The Rolling Stones recently announced their first North American tour since 2006. The "50 and Counting" tour (to honor the band's 51 years together) kicks off Thursday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Alas, the band was not planning at the moment to stop by our area this time around. The indefatigable Mick Jagger -- who turns 70 later this year -- spoke about the tour, reuniting with an old friend and future recording plans.
They're never inevitable. Everyone had a really good time in the five shows before Christmas . We wanted to see how the band was playing, how people were reacting. We didn't get too much moaning or complaining.
What was quite good is that we set a small goal. We rehearsed for a long time, as if we were doing 100 gigs. But it's helpful to do these things in bite-size pieces, so you're not feeling there's this dreadful endless thing of being on the road. You knew it was going to be done. Similarly, this tour has modest demands. At the beginning of the summer, you're done. We're not going crazy, so everyone was up for that.
Why did you book arenas instead of stadiums?
The Christmas shows were arena shows. We got that going, and we're content with doing that. We're doing a few outside festival shows in England, but we just feel more in the groove doing arenas.
Your old guitarist, Mick Taylor, will be touring with you for the first time since the '70s. How did that come about?
He played very well as a guest in the shows last year, though he only played on one song. We had a lot of guest guitarists. It was fun trying to keep track of all of them. I was scared of announcing the wrong guy, like introducing Jeff Beck instead of Eric Clapton or something. I had to have cue cards in front of me with so many guests. Ronnie [Wood] would stand behind me saying, "You've got the wrong one!" But Mick Taylor played well, and he's going to do a guest spot on this tour. I don't know how many songs it will be.
What about your old bass player, Bill Wyman? Was he asked to rejoin?
He played with us in London last year, but he's not keen on touring. He made that very clear to us.
Any surprises on the set list, or will it be mostly greatest hits again?
Well, we have quite a lot of songs. We will swap around somewhat. I'm interested in feedback and learning what people want. It's a tricky thing for me when I do a set list. You get bored doing the same songs. Let's say we do one ballad in two hours, and it's "Wild Horses." If you say, I'm tired of that, let's try something less well known, and then you're out there stumbling through this song you just relearned at sound check, and you realize people probably want "Wild Horses" instead of this laughs]. You do need to do some songs that aren't so well known. The question is how many? I'm open to people posting their requests.
I've heard from many people who say they would like to go to the shows but can't afford a ticket . What do you say to them?
If you really can't afford a ticket, it's sad. I feel bad about that. But there are seats at different prices. We have some cheap ones that are quite good, too. There's a price for everybody, I think.
People are already fretting that the secondary ticket market will gobble up most of the best seats and resell them at several times face value. What is your attitude toward these secondary market sellers, and are the Stones participating at all in those profits?
I'm very much against the secondary ticket market. I don't know anyone who isn't. We have a lot of secondary market problems in the U.K.; it's really bad there. Personally, we don't participate in it. That's the view we take. I think it should be illegal, and in the U.K., it would be very easy to stop it. It's a bigger problem in the U.S.
Is there any new Stones music or an album in the works?
I have a lot of songs, and I'd love to do some more recording with the band. But we're going to get through the tour first and then see what happens.