They have been a band longer than they haven't. They have survived the changing trends in music for nearly six decades. They withstood various line-up changes, and even the death of a band member. Yet, like a fine wine, The Rolling Stones have gotten better with age. When they first emerged it was evident straight away that this band from London was not going to do anything quietly. They were going to make the loudest, fastest, most hard-charging rock and blues songs the world had ever heard. With a vast history like The Stones, it is no surprise that on their golden anniversary, they crafted a rock and roll circus that had the whole world trying to get in. With only five concerts to celebrate 50 years together -- two in London, one in Brooklyn and two in Newark, New Jersey, The Rolling Stones gave their biggest bang on their final night of a special five-night anniversary tour.
For a spectacle that was televised around the world via Pay-Per-View and even its own E! red carpet, the audience in Newark Saturday night knew that whatever was in store for them was going to be something of epic rock and roll proportions. As the house lights dimmed, a montage aired of clips from famous fans like Iggy Pop, Johnny Depp and Elton John discussing what the Stones mean to them. It was affirmation that this band has touched generations and their colleagues. When the montage ended, a drum core dressed in gorilla masks that resemble the cover of the band's latest compilation of hits, GRRR!, marched down the aisles of the Prudential Center playing a riff off "Sympathy for the Devil." Everyone was in awe before The Stones took the stage. Opening with "Get Off My Cloud," it was officially show time.
Mick, Ronnie, Charlie and Keef, backed by Darryl Jones on bass, a trio of backup singers and various saxophonists that included Bobby Keys and keyboardists, set out to perform the gig of their exciting lives. After rave reviews from London, Brooklyn and their first Newark show earlier in the week, this final wrap-up had to be better. It had to be bigger. It had to be louder. It had to be something more than just a Rolling Stones concert. It had to be a night that every high paying customer would never forget. It was a concert that stood out like a sore thumb before a note was played with an announcement that special guest Lady Gaga, The Black Keys and the legendary Bruce Springsteen would be on stage with the iconic Brit band.
It was hit after hit from "The Last Time," "It's Only Rock and Roll," and "Paint it Black," the crowd were at their feet and The Stones were just beginning to roll. As the opening chords to the thunderous "Gimme Shelter," were strummed, Mick introduced Lady Gaga to belt out the chorus. Mother Monster and Jagger went toe-to-toe on dance moves and Gaga simply sounded the best she ever has and should seriously consider making a rock and roll record, she has the pipes for it.
While this was a rock and roll extravaganza, Jagger ushered in a painful reality before playing "Wild Horses." Speaking on the tragic shooting in Newton, Connecticut, he said, "I just wanted to take a minute and send our love and condolences to those who lost their loved ones yesterday in Connecticut." Many were in tears and others applauded vigorously. It is a hard topic to cover at a concert, but as this was being broadcasted around the globe, it was a message that was heard loud and clear.
As the show continued, two special unannounced guests were welcomed: John Mayer and Gary Clarke Jr., for a guitar summit of "Going Down." While Jagger had the show and crowd in his hands, it was now time for Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards to showcase their chops, especially in front of the younger generation. While Mayer had no stage presence, his skills are something to admire but were no match for Wood, Clarke, and Richards. Then after the fans voted to hear "Dead Flowers," it was time for The Black Keys to hit the stage for a cover of Bo Diddly's "Who Do You Love." The Keys' basic garage rock coupled with The Stones shredding sounds were a great mash-up and collaboration. It is something many would hope could lead to more ventures with both bands. With all of these guests so far, it was beginning to make the 12/12/12 Sandy concert a distant memory.
After a slew of tracks that included their new cuts, "Doom and Gloom," and "One More Shot," it was time for the band to welcome back one of their former members, the amazing Mick Taylor for "Midnight Rambler." Taylor, who joined the band at every anniversary gig but their Brooklyn concert, seemed to have the time of his life. The only thing that anyone could wonder about during these moments back on stage is if he ever regretted leaving the band in the first place. As the crowd cheered to see Taylor with Wood and Richards jamming away, it was time to reset and "Start Me Up" exploded into the audience's ears. With the crowd singing away, the party was showing no signs of stopping as Bruce Springsteen came on stage to perform "Tumbling Dice," a truly unforgettable moment in time. Even drummer Charlie Watts had a smile from ear-to-ear with Springsteen on stage.
In a setlist that spanned over 20 songs in over two-and-a-half hours, The Stones kept rolling with the surprises as the Choir of Trinity Wall Street came out for "You Can't Always Get What You Want." While many protested, including myself, over the high ticket prices, it is rare that one could walk away and say this was worth every penny and more. But it simply was.
Setting out to do exactly what they did 50 years ago -- play loud, fast, hard-charging rock and blues -- The Rolling Stones showed they still got it. If not for the wrinkles on their faces, you would never know these gentlemen were in their '60s, performing, no less, after the lives they have lived. Every young band today needs to take note of how they are still going and going this strong. I know it's only rock and roll, but I like it.
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