The Rolling Stones - Honda Center - May 15, 2013
You have to hand it to The Rolling Stones. If you told any rock fan, critic or musician that they'd be playing live shows nearing the age of 70, they would have laughed and you would have been ridiculed. Just think back to the Jimmy Fallon character in Almost Famous when he told Stillwater, "If you think Mick Jagger will be out there trying to be a rock star at age 50, you are sadly, sadly mistaken." Well, that's exactly what happened.
Nearly seven years after they were last in the area as part of their Biggest Bang tour, the Stones came back to Anaheim for the first of two shows at the Honda Center. Filling a 17,000-plus person venue isn't an easy task, but when a band has sold out stadiums for the better of part of its career, an arena feels as close to an intimate club show as they can get (not counting the Echoplex gig late last month, which truly was a club show). People were in the parking lot early and lines wrapped around the venue like it were 1972.
Unlike other bands from their era, the Stones can still bring it. Yes, they're a little bit older and yes, there were sloppy, inconsistent moments that had even the most ardent fan groaning, most obvious when Keith Richards flubbed more than a few notes at the beginning of "Satisfaction," yet in a weird way, it proved the band is human and not a finely tuned machine like many would believe. There's a certain charm in being sloppy, even if it sounds a bit reckless. Even with a handful of haphazard moments throughout the set along with the unnecessary inclusion of special guest John Mayer on a better-than-expected version of Muddy Waters' "Champagne and Reefer," there were plenty of bright spots.
Throughout the night, the band, especially Ronnie Wood, were in great spirits. Despite Jagger's poor attempt at trying to banter with the locals, like when he asked who was from "River County" and the cringe worthy "Orange County is like Los Angeles, but with more jobs!" he was shaking and wiggling around the stage and its circular extension into the crowd like the frontman who makes women of all ages swoon and scream like teenagers. The night featured the first appearance of "Waiting On A Friend" on this tour along with the rarely played "Rocks Off" and a guest appearance by former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, who provided the night's brightest moment with a smoking version of "Midnight Rambler."
Taylor's solo was a sharp, leaving fans familiar with his short tenure with the band wondering what might have been. It would have been cool to hear him play on more songs (sorry, him barely playing on "Satisfaction" doesn't count), especially on late-era Stones tunes like "Miss You," which could have used his flair to counteract its bloatedness. His appearance in itself made the show worthwhile, even if only diehards recalled his brief tenure with the band. Taylor's appearance brought out the best in Richards and Wood, ensuring that they were on their A-game when he hit the stage.
Some may snicker at the Stones' use of the USC Thornton School choir on "You Can't Always Get What You Want," but it provided a neat bridge between the generations. It was as close as the Stones came to having slicked-up production. But that's the beauty about playing in a band for 50 years; you can do whatever the hell you want because you've earned it. Yes, the projected visuals were cool but in the end, what united the crowd around the band wasn't the production, it was their extensive catalog of hits. The Stones could have easily mailed this in, especially given the ticket prices, but what's the satisfaction in doing that?
Given their ages and that they likely won't be releasing new music, this could be the Rolling Stones last shot. If Saturday night's show is the last chance to see the band in the area before the inevitable declines that come with old age, then they'll be going out with a big bang. Even though they look more like the skeletons in the Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey" video than the Stones, there's still something to be said about seeing Jagger move like, well, Jagger and watching Keith's swashbuckling moves across the stage. The fact that they're still standing is a testament upon itself.
Critical Bias: Mick Jagger made out with a friend of mine 13 years ago in Paris.
The Crowd: People willing to plunk down serious cash.
Random Notebook Dump: Keith Richards was wearing Rolling Stones branded high-tops. How much are those going for on eBay?
Full setlist below