The Rolling Stones, Fenway Park, Boston

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The Independent Culture

Playing 22 songs in a set lasting well over two hours, the Stones do not disappoint an expectant audience. The opening salvo of "Start Me Up", "You Got Me Rocking" and "Shattered" has the hyped-up Mick Jagger pointing fingers and wowing the crowd, who lap up his every move.

The forthcoming release, A Bigger Bang, is very much in the Stones' thoughts tonight. Their first album of new material since 1997 has already been compared to Exile on Main Street and was mostly recorded in France, like their 1972 classic. As if to stress the point, Keith Richards, whose hair is propped up by a black bandanna, leads the group from a classic "Tumbling Dice", featuring some excellent wailing from the trio of backing singers, into "Rough Justice".

With his exaggerated enunciation and swaggering moves, Jagger manages to make such tongue-in-cheek lines as "Once upon a time I was your little rooster; now I'm just another one of your cocks" work better in a live situation than on the new album. The bluesy "Back of My Hand", another new track, is an early highlight and demonstrates that there's life in the world's oldest rock'n'roll band yet.

The Stones have rehearsed about 50 songs and hope to rotate the set accordingly, though this being the opening night, they play it safe and mainly stick to tried-and-tested material. Jagger shimmies some more, swings his hips and whips us into a frenzy during a staggering finale of "Sympathy for the Devil", "Jumping Jack Flash" and "Brown Sugar".

An extended "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is an apt choice of encore, before the closing "It's Only Rock'n'Roll" creates more pandemonium. Everyone on stage, from Wood, Watts, Jagger and Richards to the four-strong horn section, is beaming. As fireworks light up Fenway Park, before the new album is released, before the tour reaches Europe next summer, the Stones' A Bigger Bang is already a resounding success.

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