LONDON — The Rolling Stones made a triumphant return to the London stage on Sunday night in the first of five concerts to mark the 50th anniversary of their debut as an American-oriented blues band.
They showed no signs of wear and tear – except on their aging, heavily lined faces – as frontman Mick Jagger swaggered and strutted through a stellar 2 1/2 -hour show. He looked remarkably trim and fit and was in top vocal form.
The Stones passed the half-century mark in style at the sometimes emotional gig that saw former bassist Bill Wyman and guitar master Mick Taylor join their old mates in front of a packed crowd at London’s O2 Arena.
It was the first of five megashows to mark the passage of 50 years since the band first appeared in a small London pub.
Jagger 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 was blunter: “We made it,” he said. “I’m happy to see you. I’m happy to see anybody.”
But the band’s fiery music was no joke, fuelled by an incandescent guest appearance by Taylor, who played lead guitar on a stunning extended version of the ominous “Midnight Rambler,” and Mary J. Blige, who shook the house in a duet with Jagger on “Gimme Shelter.”
The concert began with some early-Stones numbers, including the band’s cover of the John Lennon-Paul McCartney rocker “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “It’s All Over Now” by Bobby and Shirley Womack.