Mick Jagger's hosting/performing stint on Saturday Night Live in no way guaranteed to be a slam dunk. Jagger hadn't done comedy on the show since the Rolling Stones hosted the show as a band in 1978, so it was hard to guess how his comedic chops had held up. And without the Stones, he hasn't always been a galvanizing musical solo act.
Also, unlike virtually every other celebrity who hosts the show, Jagger didn't have a thing to plug. So how in the world would he ever find his motivation?
But by the show's tear-streaked farewell-to-Kristen finale, fans had not only achieved elusive satisfaction but were left with two burning questions:
How do we start a campaign for Mick Jagger as permanent SNL host? And…
How do we convince Jagger to celebrate the Stones' 50th anniversary by going on tour… as a solo act?
Mind you, we'd only want to see Mick on TV every week — and out on the road sans Keith and Ronnie — if he could somehow continually pull off the hat trick he did in the midnight hour Sunday morning, which was to pull out all-star backing bands so thrilling that they make the Stones' signature sound seem stodgy by comparison.
Perhaps inspired to top Jack White's latest conceit, which had him appearing on SNL (and subsequently touring) with two very different backing bands, Jagger had three different bands for three different musical appearances. Arcade Fire lit a flame under his butt for "The Last Time," while the Foo Fighters inspired his fighting spirit in a medley of "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll."
Just when you were thinking that was surely it, he reappeared with a third band, led by legendary axeman Jeff Beck, singing a brand new song he said he'd just written in honor of the 2012 election — a blues that reminded viewers that while Mitt Romney is a "hard-working man, and he always says his prayers… don't ever let him cut your hair."
Jagger hasn't changed his own shaggy hair style since his last hosting stint in '78, even though dimples have evolved into canyons in the meantime. So it was a gas-gas-gas to see him in a variety of wigs over the course of the 90 minutes, allowing us visual glimpses of an alternate reality where not only his musical but art-school aspirations had failed and his financial acumen had perhaps led Jagger to become a swinging banker.
His first and arguably best sketch appearance had him guesting on a 1964 game show as Chaz Bragman, a renowned actor whose Paul Lynde-style feyness on TV is in stark, swishy contrast to his macho movies persona. Lines like "Where should I park my little tushy?" and "You should see me by the pool, I'm full of shenanigans" managed to remind the world how much Rocky Horror's Frank N. Furter was based on Jagger and make us all miss Charles Nelson Reilly.
Then there was "Kevin," the lonely, timid life insurance salesman who brings everyone down at the after-hours karaoke celebration — almost in Debbie Downer style — by pointing out that everyone else's Mick Jagger impression is not that great (even when, in the case of Fred Armisen's, it is). The sketch ended with Jagger's fourth Stones song of the evening: a forlorn spoken-word version of "Satisfaction."
None of the other skits had Jagger at their rock & roll center, but small doses were just fine. He had supporting bits as a J.P. Morgan banker trying to make sense of Al Sharpton, a blonde Valley Boy on an episode of "The Californians," and, most memorably, Steven Tyler on a reality show called "So You Think You Can Dance at an Outdoor Musical Festival."
There was something hilariously historic about Jagger's Tyler, impersonating his most famous impersonator, and mocking the Aerosmith's singer's Burger King commercials. Behind the scenes, no one would doubt that Jagger is at least as financially savvy or motivated as Tyler, but the dig reminded you that, inveterate jet-setter or no, the lead Stone has maintained his own peculiar integrity over the years… a record that still stands after a well-received SNL hosting stint in which he had nothing to promote but good fun.
But if he'd only been musical guest, that would have been more than enough, as these were three of the best musical numbers SNL has played host to in eons.
Cred factor aside, Arcade Fire seemed like an odd choice to back Jagger, as their martial beats hardly ever "swing" — but swing the Canucks did as they found their best hidden garage-band spirit for "Last Time."
A more natural candidate for faux-Stones status, the Foos were even faster and furious-er in a medley whose only fault was finishing up "Nervous Breakdown" too quickly in order to get to "Rock & Roll." And Beck's last-minute appearance had you hoping maybe he and Jagger would get together and form a New New Yardbirds.
Who should we have sympathy for after this finale, if not the host? Maybe Kristen Wiig, who under nearly any other conceivable circumstance would have been the star of every sketch in her final episode of SNL after seven seasons. Her reappearance as a severely disabled (and horny) "Lawrence Welk" regular got the show off with a bang, and it was nice to find her finally finding satisfaction — speaking of that — with fetishist Jon Hamm by sketch's end. Little Dooneese, happy at last.
But we got Wiig in more limited-than-usual doses until she was finally serenaded into graduation at show's close by Jagger and the entire acting and musical cast singing a medley of "She's a Rainbow" and "Ruby Tuesday." Her series of slow (and not-so-slow) dances with the other series regulars was another Mick Moment, albeit one subjugated to a greater sentimentality. It was only a tear-jerker, but we liked it.