They might be old, but these Stones still rock
There was anticipation in the air Tuesday night. Before the Rolling Stones took the stage for their Delta Center concert, green seats stared empty as a spotty crowd watched the opening act, singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, play.
Outside, a fleet of at least 20 tour busses idled near a pack of semis. You had to stretch your imagination to figure out how the tour used all those trucks.
Back inside, the fans clapped politely as Mraz and his band left the stage, and then everyone began to talk. There were conversations about the ticket prices, which rose well into the triple digits for many seats, and the age of the band members. At the same time, older concert-goers shared experiences from past Stones shows while younger ones seemed to marvel that they’d actually be able to see the band play.
So at 8:30 p.m., the stage was set, both literally and figuratively; the crowd was ready to rock.
The Stones hit the stage like a bomb. The lights went down, the stage-curtain rose, and Mick Jagger ran to the front of the stage as Keith Richards tore into the first chords of "Start Me Up."
At that moment, the crowd seemed to almost instantly materialize, gathering into what appeared to be a sold-out house, and, moving almost constantly, Jagger wrapped the crowd around his finger. They jumped when he jumped, they clapped when he looked at them, and whenever he gave one section of the crowd his attention, they exploded.
While Jagger supplied the energy Richards supplied the style, drawing the crowd’s attention with his casual, cool demeanor and riffs that sounded like the touch of a live wire.
Ron Wood and Charlie Watts, meanwhile, provided their musicianship, with Watts offering a steady beat from his stripped-down kit, and Wood contributing his concise guitar-work.
The band alternated between groups of past hits and songs from the its new release, "A Bigger Bang." The group showed its versatility too, as Jagger took his turn on guitar for "Rain Fall Down," which was broadcast live on the American Music Awards, and as Richards took the vocal duties on "Slipping Away" and "Infamy."
The show’s theatrics, meanwhile, fit with the Rolling Stones image. There were giant L.E.D. video screens and a massive stage that, at one point, actually lifted the band up and rolled them out into the center of the arena as they played. The band, however, justified the production effortlessly, stirring excitement and delivering an electric and always energetic set.
While the traditional band members were joined on many songs by back-up singers and a horn section, the best songs were the ones where Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts were left to play, unencumbered. On those songs they displayed their cohesiveness and their knack for improvisation. Richards displayed that trait perfectly, as his cords seemed to clash with their backers at times. When he played only with the band though, his guitar roar seemed to fit better, adding to the substance of the songs.
As the evening progressed, the band seemed to grow tighter. In the second half of the show, it hit its stride, blasting through a string of hits. "Get Off My Cloud" and "Honky-Tonk Women" were followed by "Sympathy for the Devil," then "Brown Sugar," and "Jumpin’ Jack Flash." That group was followed by a screaming cheer for an encore, and then "You Can’t Always Get What You Want," and finally, "Satisfaction."
By that time, even the tougher critics, those un-swayed by the band’s nearly constant energy and charisma, were hopping in their seats. The crowd cheered long after Jagger’s sweeping bows at each corner of the stage, and long after the band, backing-members and all, joined for a theatre-style bow to close the show, leaving their fans, both new and old, cheering.
As the concert-goers filed out of their seats, they talked about different things than they did as they entered.
No one talked about the astronomical ticket prices or the advancing age of the Stones; instead, they talked about the music, the way a certain song sounded, or about how special the opportunity was, to see a performance from such a legendary band. While the Rolling Stones’ musical impact is lasting and undeniable, Tuesday evening, they also showed another talent, as entertainers, and almost everyone seemed to walk away happier from the experience.
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