Reporting Scott T. Sterling
The Rolling Stones rocked Los Angeles’ Staples Center on Friday (May 3) with superstar guests and enduring hits at the opening U.S. date of the band’s 50th anniversary tour, 50 and Counting.
Last week, the band shocked the city with a surprise $20 show at the tiny Echoplex club. Lucky fans who were able to score tickets rubbed elbows with celebrities like Johnny Depp and James Woods, as Mick Jagger and company ran through a high-profile dress rehearsal.
For Friday night’s show, the well-heeled crowd spanned multiple generations, with some families (parents and children) attending the event together.
Inside the arena, the lights dimmed as a video of fan testimonials played on the big-screen behind the stage (including celebrities such as Iggy Pop and the aforementioned Johnny Depp) discussing their love for the band.
The video was followed by an unexpected performance from the UCLA Bruins Marching Band, who filled the aisles of the main floor while performing a rendition of Stones classic “Satisfaction,” much to the audience’s delight (although a smattering of good-natured boos from fans and alumni of crosstown rival college USC could be heard throughout the crowd).
The Stones finally hit the stage with the 1965 single “Get Off of My Cloud.” Mick Jagger ran around the expansive stage, which was shaped like the band’s famous tongue logo. The band pushed on with “The Last Time” and charged through fan favorites “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It),” “Paint it Black” and an explosive rendition of “Gimme Shelter.”
As the opening guitar strains of “Wild Horses” played, No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani strolled onstage. While some older concert goers relied on their younger counterparts to identify the singer with the long blond tresses and classic Stones tour t-shirt, Stefani and Jagger connected for the classic tune from the Stones’ 1971 album, Sticky Fingers.
The surprises kept coming as Jagger announced the next song, “Factory Girl” (found on 1968 full-length Beggars Banquet), played for the first time since 1997. They continued to give fans first-time experiences with the title track from 1980’s Emotional Rescue, which the band had never before performed in concert.
The show didn’t lag for a moment, as country star Keith Urban appeared onstage to add blistering guitar licks to “Respectable” from the Stones’ 1978 full-length Some Girls while drummer Charlie Watts’ rock-solid beat set the pace.
Jagger maintained an easy rapport with the audience throughout the show, joking that the Stones were playing at the Staples Center to make the aging Los Angeles Lakers basketball team look younger.
Keith Richards received a hero’s welcome when he took to the microphone to lead the band through “Before They Make Me Run” and his signature song “Happy,” from the Stones’ 1972 magnum opus Exile on Main Street. He also slipped in a joke about the Staples Center venue. “It’s good to be anywhere these days, let’s face it,” the aging rocker said.
The cavalcade of special guests continued. Former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor joined the band for an extended version of “Midnight Rambler,” with Taylor slipped into an easy groove as Richards and lead guitarist Ron Wood exchanged fiery solos and big smiles between them.
Jagger solicited the crowd to sing along to 1978 hit “Miss You,” highlighted by the limber bass playing of Daryl Jones and soaring sax riffs from longtime Stones performer Bobby Keys.
The nearly two-and-a-half hour show kicked into a string of crowd-pleasing hits such as “Start Me Up,” “Brown Sugar” and “Sympathy for the Devil” (with Jagger sporting a furry cape) before leaving the stage.
Of course, there was an encore. Before the Stones left the stage for good, they gave fans “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” that featured an appearance by the Cal State Long Beach Choir, followed by a crushing stomp through “Jumping Jack Flash.” They brought the night full circle with a spirited take on “Satisfaction.”
Pop singer Aaliyah may have only been 15 when she released her debut album Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number but it was the 69-year-old Jagger and company who truly personified the sentiment during the relentless show. While naysayers criticized the band for high ticket prices and performing past their supposed prime, the Rolling Stones continued to live up to their title, the “Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World.”