The Rolling Stones unofficially kicked off their 50th anniversary tour with a secret show at a small Los Angeles club last week, but Friday’s real opener at the Staples Center was anything but quiet or modest. The Stones opened their more than two-hour set with the UCLA marching band coming through the crowd (which included various celebrities, including Jack Nicholson in his usual Lakers spot, natch) playing the familiar chords of “Satisfaction.”
The Stones put on a show that included guest spots from Gwen Stefani and Keith Urban, as well as former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. Proving that they’ve still got the moves, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts (age total combined: 274) strutted their stuff on a stage that jutted out from a pair of lips into their unmistakable tongue logo that allowed the band to walk into the crowd, or in Mick’s case, skip.
Celebrating 50 years as a band is no small feat and the show opened with a video montage of famous fans reminiscing about their favorite Stones albums and shows, from Iggy Pop (“I’d never seen people with teeth like that!”) to Pete Townshend to Cate Blanchett (“Just how skinny they are really pisses me off”).
Ticket prices for the show were astronomical, ranging from the steal of a pit ticket for $85 to more than $600 for better seats in the sold-out 20,000 capacity venue (although last-minute tickets were reportedly available under face value on ticket broker StubHub). Jagger didn’t let the price factor go unnoticed, greeting the crowd with a tongue-in-cheek jab at his wealthy clientele: “Good evening, Los Angeles — or is it really just Beverly Hills, Brentwood, and parts of Santa Monica?”
The Stones may be getting up there but they are no strangers to the Web. If you want to feel like you’re really at every show, following @rollingstones on Twitter is a sure-fire way to get addicted. The feed tweeted the entire set list — which barely missed a beat of the hits, from “Paint It Black” to “Start Me Up” — in real time. While a Stones show is always a special occasion, the show’s set closely followed their show in Brooklyn late last year, with deep cut departures and special guests to set the night apart.
Below, a look at the show’s biggest highlights:
Gwen Stefani’s outfit on “Wild Horses”: I think this song choice for Stefani was a misfire — the soulful song is one of my favorites, but it just didn’t really lend itself to Stefani’s power pop. What did work about this moment? Stefani’s over-the-top Rolling Stones hippie fangirl outfit, complete with headband, sequin tongue shirt, and mile-long blond locks. Where can I buy this? It was not at the merch table. Sigh.
The deep cuts: “Factory Girl” and “Emotional Rescue”: In a show full of the hits, as expected, it was great to hear some long-lost favorites. I’ve always had a soft spot for “Factory Girl,” off 1968’s Beggars Banquet, and Jagger broke out his acoustic guitar for the performance. When he then followed that song up with “Emotional Rescue,” off 1980’s album of the same name — a song he said they’d “never done on stage” — the entire crowd gasped. The song starts off with Jagger in falsetto and moves into a disco beat.
Keith Urban jamming on “Respectable”: I always thought that “Respectable,” from 1978’s Some Girls, had its roots in punk, but apparently it works with a country twang, too. With all the American Idol feuding going on this week, it was a relief to see Keith Urban out from behind the Idol judges table for the night to hang out with the Rolling Stones and he lent his signature cowboy feel to the song, along with plenty of hard rocking out. He looked like he was having so much fun up there thrashing with the other Keith! The pair of guitarists shared a priceless handshake at the end of the song.
Mick Taylor’s epic jam on “Midnight Rambler”: Mick Taylor was a member of the Rolling Stones from 1969 to 1974 and has been playing guitar with the band again recently. Jagger joined him on harmonica during a nearly 10-minute rendition of “Midnight Rambler.”
Keith Richards’ solo set: What can I say, I’m a Keith fan and even more of one in the last few years after reading his amazing memoir, Life. Apparently, I’m not alone. As soon as Jagger left the stage and Richards came forward for his two-song set of “Before They Make Me Run” and “Happy,” the crowd went wild and wouldn’t stop cheering for the guitarist alone on stage. Even Richards seemed a little taken aback, but played in stride and opened by quipping “It’s great to be here. It’s great to be anywhere!”
Mick Jagger’s dance moves: If you were wondering if Mick Jagger can still shake it, he can. It’s been over a decade since I last saw the Stones and I remember making the geriatric jokes even then. But like so many of our favorite stars that have resisted aging, Jagger seems to have found the fountain of youth. It clearly involves shiny silver jackets, all manner of sparkly shirts, and a lot of pelvic thrusting.
Video panel and stage setup: It didn’t matter where in the arena you were sitting — there’s pretty much a view no matter what, thanks to the nearly ceiling-high video screen and tongue-walk stretching out into the crowd. The screen was used to show the band way-larger-than-life sized, and to project smart animations for some songs, like a Russian vodka bottle montage during “Start Me Up” and colorful (albeit literal) dice rolling off tongues during “Tumbling Dice.”
The Rolling Stones 17-date tour continues Sunday in Oakland, Calif.
Complete set list:
Get Off of My Cloud
The Last Time
It’s Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It)
Paint It Black
Doom & Gloom
One More Shot
Honky Tonk Women
Before They Make Me Run
Start Me Up
Sympathy for the Devil
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Jumpin’ Jack Flash