The Rolling Stones At Staples Center
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By Crystal Larsen
It was a night of firsts on May 3 as the Rolling Stones took Staples Center by storm for the opening night of their 50 & Counting tour. Settling into my seat I found myself face-to-face with the famous tongue logo I have come to associate with all things rock and roll, only this time the tounge and surrounding cherry-red lips served as the enormous stage that welcomed Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Charlie Watts into the tongue pit of screaming fans.
As the clock inched past 8:30 p.m. anticipation was high as the crowd — which included such celebrities as Jack Nicholson, Paul Stanley, Eddie Murphy, Tony Kanal, and Nicole Kidman — was buzzing with stories about their first Rolling Stones concerts. For one 17-year-old fan, that experience dated back to before she was born when her then-pregnant mother saw them in Berlin. But the chatter came to a hault when the house lights came down and a cast of familiar faces, including Iggy Pop, Pete Townshend and Johnny Depp, filled the screens onstage to talk about their first experiences with the Stones, proving everyone has a story. And so a new story began.
Serving as the opening act were members of the UCLA marching band, who stomped through the crowd and made their way to the floor performing a cheerful brassy version of the chorus to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." As if the crowd needed a cue, an announcer got everyone up and on their feet when he said, "Please welcome the Rolling Stones."
With Jagger sporting a sparkly silver-and-black blazer and Wood kicking around in royal blue sneakers, the set got off to a fast start with the No. 1 hit from 1965 "Get Off Of My Cloud." Jagger may have been singing directly to basketball fans in the house hoping for a Lakers playoff game as he said, "It's either us or the Lakers, and you got us." I don't think anyone in the audience was complaining.
By the time the band got to the third song in the set, 1966's "Paint It Black," Jagger had shaken off his blazer and buttoned-down shirt to reveal a slim-fitting black tee, which accentuated his one-of-a-kind dance moves, especially on "Gimme Shelter," during which he matched backup singer Lisa Fischer's big vocals to create a truly transcendent experience.
In the first surprise performance of the night, Gwen Stefani sauntered onstage decked out in a sparkly Rolling Stones top that was so cool even Jagger said he had to have one. The duo performed a memorable rendition of one of my favorite songs, "Wild Horses." The next performance caught 100.3 The Sound radio personality "Uncle Joe" Benson (who was seated in the row next to me) by surprise as Jagger and Richards doubled on acoustic guitar for a rare performance of "Factory Girl" from their GRAMMY Hall Of Fame-inducted album Beggars Banquet.
Keith Urban was the next guest to take the stage as he joined Wood and Richards in a guitar shootout on "Respectable." After a crowd-pleasing performance of "Honky Tonk Women," Jagger took a moment to introduce the band. While Richards and his wicked smile garnered the loudest applause, the most endearing moment came during Watts' introduction, which he sheepishly accepted by taking baby steps toward the front of the stage. Watts laughingly resisted when Jagger attempted to drag him through a cermonial roundabout down the catwalk.
After solo performances from Richards on "Before They Make Me Run" and "Happy," the moment many in the audience had been waiting for came as former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor added fuel to the fiery duo of Wood and Richards for a performance of "Midnight Rambler." The song featured a jamming solo from Taylor, who also engaged in a bit of a musical face-off with Jagger, the latter blowing steam from his harmonica. The band looked as happy as kids in a candy store to be playing together again. Even Richards couldn't help but trade his normal devilish smirk for a pleased grin.
As the first part of the set drew to a close, early images of the Stones filled the screen as they performed "Start Me Up," a song that might seem ironic for a 50-year-old band, but sounded fresh and natural for this one. Jagger quickly changed into a fur coat, resembling a Rolling Stones gorilla, to perform "Sympathy For The Devil."
After momentarily exiting the stage, the band returned to assure the generation-spanning audience that rock and roll is here to stay as they delivered a knockout punch of "You Can’t Aways Get What You Want," "Jumping Jack Flash" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" — all of which featured the primordial riffs and melodies that argue well for the Stones as the greatest rock and roll band ever.
As the band took a final bow for the first time on this tour, I was thankful it wouldn't be their last. Here's to 50 years … and counting.
To catch the Rolling Stones' 50 & Counting tour in a city near you, click here for tour dates.
"Get Off Of My Coud"
"The Last Time"
"It’s Only Rock 'N Roll"
"Paint It Black"
"Wild Horses" (featuring Gwen Stefani)
"Respectable" (featuring Keith Urban)
"Doom And Gloom"
"One More Shot"
"Honky Tonky Women"
"Before They Make Me Run"
"Midnight Rambler" (featuring Mick Taylor)
"Start Me Up"
"Sympathy For The Devil"
"You Can't Always Get What You Want"
"Jumpin' Jack Flash"
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"