* Rolling Stones play first gig in more than five years
* Critics give strong reviews for first of five concerts
* Mick Jagger seeks to laugh off ticket price criticism
(Adds tweet from Mary J. Blige)
LONDON, Nov 26 (Reuters) - The Rolling Stones pranced,
swaggered and laughed through the first of five concerts,
celebrating their golden jubilee with a performance that critics
said put paid to questions over ticket costs.
Virtually every reviewer at the first of two shows in
London's O2 Arena on Sunday night mentioned the controversy over
high prices, but almost all of them said it was worth it.
The two-and-a-half hour set by one of the biggest acts in
rock and roll history took a crowd of 20,000 on a trip down
memory lane, opening with the 1963 "I Wanna Be Your Man" hit
penned by Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney right up to
"Doom and Gloom" which is only a few weeks old.
The rest of the 23-song setlist was classic Stones from
"Gimme Shelter", "Wild Horses", "Honky Tonk Women" to "Start Me
Up" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" rocking the crowd.
The one surprising omission was "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction".
And, while the lines on their faces traced their advancing
years and long careers of rock and roll hedonism, lead singer
Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts on drums and Keith Richards and
Ronnie Wood on guitar still delivered the goods.
"As Jagger left the stage, still jogging and shaking his
maracas after two and a half hours and 23 songs, it was clear
that even at these ticket prices, the Stones' 50th anniversary
shows deliver value for money," wrote Mark Sutherland in a
review for the Rolling Stone music magazine.
Jagger, whose lithe frame still allows for some of the
trademark swagger at 69, sought to laugh off criticism of prices
ranging from 95-950 pounds ($1,500) for a VIP seat.
"Everybody all right there in the cheap seats?" he asked as
he looked up high to his left. "They're not really cheap though
are they? That's the trouble."
The flamboyant veterans have defended the costs, saying the
shows were expensive to put on. But specialist music publication
Billboard reported the band would earn $25 million from the four
shows initially announced. A fifth was added later.
"AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE"
The commercial side of the first Stones gigs for more than
five years clearly rankled some.
The band which first hit the stage in July, 1962 at the
Marquee Club on London's Oxford Street has issued a photo book,
another greatest hits album and a documentary film to mark 50
years in business.
"There's something perversely admirable about the way the
self-styled 'greatest rock'n'roll band in the world' seem openly
intent on celebrating their golden jubilee by making as much
money as possible with the absolute minimum of effort," wrote
Alexis Petridis in the Guardian.
Yet he gave the performance four stars out of five as did
Andy Gill of the Independent, who singled out some of the guest
appearances for praise.
Mary J. Blige added fireworks to her duet with Jagger in
"Gimme Shelter", while Jeff Beck provided the power chords for
"I'm Going Down".
"So much fun performing in London w/ the @RollingStones!
Congrats on your 50th anniversary!!," wrote Blige on Twitter.
But the biggest cheers were reserved for two former band
members. Bill Wyman played "It's Only Rock'n'Roll" and "Honky
Tonk Women", while Mick Taylor, who left the band in 1974 to be
replaced by Wood, revelled in his chance to shine during
"Taylor can still play like a silver streak and the
time-shifting blues jam of Midnight Rambler was incredible to
behold, with Jagger as harp blowing blues conductor and three
guitars tripping in and out of each other's space to hypnotic
effect," wrote Neil McCormick in the Daily Telegraph.
In the critics' minds, the Stones have set the bar high for
the next four performances - one more at the O2 Arena and three
in the United States ending at the Newark Prudential Center on
The big question for fans, however, is where it all leads -
a five-concert reunion and greatest hits record to celebrate 50
years, or a world tour and an album of more new material.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White)