Twenty years from now, some guy will brag to his twenty-something peers that he saw the Rolling Stones play at their 50 & Counting tour stop in Las Vegas. Or so his parents hoped when they bought a ticket for their small child, decked him out in protective earmuffs and lifted him into the air along to the beat.
Yes, history was being made. Just in case the audience didn’t get the momentousness of the occasion, video testimonials by famous musicians played at the show’s beginning. Later, just in case somebody (perhaps the kiddies) didn’t understand the band’s authentic pedigree, the video screen showed clips of country blues legends while they played “All Down the Line.” To connect the dots from the past to present day, the video screen intermixed old audience footage with real-time shots of the local audience during “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (But I Like It).” Sure, those past audiences looked better, but the effect worked. It was thrilling to see that we were still a part of “it.”
While all this historical stuff made the show meaningful, the actual performance is what made it good.
The man who launched a thousand skinny-jeaned rockers, Mick Jagger, 69, appeared in all his knobby-kneed glory. His dancing, skipping, strutting, preening … and singing were tirelessly athletic. From arena distance, where the weathered burlap of his face was obscured, he looked young and hot, having achieved—at least for the duration of the concert—the eternal youth promised at the heart of rock ’n’ roll. With gestures big enough to reach the farthest balcony seat, he cajoled the audience to move like he was a tent-revival preacher conducting an exorcism.
Keith Richards hasn’t aged as well as Jagger (at times, the 69-year-old resembled an animatronic pirate), but he made a strong showing, especially when he sang lead on “Happy.” Female highlights included Lisa Fischer’s high-octane voice on “Gimme Shelter” and Katy Perry—in thigh-highs and a leather bustier—dancing around a grinning Ronnie Wood as she made a cameo on “Beast of Burden.” Former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor appeared for a couple of songs, and Green Valley High School madrigal singers sang on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” With energetic performances and a list of well-executed hits (including “Paint it Black,” ”Honky Tonk Women,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and an extended “Midnight Rambler”), this two-hour-plus show secured attendees’ lifetime bragging rights. But what that one kid won’t be able to say is that he saw the deeply satisfying show-ender “Satisfaction”; his parents whisked him away just as it was starting. ★★★★★