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The Rolling Stones defy their age at the ACC

Posted by Adam Kamin / May 28, 2013

The Rolling Stones TorontoEntering the cozy confines of the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night, it was difficult not to be taken aback by the sheer scale of the Rolling Stones' stage setup. The band's iconic hot lips logo was serving as the basis for the backdrop of a custom stage, encapsulating a video screen and extending out into the arena to create a circular standing area, or "tongue pit". It was both visually striking, dominating overheard pre-show discussions, and distinctly utilitarian, as it allowed Mick Jagger to run out to into the crowd and strut his stuff as only one of the greatest frontmen in rock can do. Shaking, flailing and wailing - all in a day's work for Jagger, even in advanced age (he's 70 in July).

The Rolling StonesBut there's little to say about the Rolling Stones in 2013 that hasn't been said countless times before. Even amongst the portion of the crowd that paid a whopping $624.50 for tickets, the "and Counting..." part of the tour's name may have been a bit of a misnomer. For most of Saturday's crowd, the Stones exist as a skintight nostalgia act, albeit one with some of the greatest rock songs of all time in their far-reaching back catalog.

Still, the beer/bathroom breaks during two new songs from last year's GRRR! compilation is testament to the predictable songwriting template that Jagger and Keith Richards seem to work within these days. Aside from those and a needless performance of "You Got Me Rocking" early on, anything recorded post-1981 was neglected entirely. Perhaps the tour should've been called "19 and Stunted," you may be thinking.

But here's the thing - no one cared.

Everybody who has any interest in the Stones already knows that they'll never stop being great at what keeps the Rolling Stones name brand going. They'll continuously and dependably keep deploying a steady stream of material from the first two decades of the band's existence, and they'll perpetually look the part of the archetypal garage rock band throughout. They all appear the grizzled vets they are, but here even Richards is surprisingly spry, seeming almost baffled by the rapturous applause directed at him upon leading the band through "You Got the Silver" and "Happy" midset. Both were ramshackle but excellent, serving as great reminders of Richards' strengths as an understated songwriter.

Supporting players took some weight off team Stones, most notably backing singer Lisa Fischer's stellar take on Merry Clayton's "Gimme Shelter" vocal. The subsequent "Angie" felt mechanical, especially when Jagger was unable to nail the high notes on the chorus. Weirdness abounded when "Street Fighting Man" was announced as winning an online vote-to-play - would they really have omitted it otherwise? - and presented onscreen with font that looked as if it had been picked straight out of Big Buck Hunter.

The projected visuals, when not of the band itself, often consisted of hokey animations of dice, tongues, and women. They seemed to be at odds with the Stones' reputation as effortlessly cool, and at times came off as being done without any sense of aesthetics whatsoever.

The Rolling Stones TorontoTaken in context with the hefty price tag, it was hard not to feel some cognitive dissonance with regards to the show's staging. But there were definite highlights, and they were quite plentiful throughout the set. Mick Taylor, the most melodic guitar player the Stones ever had in their ranks, joined the band for an extended run on Let It Bleed's "Midnight Rambler" - this being his first tour with the band since departing in 1973. And as much as I expected the Carrie Underwood duet to be dead on arrival, she actually provided a vocally impressive foil to Jagger during "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)". Odd choice, and while I've never personally been a fan, she held her own.

Rolling Stones Carrie UnderwoodUltimately, even if there were gripes to be had with the show - the gaudy visuals, a slight autopilot feel throughout, the underutilizing of Mick Taylor - there was still the fact that the Rolling Stones were energetically and competently playing the classics in front of you. Whether it was the slinky faux-disco of "Emotional Rescue" or the hit parade that made up the encore, the band were surprisingly on point, with Jagger rarely letting melodic focus slip out of his grasp. Two and a half hours later, everyone had gotten their fix, and left satisfied. Other than the requisite Rob Ford joke, no surprises were needed.

Get Off of My Cloud
You Got Me Rocking
Paint It Black
Gimme Shelter
Street Fighting Man
Emotional Rescue
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)
Doom and Gloom
One More Shot
Honky Tonk Women
You Got the Silver
Midnight Rambler
Miss You
Start Me Up
Tumbling Dice
Brown Sugar
Sympathy for the Devil

You Can't Always Get What You Want
Jumpin' Jack Flash
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Photos by gbalogh on Flickr / Richards/Underwood photo by J. Bouquet



Nanker Phelge / May 28, 2013 at 03:46 pm
You forgot to mention Keith's HORRIBLE guitar mistakes in the first third of the show. Ugh....
Ling Gu / May 28, 2013 at 03:46 pm
I didn't know what to expect, but I agree, The Stones did NOT phone it in. Yes, it was "simply" a greatest hits concert. And, unquestionably, it was terribly expensive (my ticket was $272, giving me an excellent sightline on the stage's right, second row in the upper bowl). I'm not sure whether the concert was actually worth the expense that I paid, but I did think that the Stones performed very well, and I absolutely enjoyed myself that night.
Adam replying to a comment from Nanker Phelge / May 28, 2013 at 03:56 pm
Yeah, there are a few noticeable flubs in the video I linked at the bottom of the post ("Gimme Shelter"), but overall I didn't think his performance was THAT bad. Like you said, he improved immensely in the latter half of the show once he was warmed up.
FMENow / May 28, 2013 at 04:20 pm
The things i would do to Carrie Fisher.

Dear Lord.
Roxanne / May 28, 2013 at 05:14 pm
FMENow.. do you mean Carrie Underwood?
FMENow replying to a comment from Roxanne / May 28, 2013 at 05:41 pm
She prefers Carrie Fisher.

Less common.
Zachary Swan / May 28, 2013 at 05:45 pm
@Paul - add in a couple of hookers and a goat, and it sounds like a pretty fair night.
Me / May 28, 2013 at 05:49 pm
Never heard of either one of these "carries" so hardly matters to me. Nice to see the 'Stones still doing what they do so well though. Thanks for the review.
seefasah / May 28, 2013 at 06:26 pm
Carrie Underwood? Man, they are getting old.
Andrew Loog Oldham replying to a comment from Nanker Phelge / May 28, 2013 at 08:15 pm
Nanker, haven`t seen you since the Edith Grove days! How you been?
Steven / May 28, 2013 at 08:31 pm
Carry on...
Brian / May 28, 2013 at 08:44 pm
if you paid more then $75.00 your a fuckin idiot, ive seen the stones and big fukin deal, morons
les / May 28, 2013 at 09:44 pm
Why do people spend good money to go to these concerts yet spend the entire show screaming and howling right through the numbers? What is that? It's the main reason I stopped going to rock concerts.
And Keith, yikes, pregnant with twins?
horizoncarrie / May 29, 2013 at 09:15 am
For the fact that a band from the 60s can still sell out a huge arena and not be playing Casino Rama after all these years proves that they are still freaken awesome! I only wish I could afford the ticket prices!
fsf / May 30, 2013 at 11:44 am
I'm pretty sure this was far from a sell out.
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