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Published: 2005/09/23
by Wes Orshoski

The Rolling Stones, Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ- 9/15

Having never really been without the Stones for at least the past three decadessave maybe a few years in the ’80sit’s gotten pretty easy to take them for granted. We’ve simply gotten used to hearing and seeing Mick Jagger race from one side of a football field to the other, belting out “Satisfaction” or “Shattered” without even braking to breathe. So I guess I can forgive the dozens who scurried past me toward the exit during the encores, trading a leg up on the ride home for a few more minutes of the Stones.

But trade down they did, as I don’t think they truly comprehended what they were leaving. While I know the person sitting in this chair 10 or 15 years ago was probably saying the same thing, one has to think that this is indeed the Stones’ final bow. Since 1997, they’ve hit stadiums and arenas four times. And, all considered, the odds just aren’t in their favorwhich makes their performance at Giants Stadium nothing less than profound.

It’s a revelation that came in waves, the first hitting once the band, after opening as a relatively stripped-down six-piece (flanked by longtime bassist Daryl Jones and keysman Chuck Leavell) bolstered its already towering momentum with the fourth song, “Tumblin’ Dice,” which not so coincidentally arrived with trios of backup vocalists and horns. That fever pitch picked up with the new, ragged “Rough Justice,” a striking “Ruby Tuesday,” the brass-knuckled “Heartbreaker,” and most notably, a searing tribute to Ray Charles, “(Night Time Is) The Right Time,” finding Jagger dueting with the erotic Lisa Fisher, a longtime Stones backing vocalist.

After a two-song Keith set (his great Voodoo Lounge ballad “The Worst,” and the new “Infamy”), the band’s energy began to snowball once more during “Miss You,” as Jagger, Richards, Watts, Wood and Jones, boarded a 20-by-20-foot stretch of stage, which moved the band (with Watts behind a full kit!) to the back of the football field for three songs. It was a chance for hundreds to peer into Keith or Ronnie’s eyes, dive for a guitar pick, or simply enjoy the band at its most potentin close quarters. Like a caged bird, Jagger was slackjawing. And the recently sober Wood looked and sounded more precise, coherent and muscular than he ever has inside a football stadium.

After a wowing, pyro-filled “Sympathy for the Devil,” laced with fiery interplay between Richards and Wood, came the mighty one-two of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Brown Sugar.” Still, impossibly, Jagger sweatily pranced and roused, his biceps bulging, his stomach chiseled.

But, for all that sweat, all that volume, and all that showmanship, it was one of the show’s few modest moments that proved its most memorable: Richards, bathed in a single white light, strumming the intro to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” alone at the lip of the stage. Beautiful, however brief, it of course introduces one of the band’s stadium juggernauts, which bled into the night’s closer, “It’s Only Rock and Roll.”

“Sixty-two. Sixty-TWO! Unbelievable. Unbelievable,” a fan uttered over my shoulder, marveling at Jagger. Indeed, he got it. But for those who didn’t, I still can’t really blame them. What they saw was nothing short of a vintage, full-throttle Stones show. It’s hard to miss something you’ve never lost. But think about that: Mick is in the best shape of his life, Ronnie is playing better than ever before, Charlie recently survived cancer and literally didn’t skip a beat, and Keith well, he’s still Keef. And they’re all thrilling stadium crowds in their 60s. Unbelieveable. Unbelieveable.

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