could imagine taking The Beatles home to meet your grandmother. You could not take Mick Jagger or Keith Richards home to meet your grandmother.

Q. You’ve spent a lot of time performing in musicals and doing hits by other bands. What do you like to perform as yourself?

A. That’s a good question. Sometimes people think I have multiple personalities. I have to be versatile. But what I really love is being onstage, performing live with a band in front of an audience. That’s where my sweet spot is.

Q. What was it like to get back in front of an audience after the pandemic?

A. I’m from Australia, and my dad died last year, and I was able to spend his last few months with him. But they’re very strict about isolation – I had to spend two weeks in quarantine before I went home. So I was there in 2021 when the lockdown was lifted, and I did an Elton John concert with orchestra in Sydney and Adelaide. What a joy that was. We’re going to get together, and life is going to come back.