ROCK / That voodoo that they do so well: Rolling Stones - JFK Stadium: It was lift-off on Monday night for the latest Rolling Stones tour. David Usborne went among the fans at JFK Stadium in Washington to hear the first blast declared 'awesome'

Into these few moments, all the anticipation of what just could be the last tour of the 'greatest rock'n'roll band in the world' is suddenly now distilled. In the concrete cauldron of the JFK stadium in Washington, the lights go down and only the flickerings of cigarette lighters break the darkness.

Then the sound begins, a gathering growl of saxophone and bass guitar that emits vibrations so strong our insides begin to jiggle. And when we can hold our breath no longer, zoooom, the set explodes into a white light and there, front-stage, is the oddly puny, already writhing, figure of Mick Jagger.

It is at that instant that you know everything is going to be OK for the Stones. They may be old - Jagger was 51 last week - and they may be a little craggy. But here, in front of a capacity crowd of 60,000 and on a set of steel and lights that might be christened the Starship Blackpool, they were going to do their stuff, no sweat. No Zimmer frame jokes this evening, please.

With a 27-song performance that lasted more than two hours and melded new tracks with lots of the old - they opened with 'Not Fade Away' - the Rolling Stones offered a high-energy, if occasionally uneven, debut to their 43-city world Voodoo Lounge tour, which will keep them in North America almost until Christmas. Next year, they take it to Asia and then Europe.

Jagger himself could not resist a little self-deprecation. 'Not bad for a bunch of old farts,' he ventured, after a racing rendition of 'Sparks Will Fly', one of the new songs from the Voodoo Lounge album. True, his playing mates of three decades - Keith Richards, Ron Wood and Charlie Watts - did look a bit dazed towards the end of the evening. Jagger, though, gyrated and strutted like an 18-year-old throughout, hands darting like a Balinese dancer and lips curling as manically and suggestively as they ever did.

Still, they were helped a little. Two TelePrompters buried discreetly front-stage reminded the players of what song they were on and what was coming next. Even with them, Jagger for one brief moment in the closing half-hour seemed lost. 'What's next, Keith?' he asked plaintively. 'Are there any requests?' Meanwhile, a bank of electric fans powerful enough for any industrial wind-tunnel protected them from the dreadful

85-degree humidity.

And then there were the special effects that Stones concert-goers have come to expect. The first pyrotechnical flames erupt even during 'Not Fade Away' and the finale of old classics shortly before midnight - 'Brown Sugar', 'Start Me Up' and 'It's Only Rock'n'Roll (But I Like It)' among them - culminated in a firework display worthy, almost, of a Fourth of July party.

The focus of the sci-fi stage - 240ft wide and made from 176 tonnes of shining steel - is a huge screen filled with instantly mixed video images taken partly from the performance itself and partly from pre-recorded material. Most startling were the computer-generated images of the lips and tongue (with scary, snow-tyre barbs) that is the image gracing most of the tour T-shirts (expensive at dollars 25 each). The others are skulls (all over Keith Richards' shirt) and the sinuous yellow and black figure of a voodoo worshipper.

It was for the delivery of 'Love Is Strong', the first single to be released from the new album, that a satanic cast of inflatable dolls were introduced and draped around the video screen. Hindu gods, devilish babies and skeletons in top hats wobbled wildly while Jagger cavorted below in an outfit of coat and tails. There was even a 40ft Elvis, guitar and all. For a minute we seemed to be at Glyndebourne, when huge apparitions from Hades strode on stage, one a ram equipped with a giant phallus.

It was at 9.50pm, the temperature indicator on the upper terrace now showing a mere 84F when, finally, they gave us 'Satisfaction'. With the crowd roaring the lyrics, not much could be heard from the stage anyway.

This was a mixed crowd, age-wise if not racially. (Very few black faces here.) There were grey-haired mothers and fathers, some with their children. Most were professional-looking types and in their thirties. There were spliffs aplenty, but otherwise this was an orderly evening far- removed from those early Stones gigs in the Sixties. And there were some young fans too.

'I've grown up listening to my mum's music, it's what I've been hearing all my life,' said Sean Sebastian, 22, of Washington. 'My mum took me to a Stones concert in 1981, when I was only this big.' Nor, it seems, has that Jagger sex-appeal faded with age. Or at least not for 20-year-old Heidi Lutner, from Ocean City, Maryland. 'I just think that Mick Jagger is the most gorgeous thing in the world. He is the best.' Why? 'His lips. His lips.' Her friend, Jennifer Marks, looks appalled, however. 'Yuk, his lips are disgusting. They're wider than his cheeks. Pleeeease]' Mike Dixon, a 43-year-old financial administrator from Philadelphia, came because he is a 'Rolling Stones nut'. This was his fourth Stones concert. 'So what if they're old. I'm pretty old, aren't I?'

By 11.30, when the encores were really and truly over, some of the oldies punched their fists into the sky and hugged one another before they reluctantly headed for the exits. 'I've seen Jesus,' said a man slumped horizontally across two rows of seats behind me. The kids said only 'Awesome', over and over. 'We've seen a piece of history tonight,' said Terri, 21.

With Voodoo Lounge at No 2 in the American album charts, this tour, now that it has started at last, is looking in fine shape. Never mind that the first critical responses to Monday night's performance were a little mixed. For the Washington Post, for instance, the show was 'alternately rocky and rolling'. But, hey, here in RFK, we had fun - noisy, spectacular, nostalgic fun.

See Leader, p 13

(Photographs omitted)

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital