Footballers come and go, but the Stones roll on. Rock bands used to have a short career expectancy. Jagger certainly saw it that way: "When I'm 33," he once said, "I'll quit." That was when he was 28. He's pushing 52 now, still going, and looking pretty good - at least by comparison with Keith Richards, whose face has finally begun to reflect the lifestyle that he has pursued with such commitment for so long.
The two of them are the godfathers of stadium rock. Richards, second only to Chuck Berry among rhythm guitarists, keeps the band tight even when, as he once put it, the only spot where the acoustics are any good may be a back garden in Hendon. Jagger, second to none among rock's showmen, can work a crowd at a range of up to half a mile. Together, they have written enough great songs to be able to vary the set list and still send the fans home happy.
A show on this scale is not only rock'n'roll. The Stones' merchandising arm is now so big, it has its own PR person. He sits in an office in the West End and churns out statistics: 14 kinds of T-shirt, two kinds of cap, two ties, one backpack, three items of fleeced sportswear. At prices ranging from pounds 4.99 for a badge to pounds 299.99 for a leather jacket, the sportswear is not alone in being fleeced.
And then there are the sponsors, Volkswagen, whose new advertising slogan is rumoured to be "If only everything in life were as reliable as a Rolling Stone". The commercial-industrial side of rock invites cynicism. But the souvenirs wouldn't be there if people didn't want them. And in this case, every T-shirt comes with a near-guarantee of a good night out. Everybody should see the Stones once. And as the song says, this could be the last time. But then, as the song goes on to say: I don't know. Tim de Lisle
! The Rolling Stones play Sheffield Don Valley, 0114 256 0607, tonight; Wembley Stadium, 0181 900 1234, Tues, Sat, Sun 16. The final show is the only one not sold out, but where there's a will there may be a tout with more tickets than takers.Reuse content