ST. LOUIS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — It’s how you start and how you finish — the Rolling Stones are touring again and they’ll button it up in the Lone Star State.

This time ‘The Stones’ are heading out without their heartbeat, or at least their backbeat.

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The legendary rockers launched their pandemic-delayed “No Filter” tour Sunday at the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis without their drummer of nearly six decades. It was clear from the outset just how much the band members — and the fans — missed Charlie Watts, who died last month at age 80. Except for a private show in Massachusetts last week, the St. Louis concert was their first since Watts’ death.

The show opened with an empty stage and only a drumbeat, with photos of Watts flashing on the video board. After the second song, a rousing rendition of “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It),” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood came to the front of the stage. Jagger and Richards clasped hands as they thanked fans for the outpouring of support and love for Watts. Jagger acknowledged it was emotional seeing the photos of Watts.

“This is our first-ever tour we’ve ever done without him,” Jagger said. “We’ll miss Charlie so much, on and off the stage.”

The band then dedicated “Tumbling Dice” to Watts.

The tour had been scheduled for 2020 before the coronavirus virtually shut down the touring industry. Signs of the pandemic were everywhere at the show in Missouri, a state hit hard by the virus’s delta variant.

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The tens of thousands of fans wore masks as required by St. Louis’ anti-virus protocol. The Stones themselves appeared in a public service announcement urging anyone with symptoms to stay home. A vaccination site was set up at the dome, with plans for similar sites at each tour stop.

The concert itself featured the same driving beat personified by Watts, thanks to his replacement, Steve Jordan. The drummer may be new to fans but he’s hardly new to the Stones — Jordan has performed for years with Richards’ side project, X-Pensive Winos, along with many other leading acts.

Still, die-hard fans couldn’t help but miss Watts, widely considered one of rock’s greatest drummers, even though his real love was jazz. He joined Jagger and Richards in the Rolling Stones in 1963. Wood joined in 1975.

The show featured the band’s long litany of hits. Jagger hardly looked like a 78-year-old man, strutting around the stage like a man half — or one-third of his age; a constant whirl of motion. His vocals, and the guitar work of Wood and Richards, sounded as good as ever.

After St. Louis, the tour will include stops in Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Nashville, Tennessee; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tampa, Florida; Dallas; Atlanta; Detroit; and ending in Austin, Texas, at the Circuit of the Americas on the Super Stage on Nov. 20. The band also added new dates in Los Angeles on Oct. 14 and Oct. 17, and a concert in Las Vegas on Nov. 6.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

CBSDFW.com Staff