Rolling Stones aim to roll back years with reunion

Mike Collett-White
Reuters Middle East

* Rolling Stones kick off mini-tour on Sunday

* Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor to join quartet on stage

* Lead singer Mick Jagger defends ticket prices

* Part of 50th anniversary for rock and roll veterans

LONDON, Nov 22 (Reuters) - The Rolling Stones return to the

stage on Sunday for a mini-tour they hope will prove that

advancing years and bad blood are no barriers to satisfaction

for sellout crowds.

In a burst of activity to celebrate 50 years in business,

the veteran British rockers with an average age of 68 have

produced a photo book, written two songs, collaborated on a

documentary, released a greatest hits album, played warm-up gigs

in Paris and committed to five concerts.

They also faced questions about high ticket prices to the

two gigs in London and three in the United States that have

given some followers the impression they are more interested in

banking cash than bashing out the hits.

Yet that has done little to dampen broad enthusiasm for

their return to the big stage five years after the "A Bigger

Bang" tour became the most lucrative in pop history at the time,

earning nearly $560 million.

Adding to the sense of occasion, the full-time quartet of

Mick Jagger on vocals, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood on guitar

and Charlie Watts on drums will be joined by former members Bill

Wyman and Mick Taylor at London's O2 Arena on Sunday.

Even before they step out for the first of two gigs in the

British capital, the question on every Stones fan's lips is what

more they have up their sleeves, amid hints of a full tour and

the possibility of a new studio album.

"It would be nice to think that wouldn't be it," said Paul

Sexton, a music journalist who has met and interviewed the band

in the run-up to the latest concerts.

"Once the machine gets fired up again, it's hard to imagine

there won't be more live shows to come. If these dates went

well, you could imagine sufficient momentum for some kind of

recording project."


The Stones first played at the Marquee Club in London in

1962, and with a changing lineup that settled with today's

foursome the band who had to compete with the Beatles quickly

became one of the biggest groups in pop history.

Their blues-infused output slowed from the 1980s, and some

critics argue they peaked in the 1960s and 70s, but the Stones'

longevity and a catalogue of hits like "(I Can't Get No)

Satisfaction", "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Honky Tonk Women" have

ensured the music world still cares.

Despite the promise of a major payout and another chance to

enhance their legacy, the 50th anniversary celebrations were not

always a certainty.

Jagger and Richards have bickered in the past and were at it

again recently with Richards calling the charismatic frontman

"unbearable" amid a stream of insults in his 2010 memoir "Life".

He eventually apologised, clearing the way for the reunion.

"If you was married to somebody for 50 years, you can have

your little spats here and there, and we don't mind having them

in public occasionally," the guitarist told Rolling Stone

magazine. "We can't get divorced - we're doing it for the kids!"

The Stones will play two gigs at the O2 Arena, where tickets

cost 95 to 950 pounds ($1,500) for a VIP seat, before crossing

the Atlantic for a show at Barclay Center, Brooklyn on Dec. 8

and two at the Prudential Center, Newark on Dec. 13 and 15.

Jagger has been quick to defend the pricing, saying that the

shows were expensive to stage and tickets being traded on

secondary sites for greater than their face value did not mean

more money for the band.

As to what the five concerts could lead to, Richards said in

a recent interview: "My experience with the Rolling Stones is

that once the juggernaut starts rolling, it ain't gonna stop."

Jagger and Richards are the only two members of the Stones

who were there at its inception in 1962. Watts joined in early

1963 and Wood was recruited in the mid-1970s to replace Mick

Taylor when he left.

They are widely acknowledged as the greatest rock and roll

band in history, producing more than 20 studio albums, selling

an estimated 200 million copies, conquering the United States

and charting the social and sexual mores of their time.

Their longevity is all the more surprising given their

reputation for living in the fast lane. Wood is in his third

year of sobriety after struggling with alcohol addiction and

Richards said he is drinking less and "gave up smack" (heroin).

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White)

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