Two formidable British institutions hit considerable milestones this week: Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the British throne, and The Rolling Stones kick off their 60th Anniversary tour; a 14-date jaunt through European stadiums this summer. Both Her Madge and The Stones’ Mick Jagger are undeniable symbols of post-War British power and both are prone to costume changes. Although, only one will wiggle its hips, blow kisses and peacock around the stage for two-and-a-half hours. Thankfully, it’s the latter.
This is, as Jagger tells the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium crowd in Spanish, a very special night. It marks the start of a new ‘Sixty’ tour’, guitarist Ronnie Wood’s 75th birthday, and the first European show they’ve ever played without their late drummer, Charlie Watts. The iconic sticksman passed in August 2021, and while their returning shows without him last winter – featuring replacement Steve Jordan – showed a band still processing the loss of their secret weapon and great pal, ‘Sixty’ celebrates his life and everyone who remains in the band. The show opens with a video tribute to Watts, and as Jagger recently said: “I don’t really expect him to be there any more if I turn round during a show”. The Stones are clearly ready to look forward, but never forget the past.
Madrid is a perfect place to start the new era. Here, they’re treated like infallible rock’n’roll gods, welcomed on stage by home-made banners that combine the national flags of Spain, Argentina and Uruguay with the infamous tongue-logo. If you’re not wearing a piece of new merchandise (or knock-off), you’re the odd one out. You’d better be prepared for when the band bring these vibes to Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium and BST Hyde Park in London for their first UK shows in nearly four years.
For those who’ve seen The Stones live before, little here was genuinely new: ‘Street Fighting Man’ and ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’ still offer a one-two punch, and the groovy ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ and ‘Miss You’ still have serious slink, but they remain thrilling nonetheless. When they do throw in a curveball, like playing 1966’s ‘Out Of Time’ live for the first time ever, it’s breathtaking to find elements of the band’s legacy that feel untouched. The great survivors still have many tricks up their sleeves.
Jagger’s crowd work is as spectacular as ever; wriggling, pointing, clapping and blowing kisses as he flirts with every corner of this gigantic football stadium – all the while sprinting up and down a 100 metre walkway. The comparisons to Harry Styles seem apt – though Mick disputes it – and it appears that he seems to give extra effort tonight to up the playful rivalry: ‘Beast Of Burden’ features some unnecessary, thoroughly entertaining interpretive dancing side of stage from Jagger. Even when Keith Richards takes the lead on ‘Happy’ and ‘Slipping Away’, he seems genuinely touched at the crowd’s response, flashing that dazzling smile of pearly whites.
And six decades in, there’s nary a thrill on earth like the final 30 minutes of a Stones gig: who else could lead a set-closing run-in with the likes of ‘Start Me Up’, ‘Paint It Black’, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ and complete it so effortlessly? Just as the show begins to feel too familiar again, they’re always ready to keep themselves and fans on their toes. During ‘Gimme Shelter’, the anti-war song features a tribute to Ukraine, with Jagger and backing vocalist Sasha Allen trading lines as devastating images of bombed-out buildings play on screen.
The band’s return to Europe for their first shows post-COVID is undoubtedly a special one, and the focused mission of the tour – celebrating the band’s legacy, but trying to keep it fresh – brings extra gravitas to the evening. At the rate and intensity they’re going at, there’s little stopping them from making a crack at their own Platinum Jubilee in the years to come.
The Rolling Stones played:
‘Street Fighting Man’
’19th Nervous Breakdown’
‘Sad Sad Sad’
‘Out of Time’
‘Beast of Burden’
‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’
‘Living in a Ghost Town’
‘Honky Tonk Women’
‘Start Me Up’
‘Paint It Black’
‘Sympathy for the Devil’
‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’
‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’
The Rolling Stones will also play an additional UK date with a show at the iconic Anfield Stadium in Liverpool on June 9, as part of the band’s new European tour ‘SIXTY’. Visit here for tickets and more information.