By Phyllis Pollack
The opening night of the Rolling Stones’ 50 and Counting tour at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on May 3, 2013, clearly dispelled any mistaken notion that the band has slowed down or mellowed out.
Still rough enough, tough enough, yes. Despite Mick Jagger turning 70 in July, the band proved they can effortlessly still rock any 22 year-olds under the table.
The evening’s show began with a video montage of celebrities and musicians paying homage to the Stones, ranging from Johnny Depp to Iggy Pop and Pete Townshend.
The crowd hardly needed to be reminded of the band’s legendary reputation as rock and roll’s greatest live act.
The layout of the show in Los Angeles included a tongue shaped pit in front of the stage, for those with general admission standing room tickets.
A catwalk surrounded the pit.
Just prior to the band entrance on stage, UCLA’s marching band circled the pit, while performing “Satisfaction.”
Jagger would later prance on it.
The big screen in back of the band initially showed graphics that were visual non-sequiturs. Eventually, the stage’s back drop would serve as the big screen for the venue, which seats approximately 20,000 people.
“We’re only here to make the Lakers look younger,” Mick Jagger joked.
Los Angeles Rolling Stones fans had remained on edge for several days, as far as when the tour would actually begin.
The Stones had originally announced that their tour would open in Los Angeles on May 2, 2013.
However, that date was dependent on whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers would extend their season series to a sixth game against the San Antonio Spurs.
Therefore, the band moved the tour’s debut to May 3.
At last night’s show, Jagger quipped, “It doesn’t matter to Jack Nicholson, because he was coming to both of them.”
Nicholson is a regular at Lakers games.
One of the most anticipated highlights of the tour’s opening night in Los Angeles was the band’s reunion with guitarist Mick Taylor, who was replaced by Ron Wood in 1975.
On stage, Wood gracefully acknowledged and eagerly greeted Taylor when he made his way on stage.
As the band broke into “Midnight Rambler,” the audience held its collective breath, as if in total suspense, anticipating each upcoming lick and note would come from Taylor, as the Stones climaxed into the song’s hypnotic, rhythmic, assaultive, voodoo driven “Oh, don’t do that” vamp.
Naturally, “Midnight Rambler” opened with Jagger on harmonica.
With its call and response chant, “Oh yeah,” on the song, it momentarily took its rhythmic twist, as Watts smashed his down on his drums hard with a thundering intensity, punctuation its lyrics.
As with most Stones songs live, it was the rhythm that carried this song, not the lead.
Keith Richards’ unique brand of syncopation incorporated with Charlie Watts, intermingled with backbone bass playing from Darryl Jones, arguably comprises the greatest rhythm section in rock and roll.
Richards, with his trademark skull ring and handcuffs, was in top form, playing as intently and as well as ever.
The band’s line-up was noticeably scaled down for the 50 and Counting, compared to the past several tours.
With longtime horn players players Bobby Keys and Tim Reiss, augmented by keyboardist Chuck Leavell, it worked beautifully, emphasizing the deepest level of the roots rock sound of the band.
Despite so many of the band’s past tours, there was no studio album recorded to promote during this tour.
However, listening closely last night, one could sense that a live album or DVD could easily result from this Stones trek.
There were various musical subtle hints throughout the evening that there could likely be an upcoming live 50th anniversary album or DVD released, culled from recordings on this tour.
Some of the songs that the band played last night that had been previously released were re-worked. Some had a new guest artist this time, adding a new dimension to the song.
These were just a few of the musical suggestions that there may be a new live release in the works eventually, commemorating what is inarguably one of rock’s most historic’s tours to ever take place.
A large percentage of songs in the band’s set list were compositions that had been rarely performed live by the band previously, if even at all.
“We’ve never done this one live before,” noted Jagger, as the band delved into the title track of their 1980 album Emotional Rescue.
During “Emotional Rescue,” as Jagger went into his spoken word part of the song, the audience cheered loudly, as he proclaimed, “I will be your knight in shining armor, riding across the desert on a fine Arab charger.”
The song was a sensual, rhythm driven spell, enhanced by backup singers Bernard Fowler and Lisa Fischer.
The duo’s harmonies entranced the audience throughout the show.
Gwen Stefani, who was present at the band’s April 24 surprise Los Angeles gig at the Echoplex joined the band for “Wild Horses.”
Famously, the song had been recorded by Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers prior to the Stones release of the track on their 1971 Sticky Fingers album.
