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The Rolling Stones At SoFi Stadium, Sunday October 17th 2021

The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones

Until the last minute, I was hesitant to buy a ticket to see the Rolling Stones at SoFi Stadium on Sunday. First, the seats were expensive, second, I didn’t want to have another arena experience: the last time I saw them at the Rose Bowl, people around me were such a pain in the ass, constantly moving around to get drinks and food and who knows what, constantly disturbing us with their restlessness and plain rudeness. Why do you suddenly need a beer when Mick Jagger is running on stage in the middle of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”? It has always escaped me why people put so much effort – they buy expensive seats, drive to the stadium, pay another expensive parking– just to waste the most precious moments for an expensive  stadium beer? In any case, I decided to buy a ticket on Sunday morning for 2 reasons: first there were still tickets at $225 available on Ticketmaster (yes not even a reseller) in the excellent C sections (next to the VIPs!!), then Mick Jagger is 78, Keith Richards is 77, Ronnie Wood is 74 and Charlie Watts is… dead. No need to say more, when are they going to tour again? Maybe they will, they have not announced their retirement, but who knows? That said, I have only 2 words for people for people who think this is a geriatric show: Mick Jagger! He still looks the same, sprinting on the stage runway at the end of a song, jumping in the air and constantly moving arms and legs as if he was still in his 30s. I looked closely, as closely as I could from my seat, and not once I detected a sign of ageing in his demeanor and moves. I don’t know what his secret is (diet, exercise and good genes I presume?) but his adolescent-looking silhouette is still very impressive.

The setting was equally impressive, the brand new SoFi Stadium is simply breathtaking and gigantic but in a good way. It looks more like a cathedral than a sport arena, with a capacity of 70,240, expandable up to 100,240 seats and a cost of $5-6 billion! There is a pedestrian plaza, a huge gallery filled by upscale bars and restaurants, private suits, and all the comfort you wish for. Even the seats are fantastic. The stadium exults luxury and state-of-art facilities, and it was a gigantic venue for some giants of rock & roll. Even though it was the Stones’ second show at the So Fi Stadium, Mick Jagger couldn’t help to notice: ‘What about this stadium! This 5-billion stadium? Is the sound good?” The sound was damn good, and for someone who cannot stand arena shows, it was one fine experience. Age-wise, the audience was as diverse as you could imagine: a family with their 12-year-old son in front of me, a man in his 70s on my right, a middle age couple on my left, and they were a bit more behaved than the Rose Bowl’s cord. They all stood up and cheered when the Stones took the stage just before 9 pm and screamed even louder when the band left just past 11 pm. It was a 2-hour show without barely any interruption: what else could you ask for from the greatest rock & roll band in the world?

The show started with a short video, a tribute to longtime drummer Charlie Watts, who died last August. But it wasn’t sad for a minute. “This is the first time in over 59 years that we are doing a tour without Charlie,“ said Jagger who dedicated the show to his late friend. Despite the voluminous size of the place, Jagger still holds the crowd at his fingertips, with plenty of call and response moments during the songs, and jokes and anecdotes  in between. At one point of the show, he told us that he and Keith had met on this day: “60 years ago, to this very day, Keith and I met each other on the train station,” he said. How could you possibly not melt at the idea of this 60-year successful friendship?

Since Watts’s departure, Steve Jordan is behind the drums, and if he has impossible shoes to fill, professionally and emotionally, he looked very much at ease inside the Stones family. I am not a musician, and it would be presumptuous for me to even try to comment on his style, but he was more than keeping up with the band, and you could not ignore a real chemistry with Keith Richards. Does he have Watts’ coolness and legendary calm-in-the-tempest? I can only say that Jordan kept his shades on the entire time.

Jagger is still the star of the show, the ultimate frontman in restless motion, running from right to left to back to front, often getting a bit closer to the crowd one side to the next. It was difficult to not be very impressed when he did a fast sprint on the long stage runway. I want to run like him when I am 78! He made frequent costume changes, sweating from one colorful shirt/bomber jacket to the next, blue, purple, gold, green, ending with just a back T-shirt fitting his slander body. One of the highlight of the shows was a powerhouse vocal duet with Sasha Allen during “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” it was just electrifying! Is he really a 78-year-old guy who underwent heart valve surgery just 2 years ago?

There was no quiet moment, and not even a short break, although you could consider the two songs sung mid-show by Keith Richards a well-deserved breather for Jagger. The setlist has the obligatory hits, “Beast of Burden,” “Start Me Up,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”… minus “Brown Sugar.” But it also included some rarer cuts: the Stones hadn’t played “All Down the Line” since 2016, and they also performed “Living in a Ghost Town,” a new song released last year. There was also a “crowd choice,” and “Wild Horses” appeared on the large screen as if it were the winning combination of a slot machine. This triggered a brief moment of confusion as Ron Wood could not find a specific 12-string guitar. “The guys are looking for a 12-string guitar. But we have like 70 guitars up here, yet we can’t find the right one. I guess it’s part of the job,” Jagger joked. As it is always the case live, some of the songs were stretched into longer jams with the crowd responding to Jagger’s serial ooo-ooos. As a matter of fact, I got a bit lost when I exited the stadium an hour later – as many other people – and everyone was responding to each other with more of these happy ooo-ooos.

Sunday’s show was the band’s 49th appearance in Los Angeles, but nothing sounded rehashed, overused, or tired. The enthusiasm was palpable, people around me stood up since the instant the band took the stage and most of them didn’t even sat once during two hours. Some tunes are just timeless, and when you think that you will never need to hear “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” or “Sympathy for the Devil” one more time, the songs do their magic and they transport you in time. The Stones’ songs are the soundtrack of many lives and many moments of human existence, they are just part of our common DNA, and if it’s hard to listen to “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” without an outburst of nostalgia – I just wonder what these songs do to people in their 20s or 30s – the songs are more than a trip down  memory lane, they are a proof of life. Despite Watts’s absence, the music combined with the band’s longevity and Jagger’s amazing hip moves were just a defiant snub to death.

Setlist
Street Fighting Man
All Down the Line (tour debut; first time since 2016)
19th Nervous Breakdown
Tumbling Dice
Beast of Burden
Wild Horses (by request)
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Living in a Ghost Town
Start Me Up
Honky Tonk Women (followed by band introductions)
Connection (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
Before They Make Me Run (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
Miss You
Midnight Rambler (with “Hellhound on My Trail” snippet)
Paint It Black
Sympathy for the Devil
Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Encore:
Gimme Shelter
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

 

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