Rolling Stones Pay Tribute to Charlie Watts as They Kick Off First Tour Without Him: 'Quite Emotional'

The Rolling Stones drummer died at age 80 on Aug. 24

The Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Photo: Backgrid

The Rolling Stones are keeping the spirit of late drummer Charlie Watts alive as they kick off their first tour without him.

The rockers played the first show on their long-delayed No Filter tour in St. Louis on Sunday night, and paid tribute to Watts by opening with an empty stage and a lone drumbeat, according to the Associated Press.

A large photo of Watts, who died on Aug. 24 at age 80, flashed on screen, something frontman Mick Jagger said was "really quite emotional," per CNN.

After performing "It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It)" as their second song of the night, Jagger, 78, Keith Richards, 77, and Ronnie Wood, 74, headed to the front of the stage together, and reportedly thanked fans for offering their love and support in light of Watts' death.

RELATED VIDEO: Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts Dies at 80: 'One of the Greatest Drummers of His Generation'

"This is our first-ever tour we've ever done without him," said Jagger, who held hands with Richards as he spoke. "We'll miss Charlie so much, on and off the stage."

The band went on to play "Tumbling Dice," which they dedicated to their beloved drummer, according to the AP.

Though Sunday night marked the first official performance since Watts' death, the Rolling Stones previously addressed the loss during a private warmup show last week in Foxboro, Massachusetts, which also served as the unofficial debut of touring drummer Steve Jordan.

"At this point, it's a bit of a poignant night for us because this is our first tour in 59 years that we've done without our lovely Charlie Watts," Jagger said during the show. "And we all miss Charlie so much — we miss him as a band, we miss him as a friend — on and off the stage and we've got so many memories of Charlie. I'm sure that some of you who have seen us before miss Charlie as well and I hope you'll remember him like we do. "

"We'd like to dedicate this show to Charlie," he continued. Jagger then walked to pick up a beer and raised his bottle in honor of Watts before taking a drink and saying, "Let's have a drink to Charlie!"

"Charlie, we're playing for you man, we're playing for you," added bassist Wood.

The death of Watts, who joined the Rolling Stones in 1963, was announced in a statement by his publicist Bernard Doherty, who said he died in a London hospital surrounded by his family.

"Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also as a member of The Rolling Stones one of the greatest drummers of his generation," the statement said. "We kindly request that the privacy of his family, band members and close friends is respected at this difficult time."

In the band's first interview since Watts' death, Jagger called him "the rock" that kept the Stones rolling, and said he'd "held the band together for so long."

"The thing he brought was this beautiful sense of swing and swerve that most bands wish they could have," Jagger told Rolling Stone. "We had some really nice conversations in the last couple of years about how all this happened with the band. It's a huge loss to us all. It's very, very hard."

The No Filter tour will stretch through November before it wraps in Austin on Nov. 20.

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