Review: Special guests keep The Rolling Stones going at 50
First Night: The Rolling Stones, 02 Arena, London
"It's been a great year for British celebrations," muses Mick Jagger at one point in last night's set. "There was the Queen's Diamond Jubilee… but we didn't do that. Then there was the Olympics… but we didn't do that. And the new Bond movie … but we didn't do that. But we're just glad we just got in under the wire to do this."
This, of course, is the Stones' own jubilee, their 50th-anniversary celebration, and while it might lack the sheer lavish spectacle of their world-tour stagings, the event's unique cachet is assured partly by the excellence of the set list, which visits beloved corners of the band's catalogue rarely featured in their usual shows, and partly by the presence of a few special guests.
It starts with a deliberate nod to their youth, with an elastic "I Wanna Be Your Man", the song written for them by Lennon & McCartney. Clad in white jacket and trilby over black shirt and strides, Jagger writhes like a whiplash with knots for joints, strutting on pipe-cleaner legs across the stage, except for the brief moment when his hips twirl implausibly. But he's in good voice, impressively strident here and on a "Get Off My Cloud" driven by a slinky funk twitch. "It's All Over Now" continues the vintage cruise, Ronnie Wood essaying a brief, tart guitar break before Keith Richards nonchalantly slices out the declamatory closing chords.
Wood's sitar-guitar arabesques decorate a dervish "Paint It Black", before Mary J Blige appears to duet on "Gimme Shelter": she's good, but sadly the song loses impetus partway through, as if estranged from the delirium that gave the original such potency. But a poignant "Wild Horses" is well received, as too is "Down the Line", which provides one of the night's welcome surprises, its backdrop montage of Howlin' Wolf, Hank Williams, the Staple Singers, Chuck Berry et al offering a one-stop nod to the band's influences.
Jeff Beck contributes his whizz-bang guitar pyrotechnics to a cover of "I'm Going Down", but it's the other guests who arouse the fondest memories, Bill Wyman stolid as ever on "It's Only Rock'n'Roll" and "Honky Tonk Women", and a jowly Mick Taylor summoning up the band's golden era on a lengthy "Midnight Rambler", his stinging lead lines locking well with Jagger's blues harmonica and the tight interplay of Keith and Ronnie's guitars. For seven minutes or so, the years fall away and it seems as if the group were still at the cutting edge of pop – something their two new numbers, sadly, never quite manage.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens trailer: The most extreme fan reactions on Twitter
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
Madonna might be a stand-up comedy virgin - but she wasn't terrible
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a white stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Russian warships in English Channel 'to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine military drills'