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LONDON – The Rolling Stones on Sunday night played the first of a series of 50th anniversary concerts, kicking off their “50 & Counting” tour at London’s O2 Arena.
Reviews in the British press highlighted the high ticket prices for the music legends’ first stage show together in more than five years, but generally lauded the band for selecting great tracks, sounding good and energetic and entertaining an excited audience.
Among the things that drew many mentions were the band’s use of a mouth-shaped stage in line with the band’s famous lip logo, appearances by Mary J. Blige, video messages from big names from Hollywood and the music industry, as well as showbiz guests including Noel Gallagher and supermodel Kate Moss.
The Sun tabloid, pat of Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp., used the headline “It’s only crock ‘n’ roll (but we like it)” for its review. “20,000 see Stones roll back the years.”
“The Stones exploded onto the stage in London last night – rolling back the years with an electrifying live performance,” it said. “Mick Jagger, 69, Ronnie Wood, 65, Keith Richards, 68, and Charlie Watts, 71, raised the roof at the O2 with a rock’n’roll masterclass.”
In tabloid fashion, it quipped that “the wrinkles were deeper than the Grand Canyon” and that “the band’s hairdresser deserved a medal for efforts with the blow-dry.” But the Sun emphasized that “a capacity 20,000 were rammed into the arena in Greenwich, South East London, with scores of disappointed punters outside.”
The show started off with video messages from stars and fans, describing the first time they heard the band’s music or how they feel about their music.
Johnny Depp said: “They write great songs to do bad things to,” according to the Sun. And Iggy Pop said: “The sound of Keith’s guitar was like being hit with a dead mackerel.”
Elton John, Pete Townshend, Cate Blanchett, Nick Cave and others also sent video messages about the Stones.
The band kicked off the musical part of the show with Beatles cover I Wanna Be Your Man. According to reports, Jagger started off in a black and white jacket, Richards wore a red bandana and turquoise jacket, while Wood was dressed in black, and Watts in white.
The show also included a rendition of Gimme Shelter with special guest Mary J. Blige, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) together with Bill Wyman , Midnight Rambler with Mick Taylorand such Stones classics as Tumbling Dice and Brown Sugar. An encore including
You Can’t Always Get What You Want with the London Youth Choir and Jumpin’ Jack Flash helped send off the crowd. But the band didn’t play (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, because they ran out of time, according to the Sun.
According to reports, this was Wyman’s first on-stage appearance with the Stones since mid-1990 and Taylor’s first since Dec. 1981.
Jagger mentioned that the Stones didn’t show up at any of the other big anniversaries celebrated in Britain this year. “Olympics? We didn’t do that. Jubilee? Didn’t do that. James Bond 50th anniversary celebrations? We missed that,” he said, according to the Sun. “We just got in under the wire. So glad you are here, and so glad we are here.”
He also made light of the high ticket processor the Stones concerts. “Everyone all right in the cheap seats? They are not that cheap though, are they?” the Sun quoted him as saying.
The Telegraph lauded the “style and panache” of the Stones’ concert.
“In this age of tribute bands, it was a bit like the Stones paying tribute to themselves,” it wrote.
“It is at this intersection of showbiz flashiness and wild rock that The Stones enter a realm of their own. Sympathy For The Devil was phenomenal, Tumbling Dice a rip roaring treat, Jumping Jack Flash a rocking blast.”
Added the paper: “When looking for the secret of the Stones, it is perhaps that they actually listen to each other while they play, and almost lose themselves in it, while their brilliant frontman keeps it all together. Encores included a gospelly You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Well, maybe sometimes, for the right ticket price, you actually can.”
The Independent was more mixed in its review. “This, of course, is the Stones’ own jubilee, their 50th-anniversary celebration, and while it might lack the sheer lavish spectacle of their world-tour stagings, the event’s unique cachet is assured partly by the excellence of the set list, which visits beloved corners of the band’s catalog rarely featured in their usual shows, and partly by the presence of a few special guests,” it said.
The paper said that the performance of Midnight Rambler helped “summoning up the band’s golden era,” adding: “For seven minutes or so, the years fall away and it seems as if the group were still at the cutting edge of pop – something their two new numbers, sadly, never quite manage.”
The Guardian also lauded Taylor’s appearance for Midnight Rambler as “really thrilling.”
The paper’s review focused much attention on the high ticket prices though. “There’s something perversely admirable about the way the self-styled “greatest rock’n’roll band in the world” seem openly intent on celebrating their golden jubilee by making as much money as possible with the absolute minimum of effort,” it said. While lauding the collaboration with Blige as “genuinely gripping,” the Guardian also added: “Whether it’s worth nearly a thousand pounds to witness is a moot point, although the noise the crowd makes implies they think it is.”
The Stones play London again on Thursday before they fly to the U.S. for performances in Brooklyn and New Jersey.
Here is the full track list for Sunday’s show:
1. I Wanna Be Your Man
(The Beatles cover) (first live performance since 1964)
2. Get Off of My Cloud
3. It’s All Over Now
(The Valentinos cover)
4. Paint It Black
5. Gimme Shelter
(with Mary J. Blige)
6. Wild Horses
7. All Down the Line
8. I’m Going Down
(St. Louis Jimmy Oden cover) (with Jeff Beck) (live debut)
9. Out of Control
10. One More Shot
11. Doom and Gloom
12. It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
(with Bill Wyman ) (Bill Wyman’s first onstage)
13. Honky Tonk Women
(with Bill Wyman) (followed by band introductions)
14. Before They Make Me Run
(Keith Richards on lead vocals)
(Keith Richards on lead vocals)
16. Midnight Rambler
(with Mick Taylor) (Mick Taylor’s first onstage)
17. Miss You
18. Start Me Up
19. Tumbling Dice
20. Brown Sugar
21. Sympathy for the Devil
22. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
(with the London Youth Choir)
23. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
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