Plus a very special guest...
“It’s good to be home,” were the words of Mick Jagger as he stood, resplendent in a sparkly silver space jacket, on stage at the London Stadium last night (May 22).
It’s been a long five years since The Rolling Stones played live in London — and an even longer 11 years since they did a full UK tour. But when you’re the world’s oldest rock and roll band, a paltry decade isn’t going to cause too many problems. In fact, just nine miles across town in Soho stands the remnants of the once-legendary Marquee Club, where Mick, Keith & Co. played their first ever gig in 1962. Now, 56 years on and still going strong, they’re having more fun than ever.
Opening up with call-to-arms rocker ‘Street Fighting Man’, the band stuck to a tried-and-tested setlist stuffed with classic bangers from down the years. Noticeably lacking in ballads — ‘Fool To Cry’ and ‘Slipping Away’ were the only true slowies to feature — there were few rarities for the mega fan to geek out about. But even though it was a well-known performance from the band, the support act combo was brand new.
“This is for everyone in Manchester. Sing along if you know the words,” said Liam Gallagher before dedicating ‘Live Forever’ to the victims of 2017’s terror attack in Manchester. It’s been a year since 22 people died at the city’s Arena, and Liam’s tribute was sensitive and well-received by the crowd. His eight-song cameo was overloaded with Oasis classics (‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’, ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, ‘Some Might Say’) the latter featuring a brilliant cameo from ex-Oasis bandmate Bonehead on rhythm guitar.
Later on stage, Jagger joked about how they “were all set to play with Liam in Manchester, but he wouldn’t set foot in the Old Trafford Stadium” — home, of course, to Manchester United: arch rivals of his beloved City. Luckily, they rescheduled and LG proved the ideal warm-up act for the blues-rock septuagenarians.
‘It’s Only Rock and Roll’, ‘Tumbling Dice’ and ‘Paint It Black’ followed the band’s brash opener, before Mick took things down a notch with a cover of Jimmy Reed’s R&B classic ‘Ride ‘Em On Down’ (cue everyone scarpering to the bar for a quick pint in between bangers). Next up was ‘Under My Thumb’. Though it’s been called sexist in the past, that didn’t stop punters picking it as the night’s ‘fan vote’. Many of the band’s less woke tunes have been under added scrutiny since the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements broke, but mainstays ‘Honky Tonk Women’ and ‘Brown Sugar’ haven’t been axed from the lineup.
After that came a surprise. Gritty 1989 album Steel Wheels turns 30 next year and room was made for melancholic cut ‘Slipping Away’. It’s traditional for Keith to take centre stage mid-set, and ‘Before They Make Me Run’ bookended the two-song section. This is usually a weaker part of the performance, but last night, the blootered blues pirate was on top form. Richards tends to make more mistakes these days — his body has been through a lot over the years — and younger sidekick Ronnie Wood sometimes has to cover up for him. Not so at the London Stadium.
However, it wasn’t until the raunchy disco-funk of ‘Miss You’ that the band truly clicked. Neon visuals lit up the crowd as Jagger shuffled, slipped and slunk his way along the boardwalk that jutted out into the audience. Longtime bassist Darryl Jones proved his chops with a slick solo straight out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers playbook, and from this point on, the Stones went from strength to strength.
‘Midnight Rambler’ and ‘Start Me Up’ shook the crowd into a frenzy before ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and ‘Brown Sugar’ gave new backing vocalist Sasha Allen the chance to warm up ahead of ‘Gimme Shelter’’s mind-blowing solo. They closed, as usual, on ‘Satisfaction’ — with added fireworks and satanic-looking red flares.
As the band took their final bow before heading backstage for a dressing gown and slippers, a message flashed up on screen. “SEE YOU SOON.” Was it a reminder that they’ll be back for a second date on Friday? Or something more secretive — a new album perhaps? Or an indication of future tours? Whatever it meant, you can bet The Rolling Stones won’t be calling it quits anytime soon.
Rolling Stones played:
Street Fighting Man
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
Paint It Back
Ride ‘Em On Down (Jimmy Reed cover)
Under My Thumb
Fool To Cry
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Honky Tonk Women
Before They Make Me Run
Sympathy For The Devil
Start Me Up
Jumpin’ Jack Flash