May 3, 2013
The Rolling Stones still put in the work, as was demonstrated by their stint here in Los Angeles over the last two weeks, which included a series of rehearsals in Burbank -- Falling James lurked outside -- and their secret show at the Echoplex.
Some may consider them dinosaurs, but we think they're as vital as ever, which was confirmed by last night's two hour plus tour kick-off show at the Staples Center.
The backdrop was a pair of giant lips, with a giant screen inside of it. Having been to many Stones shows, we can say that their stage set-up was one of their best ever. The "tongue pit," as it was being called, took up about half of the floor and was filled with fans, and a runway outlined its perimeter. It provided up close and personal time with Mick Jagger, who moved around it throughout the show. Seriously, when it comes to athleticism, Kobe Bryant's got nothing on Jagger.
Oh, and Jack Nicholson was there. He caused a hub-bub upon entering Staples, and sat in what looked like his usual Lakers seat. Jagger gave him a shout-out.
After a montage video featuring famous faces and random unknown fans waxing poetic about the Stones' eternal appeal, UCLA's marching band kicked things off with a lively version of "Satisfaction" -- right on the floor surrounding concert-goers. Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts kept the energy level high with opener "Get Off My Cloud," which took a couple of minutes to find its groove, but had the entire stadium chanting along by the end.
A fun oldie, "The Last Time," came next and, coupled with "Cloud," suggested the show's set list might be heavy on '60s material. Indeed, they mixed in late 60s stuff with more hits from their '70s heyday in the first hour.
"Hello L.A., or should I say Beverly Hills, Brentwood and parts of Santa Monica?" Mick quipped early in the show, perhaps referencing the exorbitant ticket prices that only fans in those neighborhoods could afford. Recent reports have suggested that the Stones have lost their ability to fill arenas. The "random seat" $85 tickets sold-out immediately, leaving $250 and $600 seats still available as late as yesterday, prompting the band to release more for $85.
But we suspect any price was worth it. The band's jubilant version of "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" was followed by a dramatically-lit rendition of "Paint It Black," and capped by a funky version of "Gimme Shelter," on which back-up singer Lisa Fischer's potent vocals did justice to Merry Clayton's original chorus.
Surprise guest Gwen Stefani didn't fare as well on her "Wild Horses" duet with Jagger. For one, she looked like Paris Hilton in her bedazzled outfit, long white-blonde weave and headband. She's gorgeous, but the glamorama would have been more appropriate for a dancey duet from a latter era Stones album like Some Girls. "Wild Horses" is a dark and beautifully melodic number and it's also one of the Stones most wistful and subtle. Stefani's style and her cheery lower register vocals added nothing to the tune, and in fact took away from Richards' harmonies. We like Gwen a lot, but this was not the right tune for her.
The duet seemed to throw off the set a bit, and unfortunately "Factory Girl" (off of Beggars Banquet) though a treat to hear live, didn't quite right the ship. But next Mick announced a number the band had "never done on stage before." Darryl Jones' sexy bassline and Charlie Watts' creeping rhythms led into "Emotional Rescue," on which Jagger started singing in a somewhat flimsy falsetto. He switched to a lower key pretty early into the song, and though we prefer the original key and arrangement, this version worked, especially since Jagger sang most of it close to the crowd, prancing and dancing around the tongue pit.
The second special guest of the the night was Keith Urban, who came on stage for "Respectable" a track that sounded rockin' and robust. Urban made it even better than the Echoplex version, and along with Wood and Richards, kind of jammed. A giddy Urban also sang along with Jagger, harmonizing with Richards on the higher side of the chorus. It was a highlight of the show.
After two newer numbers, "Gloom and Doom" and "One More Shot," it was time for Keef's solo numbers. Even Richards worshipers have to admit he looks more ancient than ever these days.The lines on his face are more defined, his hair is nearly white and a bald spot could be seen via the jumbotron. But that's Keef. He doesn't give a shit. He's badass and he knows it. His versions of "Make Me Run" and "Happy" may not have been flawless (back-up singers Fischer and Bernard Fowler helped a lot) but Keef was decent vocally and his guitar work was, as always, effortless.
Richards' mini-set always seems to provide a lot of fans their bathroom breaks, and they also provide Jagger a little breather. His renditions of "Midnight Rambler," "Miss You," "Start Me Up," "Tumbling Dice" and "Brown Sugar" followed, a bodacious blur of sexuality, attitude, soul, and pure physicality, all inspiring top-of-lungs sing-a-longs and blissful bootie shaking. We were seriously exhausted during this vigorous block of classics and we marveled at Jagger (who'll be 70 in July) as he just kept going and going, an Energizer bunny in tight black pants and fitted tee.
Mick Taylor provided some impressive guitar work on "Rambler," interacting with his former bandmates and his replacement Ron Wood. Known as the shy one, he wasn't for this gig. Unfortunately, his appearance was far too short. We'd hoped he's do a couple of numbers as he did with the band at the Echoplex.
"Sympathy for the Devil" was the last song of the main set, and for it Jagger emerged in a fluffy feather coat looking like Lucifer incarnate. The rhythms were intoxicating, and this was the moment when we really absorbed Watts' steady yet impassioned work on the drums. He gets lost behind the showiness of his mates, but in the end holds the whole thing down.
The angelic opener of "You Cant Always Get What You Want" sung by Cal State Long Beach's choir began a three song encore, and it was maybe our favorite song of the night, invigorating everyone in the stadium. Jagger and co. had the mojo for two more -- "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," and the fans were into it, cheering them on in our sweaty tongue t-shirts until we were about to pass out. The Rolling Stones are hands down the undefeated champions of big arena rock n' roll, and last night they proved it again.
Set list below
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