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Concert review: The Rolling Stones are still something to behold

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From left, Wood, Jagger and Richards paint it black.
Photo: Sam Morris

The Details

The Rolling Stones
three stars
May 11, MGM Grand Garden Arena

There are two prevailing schools of thought about the continued existence of The Rolling Stones: that the band would have served its legacy better by calling it quits long ago (see: a Vegas musician’s post on my Facebook page asking, “Why couldn’t they have died in a fiery plane crash in 1976?”) or that aged Stones are better than no Stones at all (see: Saturday’s sold-out crowd at MGM Grand Garden Arena).

I tend to side with the former camp, minus the fiery plane crash: 1972’s Exile on Main St. is the most recent Stones record I play all the way through, and all three of my previous live experiences have been something less than mind-blowing. Yet I left Saturday’s show convinced that the band should keep touring until it literally can’t. Because sooner or later, The Rolling Stones will be gone, and the world will be a sadder place for it.

Critically speaking, the band’s latest Strip stop was no musical masterpiece. Saxophones and backing vocals ranged from inaudible to overpowering, drummer Charlie Watts lost the beat badly in “Brown Sugar” and Keith Richards’ guitar sounded so mistuned for “Start Me Up,” I considered covering my ears. But anyone who plunked down big bucks (up to $750, face value) expecting aural perfection was doing it wrong. Seeing the Stones in 2013 isn’t about comparing them to the 1969 version; it’s about paying homage, trimming down bucket lists and loading up camera rolls with Mick Jagger poses.

There were moments that might qualify as magic. Ex-Stone Mick Taylor joined in to jam on “Midnight Rambler,” reminding us why his tenure on lead guitar (’69-’74) marked the band’s apex. Guest vocalist Katy Perry (I can’t believe I just typed that) brought the right amount of sass to “Beast of Burden.” And Ron Wood peppered the 22-song set with relaxed, lyrical guitar work, helping to turn “Miss You,” for example, into something less than tired.

Mostly, the show was made memorable by Jagger, whose voice and moves at age 69 defy all logic, and by the band’s catalog, one of the most undeniably loaded in rock history. A few more rarities to go with the flood of hits would have been welcome, but with these Rolling Stones, it’s best to check all expectations at the turnstile, stand back and marvel at the never-ending spectacle.

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Spencer Patterson

Spencer Patterson is the Editor of Las Vegas Weekly, having previously served as Managing Editor, Arts & Entertainment Editor and ...

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