You don’t do something for over 50 years because you’re bad at it.
After more than half a century, it’s a given that The Rolling Stones’ live show is a well-oiled machine. They’ve got a greatest-hits setlist that they change up just enough from tour to tour for fans to feel like they got a unique experience without complaining they didn’t get to hear their favorites. They shoot off fireworks. They utilize a catwalk to make sure diehards 30 rows deep can still see Mick Jagger up close and personal, and Jagger sprints from one end of the stage to the other throughout the set like any great frontman, making sure to wave to cheap seats and yell “How you doin’ tonight!!?” every couple songs.
We are still doing great.
The truly impressive part nowadays isn’t that the Stones know how to put on a fantastic show—it’s that they still can.
Here’s the thing about Mick Jagger: he’s a goddamn miracle. He’ll be 72 next month; go ahead and think of any 72-year-old men in your life and ask yourself whether they’d be able to dance across the length of a stage for two hours straight and still sound great. Ask yourself if you’d be able to do it.
Logic tells us that at 72, everything about Jagger and the rest of the Stones should be ridiculous. All the pursed lips and swiveled hips and feathered capes are supposed to be things artists age out of, but the rules of time don’t apply to The Rolling Stones. The last time I saw them was nine years ago—almost a decade ago—and they looked and sounded pretty much the same at Atlanta’s Bobby Dodd Stadium last night. The pointing fingers and absurd-for-anyone-except-Mick-Jagger dance moves are pristine as ever.
That was especially evident when Jagger took to the catwalk for a lengthy, inspired “Midnight Rambler” and when Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards ran down—yeah, ran!—to join him over there during “Miss You.” The only time Jagger seemed gassed was near the end of the set, letting the crowd do some of the heavy lifting on “Brown Sugar” as Richards smirked before shrugging it off, declaring “It’s hot here in Hotlanta!” and taking a swig of water while shimmying before shaking the rest of it onto fans in the first few rows.
It must have helped, because any signs of fatigue were gone by the encore. The Emory University Concert Choir joined The Rolling Stones for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” before Jagger and company capped off the night with “Satisfaction” and a fireworks display.
Overall, it was a near-flawless set—a jukebox of hits with a few extra Sticky Fingers tracks like “You Gotta Move” thrown in to celebrate the reissue of that album. The winner of the online fan request voting was “Some Girls,” a semi-rare treat that—interestingly and, in truth, wisely—ditched its decidedly non-PC line about “black girls.” (Don’t get too excited about the Stones adapting to the times, though: they still kept in the stereotypical “Chinese girls are so gentle” verse about silky sleeves.)
But adapting to the times is never something The Rolling Stones have really had a need or desire to do (even with its disco groove, “Miss You” is undeniably a Stones song). That’s because they’re somehow immune to it. Forget your lame “Time is on their side” jokes—time is nowhere near them. They’re outrunning it every time Mick Jagger prances across a stage. And if their set in Atlanta was any indication, they can keep on running as long as they please.
“Start Me Up”
“It’s Only Rock N Roll”
“All Down the Line”
“Doom and Gloom”
“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”
“You Gotta Move”
“Honky Tonk Women”
“Before They Make Me Run”
“Jumping Jack Flash”
“Sympathy for the Devil”
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”