When it comes to the Rolling Stones, you can put aside all the jokes about age and senior citizenship, about walkers and hip replacements. Yes, they’ve been a band for 53 years. Yes, the four members are a combined 284 years old. And, yes, their lead singer is a great-grandfather.
But Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium, the Stones proved demonstrably that rock ’n’ roll is more about spirit than age and that they can still be as fierce as any rock band on earth.
Their two-hour performance was about as close to perfect as a stadium rock show can get. The weather was idyllic. The sound was pristine. The production was stunning. The set list was stellar. And the band appeared to be having as much fun as the 50,000-plus fans who filled the stadium with a mix of jubilation and reverence.
Had he been wearing one, Mick Jagger would have blown out a Fitbit. He will turn 72 in July, and he spent nearly the entire show in motion, traversing the large main stage among his bandmates and running up and down the long runway to a second stage in the middle of the floor, mingling with fans. When he wasn’t running about, he was dancing or engaging in some kind of aerobic motion, spinning, shuffling his feet, waving his arms. And none of it affected his vocals, which were impressively strong all night.
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He was backed by his fellow Stones — Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood on guitars and Charlie Watts on drums — plus a seven-piece supporting band that included saxophonists Tim Ries and Karl Denson.
They opened with “Start Me Up,” an anthem that has a history with Arrowhead and Kansas City Chiefs games, and when Jagger sang “I’ll never stop,” he meant it. He remains a preeminent front man, a cocksure rock singer with plenty of charm, charisma and wit.
Like a good emcee, he engaged his audience with stories and humor. After asking who in the crowd was from Kansas and who was from Missouri, he wisecracked: “There is a subtle difference.” Before covering “Kansas City,” he put the song into context, introducing it as “our opening number in blues clubs back in 1963.” And he does his homework. Before “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” he asked the crowd to sing along loudly, reminding everyone an Arrowhead Stadium crowd had set a world record for noise (during a Chiefs game). During band introductions, he put a Royals cap on Watts, which drew an enormous cheer.
The only lull in the set list was “Doom and Gloom,” a single off their “Grrr!” album, which celebrated the band’s 50th anniversary. The rest was high-octane classic rock, timeless songs that haven’t lost their punch or appeal. And the Stones still deliver them with a combination of brawn and precision. Their sound is raw and loose, nearly unhinged, yet it stays together, congealed into a sound that is unmistakably theirs, the sound of rock ‘n’ roll.
There were so many highlights. “Midnight Rambler,” featuring some blues harp by Jagger, was one. So was “Happy,” one of the two songs Richards sang. Wood’s lap steel on that one was superb. Lisa Fischer, one of two background vocalists, capably filled Merry Clayton’s role on a show-stopping rendition of “Gimme Shelter.”
Even standards like “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll” and “Beast of Burden” sounded inspired. On “Beast,” Jagger was joined by an overjoyed Ed Sheeran, the British pop star who opened the show.
Though this crowd didn’t need much coaxing, Jagger orchestrated a few singalongs, including “Miss You,” which turned into an extended jam. The crowd spanned several generations: It was predominantly Baby Boomers and contemporaries of the Stones, but there were plenty of younger fans in attendance, too, some of whom looked as if they hadn’t been born when the Stones last played Kansas City in 1999.
Like a diva, Jagger changed clothes a few times. His wardrobe included a garish feather overcoat he wore during “Sympathy for the Devil,” another highlight, and a nifty cap (think Angus Young of AC/DC) he wore during the encore.
For that the encore, 24 members of the UMKC Chamber Choir joined the band onstage for an extended version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Then they closed with a riotous rendition of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” a signature song built on one of rock and roll’s most famous guitar riffs.
Two hours after he’d started things, Jagger was still in full throttle, stoking the frenzy that spread from the seats up front to the last rows of the upper decks. It was a show for the ages, for people of all ages, from a band that continues to defy time.
Start Me Up; It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (But I Like It); Tumbling Dice; Doom and Gloom; Beast of Burden; Kansas City; Bitch; Wild Horses; Street Fighting Man; Honky Tonk Woman; Before They Make Me Run; Happy; Midnight Rambler; Miss You; Gimme Shelter; Jumpin’ Jack Flash; Sympathy for the Devil; Brown Sugar. Encore: You Can’t Always Get What You Want; (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.