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Stones Roll Back Years, Rock Cheap Seats, No Word on Tour

Rolling Stones
Charlie Watts, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones perform at 02 Arena in London in 2012. Photographer: Ian Gavan/Getty Images

“Everybody all right there in the cheap seats?” Mick Jagger asked the Rolling Stones reunion concert last night.

“They’re not really cheap though are they?” the singer told 20,000 fans at London’s O2. “That’s the trouble.”

We knew. The O2 tickets ranged from 95 pounds ($152) to 950 pounds, though some were resold online for 2,000 pounds.

Jagger’s men were playing their first stadium show since 2007. They kept the world guessing on whether they are about to announce a lucrative tour for 2013. The five dates confirmed so far sold out in minutes -- two in London, and three in the U.S.

The Stones are marking their 50th anniversary, having first played at the Marquee Club in London in 1962.

They skipped their best-known hit, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” There were plenty more raw riffs. “Start Me Up,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar” and “Honky Tonk Women” were among the 23 songs played over more than two hours. There were luxury-length versions of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Midnight Rambler.”

Guitarist Jeff Beck and singer Mary J. Blige were among the guest stars, and former group members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor also joined in.

Jagger discarded the jacket and matching hat of the opener “I Wanna Be Your Man” for slinky black chinos and shirt. He ran around like a kid of 19. (The rock knight is 69.)

Still, they aren’t getting any younger: this could be the last time.

Birthday Present

The audience was made up of a lot of long-term devotees. The Australian couple sitting next to me had extended a U.K. holiday and had seen the Stones many times. It was refreshing to see a few newer listeners. On the other side was a guy who had got tickets as a 21st birthday present.

The last tour was A Bigger Bang, which had takings of $558 million -- only beaten by the $736 million made by the U2 360 shows.

The Stones have defended prices, saying it’s expensive to rehearse and set up for only a few shows.

They have been making cash in lots more ways: from sales of teeshirts and official programs at about 25 pounds or more each, from the new greatest-hits collection “Grrr!” and documentary “Crossfire Hurricane.”

Keith Richards, with a red band in his graying hair, was smiling broadly as he launched into his sardonic vocal “Happy.” The obvious enjoyment of those onstage augurs well for more.

If I were a betting man, I’d expect these to amount to more than that after another much-vaunted O2 reunion, by Led Zeppelin, which has now just come out on DVD after five years.

I’ve seen hundreds of concerts and festivals, and this was one of the best ever. That includes about a dozen other Stones shows. It’s a pleasure to report they still sound pretty great. If not the best rock act in the world, well, darned close.

Based on last night’s opener, the tickets may actually be worth some of the inflated prices on the Internet.

The Rolling Stones next play the O2 London on Nov. 29, Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, New York, on Dec. 8 and the Prudential Center Newark on Dec. 13 and 15.


(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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