Last night The Rolling Stones proved to a packed house in Brisbane that they are still, after all these years, a force to be reckoned with. Despite a bit of a wait – which everyone probably expected – and a bit of a jarring start, they found their groove and rode it all night. The band may be lacking a real high-quality sheen at this point in their five decade career, but they got out there and had a red hot go. The Rolling Stones are a band that have always sounded a little different live than on record – although the songs are sounding tighter now than they probably have in a while – so it’s the energy and presence that makes them a great act to see. They genuinely seem to still be having fun playing for the crowd. The smiles never left their leathery faces for a moment, and Keith has a hell of a lot more mobility in those knees than he should. His and Ronnie’s fingers, and Jagger’s feet, are fortunately still working well too, and Charlie Watts was the steadying presence at the back as always.
The set, punctuated by Jagger regularly making wardrobe changes and asking how we were doing, was well organised to give fans what they wanted, and band members time to breathe. After the shaky start, the show really got going with Tumbling Dice and a fan-voted Silver Train, with help from old guitarist Mick Taylor. Jagger made some funny small talk, about G20 and Abbott behaving well on a “Putin-free diet.” Paint it Black went down a messy treat and Honky Tonk Women rocked, complete with a bizarre and child-unfriendly cartoon on the artily-bordered screen. Whoever did their video presentation should have really just left the show to the cameramen. Jagger then left the stage to Keith, who got to air a few of his vocal performances, including a touching You Got the Silver. It was a great moment in the set, and his voice has really held up surprisingly well, more so than Jagger’s. Taylor came back out with Jagger and laid down some killer lead work on the massive jam they made out of Midnight Rambler. Actually, a lot of the songs got extended middles and endings for the guys to play with, to the delight of many a fan.
They continued to bring out the hits, catering to just about everyone. For a band with such a catalogue I imagine it would be an impossible task to choose what to put in and what to leave out. Miss You was a real stand out, and newish bassist Darryl Jones played a tasty solo. Jagger told us he was impressed by our backing vocals on that one. Gimme Shelter sounded great too, although the crowd got the loudest during Start Me Up. The sprawling and difficult Sympathy for the Devil was a bit of a miss, despite Jagger donning a furry coat for devil duty. However, the band got right back on track for the encore, which began with a local choir taking the stage in fine voice. We did, contrary their lyrics, get what we wanted there before Satisfaction ended the night ended with a glorious bang.
I doubt anyone left the arena disappointed, not after seeing The Rolling Stones in the flesh and in pretty fine form too. Sure, we shelled out a lot to spend an evening with a bunch of old rockers, but they are living musical history after all. I just wish they had taken a leaf out of Bob Dylan’s book and played an intimate sideshow, I know they would have sounded just that bit better. None of that really matters, though, because they played a bunch of great songs and played them well too.