Stones’ All-Star Extravaganza: What To Expect When You’re Expecting Gaga, Springsteen & The Black Keys

Chris Willman
Stop The Presses! (NEW)

If you thought the 12-12-12 telethon was the Big Music Event of the week, how sorely mistaken—if charitably well-intended—you were. As far as Mick-and-Keith fans are concerned, that was merely the teaser trailer for the Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary party. It's just a click away if you sign up here before things go live Saturday at 9 p.m. ET/6 PT.

This show will take place in New Jersey, so the Stones didn't have to travel far from their Manhattan mini-gig the other night. But unlike their telethon cameo, this time you will not be found complaining that that gigolo Jagger had just started you up when you had to stop. The pay-per-view show will have its share of celebrity guests, but all attending will be in the service of gilding the Glimmer Twins.

Who's on the guest list? Surprises may be in store, but here's who we know:

  • Lady Gaga. Too flamboyant and upstaging a guest for a Stones show, you say? Let's remember that when the trio Labelle opened for the Stones on a 1974 tour, the ladies went out and got the wildest glam-rock outfits they could, so Gaga would actually be following in a great tradition if she shows up in her oddball finest. Then again, she might not go for the glitz. ""I think Mick said she wanted to do it without any of that, which would be fun actually," Charlie Watts said in an interview with the AP. "But I don't mind if she dresses up in whatever. He does, so why shouldn't she? I'll tell you, some of his outfits are Lady Gaga." Our dreams would come true if Gaga showed up to belt her heart out on "Gimme Shelter" in a simple white pantsuit while he resurrected the meat dress.
  • Bruce Springsteen. Inviting Bruce to a NJ gig literally comes with the territory, but he doesn't often show up for other artists' tribute shows or non-charity concerts, so this is a special occasion indeed. They both have a fondness for covering semi-obscure old R&B classics, so we can't wait to see whether they join forces to pay homage to mutual soul influences or Springsteen will surprise us by tackling a Stones oldie. Either way, we can't wait to hear "The Harlem Shuffle" meet "The E Street Shuffle."
  • The Black Keys. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have made Nugget-y garage rock into mainstream stuff, so it's easy to imagine them collaborating on something from the Stones' early British Invasion salad days. The duo will be fresh from wrapping up their UK tour at London's O2 arena two nights earlier, so they should still be in a British mood… and still amped up from playing for one of their biggest audiences.
  • Mick Taylor. One Mick is not enough, if you're among those who feel the Stones were really in their prime between the Brian Jones and Ronnie Wood era. The group's second guitarist during the late '60s through mid-'70s has played at other shows on the band's extremely limited mini-tour and been heralded for his contributions, even if he's the antithesis of Stonesy flamboyance in certain regards. After Taylor joined them for a song at London's 02 Arena—his first appearance with the Stones since 1981—the Daily Telegraph wrote that "Taylor can still play like a silver streak and the time-shifting blues jam of 'Midnight Rambler' was incredible to behold."

John Mayer joined the Stones at the penultimate gig of the tour Thursday night to join in on "Respectable." This show was also held, as Saturday's show will be, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. There's no indication whether Mayer might also show up as a surprise for pay-per-view audiences, or whether his appearance Thursday was intended to keep Newark's opening-night ticketholders from succumbing to too much Gaga envy.

Mary J. Blige joined the Stones at the previous show Dec. 8 in Brooklyn, singing the Merry Clayton part on "Gimme Shelter," which would be a sure worldwide crowd favorite if she repeats the guest stint. Florence Welch did it at a London show Nov. 30, and pay-per-viewers wouldn't mind that machinery working in their favor, eiher.

The Choir of Trinity Wall Street is more of a given to repeat, since they joined up for backing vocals on Thursday's encore of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and probably don't have a better offer lined up for the weekend.

As for the set list, the Stones have enjoyed playing with audience expectations as well as with fire on this swing of dates. Thursday night, they played 22 numbers—one of which, "Around and Around," a Chuck Berry cover, had not been played live since 1977.

Some other recent surprises: a cover of Don Bix's "Going Down" featuring Jeff beck one night and blues upstart Gary Clark Jr. the next… a rendition of the Beatles' "I Wanna Be Your Man," never played since 1964…  the Muddy Waters tune "Champagne and Reefer," with Eric Clapton guesting… and even Bill Wyman cameos on "Honky Tonk Women" one night and "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" another. In London, they trotted out "The Last Time" for the first time in 14 years; maybe they rarely play it because they're tired of journalists wondering if this really could be the last time.

So it's our duty to speculate: Could it be? It would be foolish to imagine the Stones came together to rehearse such a wide swath of material and then leave it at the mere seven appearances they made on the "50 & Counting" trek. But no commitments have been made. "I'm going to see what happens," Jagger told the AP. "I've quite enjoyed doing these shows… There's no real reason why you shouldn't do more. But we haven't actually booked any or planned any."

Surely—surely—dates have been reserved and His Mickness is playing coy just to make sure we don't pass on the pay-per-view in favor of a possible hometown gig during the Stones' 51st anniversary year. Then again, if they did have any thoughts of letting it be rather than bleed, going out with Bruce in tow is not a bad way to go.