While the band had previously released a live version of the song with guest artist Dave Matthews from 1997’s Bridges To Babylon tour, a new version with Stefani adds another historical point to the song for a future release.
Other songs introduced to a live tour audience for the first time were newer works, “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot,” which could become contenders for an upcoming live album of new and worthwhile recordings.
One of the high points of the show that was certainly unpredictable was Keith Urban’s rock hard contribution, assaultive guitar work in the Stones classic “Respectable.”
While the song is heard live on the band’s No Security album, this was entirely re-worked, with Urban riding shotgun.
The multi-Grammy-winning country artist exchanged fierce guitar solos with Richards, who shot his best Chuck Berry riffs back at him with flaming intensity.
This was just one version of one of last night’s songs that should be preserved for future release.
The earlier part of the show began with older works, including “Hey, You Get Off Of My Cloud” and “The Last Time,” which were clearly crowd pleasers.
Jagger frenetically danced, pranced, ran curtsied and twisted, bringing the crowd to laughter when he donned a black, floor length feather coat for “Sympathy For The Devil.” He also sported an acoustic guitar for this.
One would have assumed that any controversy regarding the Stones’ lack of convention would have ended years ago. However, some things vapidly remain the same.
In a case of holy rollers versus rock and rollers, a small group of protestors stood outside the venue with bullhorns, and shouted epithets at concert-goers, as they preached that those attending the Stones show would “burn in hell” for listening to this “devil music.”
A performance number that is has been long enduring throughout several tours, Lisa Fischer belted out “Gimme Shelter” with an extreme intensity that one could only be present to comprehend.
Among other notable moments of the show, Leavell’s keyboards were particularly laudable during “Honky Tonk Women.”
“Brown Sugar” featured an extended solo from Keys that wafted its way almost into heaven.
Jagger played harmonica during “Miss You.” The harp solo played on the studio version of that song had originally been recorded by the late Sugar Blue.
Keys’ sax playing during the song during “Miss You” guaranteed that all ammunition available was used during this memorable number from the band’s “Some Girls” album.
A few scarves were thrown at Richards, who was dressed rather conservatively, in a maroon shirt. Occasionally, he picked up a scarf.
Keith Richards, donning heavy black eye-liner, broke into his signature song “Happy” further elevating the already frenzied crowd.
Richards’ sole statement to the crowd was one that brought massive applause: “It’s good to be here. It’s good to be anywhere.”
Throughout the show, Richards looked relaxed, as if it was all entirely effortless to him, despite the powerful riffs that emanated through the venue.
The lingering sustain from the distortion attained through Richards’ Fender tweed amps was stunning at the end of “Jumping Jack Flash.”
Wood used an impressive array of vintage guitars, primarily Gibsons. At times, he played pedal steel.
During the show, Jagger stopped to say, “You’ve been coming since 1965, and we really appreciate that.”
While the band’s first American tour was in 1964, the band did not perform in Los Angeles until their second American tour, which was in 1965, when they performed at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on December 5 of that year.
Jagger was totally engaged, immersed and added lyrics to “Brown Sugar” during a break in the song, including “Oh, you kiss so good,” and “What would I do without you?”
“Jumping Jack Flash,” with its dangerous rhythms, had no one doubting that Darryl Jones was far more than “just a replacement” for the band’s former bassist, Bill Wyman, who quit the band in 1989 in the Stones’ Steel Wheels period.
His solid playing intensified the interaction between gunslingers Richards and Wood.
Added touches on “Sympathy For The Devil” included the Cal State Long Beach Cole Conservatory choir.
Jagger played acoustic guitar on “Factory Girl,” while Fowler added percussion.
While most may likely not have noticed it, as it was subtle, it was evident that the versions played last night had more country influence in the guitar work last night, than on any previous tours.
It could even be heard in songs like “Happy,” as well as others.
In response to asking Taylor what he thought of the show, he was upbeat as he responded, “It was a greatest hits show, really. Mick likes to stay in his comfort zone, and I knew what I was going to play.”
Taylor also alluded to another song he had practiced with the band. Concertgoers attending future shows on the 50 and Counting tour can look forward to what is to come next.
At 50 years and Counting, if only we could keep counting forever.
Rolling Stones set list, Los Angeles, California, Staples Center, May 3, 2013
Get Off of My Cloud
The Last Time
It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll
Paint It, Black
Doom and Gloom
One More Shot
Honky Tonk Women
Before They Made Me Run
Start Me Up
Sympathy For Devil
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
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