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Keith Richards’ bizarre pre-show ritual

The Rolling Stones tours are extravagant affairs both on and off the stage. Each member can have whatever indulgences they’d like, and nowadays, Keith Richards’ vices are no longer drugs. Instead, he has an obscure pre-show ritual that the guitarist must undertake before taking to the stage.

The early days of The Rolling Stones were well known for being raucous occasions, events which ultimately took a toll on their bodies, and Richards could survive on no sleep between shows. It’s now a completely different tale, and the Stones axeman needs his home comforts with him on the road with no expense spared.

Every artist gets a rider, with most choosing to be modest with their selections because the costs of the items get deducted from their pay packet. However, Richards doesn’t need to worry about any of that, so rather than requesting cans of warm lager and a local takeaway, he requests they build him a pub which serves his favourite meal.

Backstage at every Stones concert is Richards’ dream traditional pub which is reportedly fitted out with a jukebox and is decorated with cricket bats on the walls. Before they play live, Richards makes sure to stop by without fail, and there’s only one thing on his agenda — eat shepherd’s pie.

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The British culinary delight is quite a heavy meal to have before going on stage, but it’s essential for Richards, and when he doesn’t receive the item, things can get messy.

In 1999, when the group were touring Steel Wheels, Richards was incensed to discover there was no pie left at the pub when he arrived ahead of their show at the CNE Stadium in Toronto. It’s a non-negotiable for him, and the incident nearly led to the concert’s postponement.

Thankfully, the catering staff successfully found the ingredients required to rustle up his favourite dish, and fortunately, the show went ahead. In Richards’ autobiography, Life, he discussed the infamous incident and revealed: “It’s now famous, my rule on the road. Nobody touches the shepherd’s pie till I’ve been in there. Don’t bust my crust, baby.”

This tradition goes back decades, and his former wife, Anita Pallenberg, once recalled: “Once a member of the crew ate his shepherd’s pie and Keith threatened to cut him up and put his legs in a shepherd’s pie. So he gets his shepherd’s pie, miles of shepherd’s pie everywhere. He’s always got shepherd’s pie and he doesn’t have to worry about it.”

For some context about his life-long love of the dish, Richards has been divorced from Pallenberg since 1980, and he most recently posted a photo on social media of his famous pie backstage in 2018 following a show in Manchester. It’s been a staple of his diet for at least 40 years, and long may it continue to fuel ‘The Human Riff’ for many more tours to come.