Mick Jagger asked himself THE question: “Why do you keep touring?”
“You're the reason we really do this,” he told the crowd last 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, it's hard not to believe him. Throughout the two-hour, 20-minute show, Jagger barely stood still, a blur in impossibly skinny black jeans, as he led the capacity crowd on a guided tour of the history of rock and roll – a culture-changing, earth-shaking genre he and guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and drummer Charlie Watts helped shape.
That's the answer to THE OTHER question: “Why go see the Rolling Stones now?” Let's be honest, the band isn't quite what it used to be. You can hear how Jagger is clipping the ends of notes now, especially in “Start Me Up,” to conserve his voice. You can see how Richards' famous spins are at half speed. And in the new songs “Doom and Gloom” and “One Last Shot,” you can hear how their musical spark has dimmed, especially when they're placed between the sleek, sexy “Miss You,” which showed how rock could co-opt disco with spectacular results, and the anthemic “It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It).”
A better reason, though, is that the Stones can still pull off a surprise. When Mary J. Blige faces off against Jagger during “Gimme Shelter,” it's spellbinding to see how they pull the best from each other. When guitarist Gary Clark Jr. arrives for “Going Down,” Richards kicks into a higher gear on his solo, eager to show that he can keep up with hot, young guitarists. When the band unfolds the epic “Midnight Rambler,” with its time changes and bluesy breakdowns and Jagger's high-kicking, snake-hipped freakouts, it's nothing short of magical.
No, you can't always get what you want. The Rolling Stones, like everyone else, are getting older. But they still know how to thrill a crowd while they get what they need.
SETLIST: Get Off Of My Cloud / I Wanna Be Your Man / The Last Time / Paint It Black / Gimme Shelter (with Mary J. Blige) / Wild Horses / Going Down (with Gary Clark Jr.) / All Down the Line / Miss You / One More Shot / Doom And Gloom / It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) / Honky Tonk Women / Before They Make Me Run / Happy / Midnight Rambler / Start Me Up / Tumbling Dice / Brown Sugar / Sympathy For The Devil // ENCORE: You Can’t Always Get What You Want / Jumpin’ Jack Flash / (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction