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There’s a moment during the Rolling Stones’ triumphant return to Los Angeles that stays with me long after the show is over. It comes right at the end, after the geriatric band blast through a straight two hours of the finest rock’n’roll songs ever written. They’re midway through a climactic “Satisfaction” and Mick Jagger – who is 78 years old and by this point has done a marathon’s worth of strutting – is out at the end of his catwalk still giving his all. You can picture it: up on his tippy-toes with his arms flowing from side to side as though he’s performing an incantation. There is a reason people write songs dedicated to his moves.
He turns around to see that Keith Richards, a mere child of 77, has prowled his way down the runway to meet him. The guitarist lets his instrument go slack around his neck and with his pirate’s grin starts to mimic Jagger’s dancing in that matey, half-assed way a non-dancer does when faced with a pro. They’re only about a foot from each other, looking right in each other’s eyes, and they both just start laughing. Looking at the picture of pure joy splashed across their faces, I have to think: seriously, what are the odds?
Jagger and Richards, as any student of rock mythology can tell you, met on a platform at Dartford Station on the morning of 17 October 1961. Their next show at the SoFi Stadium, on Sunday night (17 October) will mark exactly 60 years of the prototypical rock partnership. Their diamond anniversary. Few marriages last this long, and even fewer bands. Throughout their turbulent relationship, Jagger and Richards have fought, feuded, sniped and publicly made fun of each other’s genitalia, but somehow they’ve always come back to each other. What’s even more remarkable is that by tonight’s evidence, impossibly, they’re still at the top of their game.
By their own standards, the show is a relatively stripped-down production. We get a few fireworks for the opening “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and a couple more to accompany a majestic “Sympathy For The Devil”. But for the most part, this is just a band onstage playing their hits, confident in the knowledge that no further theatrics are required when you have “Honky Tonk Woman”, “Paint It Black”, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Gimme Shelter” in your arsenal.
The only sadness about the show is that Charlie Watts, who died in August, is of course greatly missed. The show opens with a montage of his performances over the decades; Jagger later dedicates the show to his memory. Watts’s replacement behind the drums, longtime Stones accomplice Steve Jordan, rocks... but it’s not the same roll. Guitarist Ronnie Wood, meanwhile, keeps even Jagger on his toes by bounding around the stage like a puppy in sparkling sneakers. Really, though, it is hard to take your eyes off Jagger and Richards, and marvel at whatever miraculous combination of fate, luck and exotic medical procedures has enabled them to still by playing shows like this. Particularly because they’re at an age when most of us will be glad if we can bend down far enough to put on our own slippers.
Jagger, clearly, still has all his wits about him. At one point, he titillates the crowd by announcing that Paul McCartney is in the building, and will be joining the band for a “blues rock cover”. It’s a gentle dig back at McCartney’s recent claim that the Stones are just “a blues cover band”. The Beatles and The Stones still feuding in 2021? Some things really do never change.