Speaking for those who are not getting any younger, to those who are not getting any older, I have one message for The Rolling Stones:
Thank you for blowing up the concept of age in general and the idea that you are ever too old to rock and roll. The Stones are the battering ram of their generation, busting through traditional ideals about when you are too aged and dignified to scamper around a concert arena as if you’re once more a teenager.
The Rolling Stones played for 2 1/2 hours at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night. One might say they are too old for this sort of conduct. Mick Jagger turns 70 in 69 days; Keith Richards is that age in December. Charlie Watts is 72 on June 2, and Ronnie Wood turns 65 the day before.
Stereotypically speaking, these gents might be better suited to playing bingo than “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” on a quick trip to Las Vegas.
But the only statistic that really matters here is 50, the number of years the band has been active. I’m reminded of something Paul McCartney said, ages ago, when The Beatles met the Queen when the band was honored with their MBE medals. She asked how long the band had been together, and McCartney and Ringo Starr simultaneously summoned a number so far-reaching that it would seem unattainable.
“We’ve been together now for 40 years,” they told the Queen.
And The Stones eclipsed that fanciful mark a decade ago.
This Stones MGM Grand performance was a greatest-hits show, stuffed with the band’s most famous and enduring songs. But before any notes were played from the stage, the big screens facing the sold-out arena (13,300, if you need that stat) played interview clips of famous figures and commoners who were touched by The Stones. Johnny Depp reminded that The Stones’ music was something played “when you wanted to do bad things.” A range of artists spanning Pete Townshend, Iggy Pop, Martin Scorsese and Perry Farrell were mixed with regular blokes reminiscing about their introductions to The Stones, “My first album was ‘Beggars Banquet,’ ‘I drove my parents crazy with ‘Sticky Fingers,’ ” like that.
The first number, “Get Off of My Cloud,” borrowed from classic footage of the band through the years, interspersed with shots of the live crowd. Over the years, The Stones’ audience has matured and is, on balance, pretty well off, given the thousands of dollars commanded by ticket brokers offering ducats to the show in the weeks before the performance. Official ticket prices were $100 to $750.
This level of rock iconography is never cheap, music fans, as the tunes thundering from the stage included such anthemic Stones standards as “Gimme Shelter,” (with a soaring performance from backing singer Lisa Fischer), “You Got Me Rocking,” “Emotional Rescue,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Happy” (Ever notice how it is far easier to understand Richards when he is singing rather than speaking?), “Miss You,” "Paint It, Black," “Start Me Up,” “Brown Sugar” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Satisfaction.”
The central point, as has been customary for The Stones over the past 50 years, is Jagger. He’s always performing in the face of uniquely pressurized expectations. Jagger just can’t falter, or the whole act falls apart. But he remains an impressive physical marvel. Forget the music and singing; this guy scrambles across and around the stage nearly nonstop all night. He has managed to retain the same physical dimensions since the ’60s, seeming even more whippet thin today than when he was in his 20s. “Are you having a good time, Las Vegas!?” he said, caterwauling throughout the show and adding such customized patter as, “What happens in Vegas … shows up 10 minutes after on Instagram!”
A preening, gyrating Jagger routinely rambled around the circular stage front that bent around a super-VIP section near the front of the stage, a staging setup used to great effect by U2, among others. The band long ago mastered the sizing down of an arena by using giant inflatable dolls (most memorably during the 1989 “Steel Wheels” tour) and moving the band into the crowd. The dolls have been packed away for this tour. On Saturday, the show was boosted visually by the screens behind the stage, all of that aged footage and color-splashed images of a roulette wheel, flashing dice and the band’s upgraded lips logo for “Tumbling Dice.”
The singular additions to the Vegas show turned out not to be so unexpected. On Saturday, Jagger and Katy Perry both tweeted that Perry would join the band onstage (Ubiquitous Robin Leach sent word of this likelihood Friday). Perry did turn up for a spin through “Beast of Burden,” at one point accidentally popping Jagger in the face with the mic. Even Mick Taylor (with the band from 1969-'74) was back onstage. He played during the lengthy jam on “Midnight Rambler” and also on the show-closing “Satisfaction.”
For many Las Vegans in the audience, the appearance by the Green Valley High Madrigal Singers on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was a high point. As reported by the Associated Press, many parents were more excited than the students to learn that the choir would be joining The Rolling Stones onstage, as many of the teens had no idea who they were.
They are The Rolling Stones. They won’t be around forever, but all that music is forever young.