Culture notes

Review: The Rolling Stones at the O2 Arena

1 December 2012

9:00 AM

1 December 2012

9:00 AM

‘How’re you doing in the cheap seats? They’re not that cheap, though, that’s the problem,’ said Mick Jagger as he launched into the first of the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary concerts. Still, the electrifying combination of swagger, swing and blues transformed the O2 Arena into a raucous celebration of the self-proclaimed ‘greatest rock-and-roll band in the world’.

The Stones were last on stage in 2007, and the intervening years have done little to diminish the band’s sprightliness. Jagger remained the archetypal front man, while 71-year-old drummer Charlie Watts kept up the momentum. The gnarly fingers of guitarist Keith Richards did, however, sometimes fail to find the notes, his languid playing style exaggerated by age.


It wasn’t the onstage inflatable lips or light show that entertained the 20,000-strong crowd. It was the musicianship of the Stones. The choice of songs leaned towards their hits from the 1960s and 1970s, bombastically trotted out alongside this year’s single ‘Doom and Gloom’, which already sounded like a bona fide classic.

The highlight was the re-emergence of guitarist Mick Taylor. His one-song appearance in ‘Midnight Rambler’ confirmed that he is the most talented musician to grace the stage with the Stones — the music was indistinguishable from their glory days of 1969.

History will remember this gig as doing little to enhance the Stones’ reputation as a legendary live act. But it does nothing to damage it either.

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  • Eddie

    Errr…The Stones did not declare themselves ‘The Greatest Rock n Roll Band in the World’ – some hack did, back in the late 60s or 70s. Jagger was pissed off too – because he knew the no-win-ness of the declaration. Maybe they now use it as a tag line though?
    I put their generally good health down to all that walking and running through the cotton fields of north-west Kent on Dartford Heath, just a-hunting an’ a-fishing an a-twitching after the Dartford warbler, a beautiful bird they almost managed to make extinct, in their quest to feast on its eggs in those post-war austerity years… It was then that little Michael Jagger was so transfixed by the wee warbler’s tune that he set himself the task of emulating its dulcit tones – a singing style which, once infused with a Mississipi black man’s accent, became the infamous ‘Mick drawl’ which we all know today.