Rolling Stones storm London; New York next
Mick Jagger, front center, Ronnie Wood, left, with Keith Richards and Charlie Watts, right, of The Rolling Stones, perform at the O2 arena in east London, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. The band are playing five gigs to celebrate their 50th anniversary, including two shows at London’s O2 and three more in New York. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)
LONDON (AP) — The verdict is in: The Rolling Stones are back. They may look old, but they still sound young.
That was the consensus Monday as Britain's rock critics responded to the Stones 50th anniversary bash Sunday night, the first of five shows to commemorate their half century of rhythm and blues-tinged rock. It was the band's first London performance in five years, and their own advancing years had led some to be skeptical that they could still perform at the highest level.
They were led by the seemingly ageless Mick Jagger, whose strutting style has not been dimmed, and backed by brilliant guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and the energetic drumming of Charlie Watts, who is now past 70 but shows no sign of slowing down. There was a stunning guest appearance by former Stone Mick Taylor, who stole the show during a searing performance of "Midnight Rambler" and a brief visit from former bassist Bill Wyman.
The Daily Mail's Jan Moir said the Stones had somehow beaten the aging process: "You might imagine that they had been worn down by life, by wives, by arthritis, by scandals old and new, by drugs, but no — they seemed indestructible." She said their swampy, gritty sound remains unique after half a century.
Daily Telegraph reviewer Neil McCormick said the band exceeded all expectations. He described the weaving of the guitarists, mixed with Jagger's blues harmonica, as a wonder.
Mick Jagger, left and Keith Richards, of The Rolling Stones perform at the O2 arena in east London, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. The band are playing five gigs to celebrate their 50th anniversary, including two shows at London’s O2 and three more in New York. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)
"When looking for the secret of the Stones, it is perhaps that they actually listen to each other while they play, and almost lose themselves in it, while their brilliant frontman keeps it all together," he wrote.
Ebullient fans agreed with this assessment, as did the Guardian newspaper, which gave the performance four out of five stars.
Jagger, in skin-tight black pants, a sparkly tie and a matching checked jacket and hat, took time out from singing to thank the crowd for its loyalty.
"It's amazing that we're still doing this, and it's amazing that you're still buying our records and coming to our shows," he said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Lead guitarist Keith Richards, whose survival has surprised many who thought he would succumb to drugs and drink, was blunter: "We made it," he said. "I'm happy to see you. I'm happy to see anybody."