Mick Jagger asked himself the question: "Why do you keep touring?"
"You're the reason we really do this," he told the crowd, Saturday night at the Barclays Center, as the Rolling Stones kicked off the American leg of its "50 and Counting" tour, celebrating the band's golden anniversary. (They play the Prudential Center on Thursday and Saturday.)
And given his wild, whirling performance, strutting around the walkway that formed the lower lip of a stage set designed as the band's lips logo, Jagger is believable.
He barely stood still during the two-hour-plus show, a blur in impossibly skinny black jeans, leading the crowd on a guided tour of rock and roll -- a culture-changing genre he and guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and drummer Charlie Watts helped shape.
That's the answer to the other question: "Why see the Rolling Stones now?" Yes, the band isn't quite the same. Jagger clips the ends of notes now, especially in "Start Me Up," to conserve his voice. Richards' famous spins are at half speed. The new songs, especially "One Last Shot," show the musical spark dimming, especially when placed between the sleek, sexy "Miss You" and the anthemic "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll."
The Stones still pull off surprises, though. When Mary J. Blige faced off against Jagger during "Gimme Shelter," they pulled the best from each other. When guitarist Gary Clark Jr. arrived for "Going Down," Richards kicked into a higher gear.
No, you can't always get what you want. The Rolling Stones, like everyone else, are getting older. But they can still thrill a crowd while they get what they need.