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The Rolling Stones - Twickenham, London

25 August 2006

They're the oldest swingers in town and after 40 years at the top they're still the biggest draw in rock and roll. So can the Stones justify their ludicrous ticket prices on their return to Blighty?

The Rolling Stones released their most critically acclaimed album in 20 years last year, but this fact rapidly becomes irrelevant when you’re watching them live. The album in question, ‘A Bigger Bang’, features twice this evening in the form of the tracks ‘Rain Fall Down’ and ‘She Saw Me Coming’, and while both are well penned and well performed neither seems to ignite the crowd, though they do inspire large queues at the bar.

The reason for that is simple – The Stones have arguably the greatest back catalogue in rock and roll history, and no fan in their right mind would compare their latest releases to epic tracks like ‘Tumbling Dice’, ‘Honky Tonk Women’, ‘Start Me Up’, ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘It’s Only Rock and Roll' and ... the list goes on. It is for these, the classic Stones tracks, that 70,000 have filled Twickenham Stadium this evening. And it is during these songs that you realise, for all the many young pretenders to the throne, there are none that can match the live performance of the Stones when they are on form - despite them being three times the age of most. With each classic riff you’re reminded why they call themselves the world’s greatest rock and roll band. It’s because they are.

Mick Jagger is 63 years old and he makes Robbie Williams look like the tired, listless Sinatra wannabe that he is. Jagger is all energy, snakehips and awesome vocal strength – the phrase ‘holds the audience in the palm of his hand’ could have been invented for him. Ronnie Wood (59) delights the crowd with his beaming grin and peerless guitar interplay with the barely-living legend Keith Richards (62), who’s very existence means there is some hope for Doherty yet. Charlie Watts (65) is Charlie Watts, the quiet man at the back - happy to be the finest drummer in the world, without anyone seeming to realize it.

From the moment they start with ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, to the finale of ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ the Stones are the ultimate rock professionals. They are so slick that the only criticism of their performance may be that they're almost too good – it sometimes feels like this is all so easy for them that they aren’t even trying. This apart, the show is spellbinding and the tingles that run down your spine as the rattling drums of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ kick in, make up for those extortionate ticket prices instantly. You also get to see where your money’s gone with incredible pyrotechnics displays, moving platforms for performing in the centre of the audience and a sprawling stage that allows the band to interact with every corner of the stadium.

The oldest swingers in town can’t have too many tours left in them (or so you would think) but while they can all stand on both legs and hold a guitar (and in Keith’s case the obligatory fag), there’s few if any that can hold a candle to them. They won’t get the front cover of the NME again, they probably won’t release any more hugely influential material again but sod all that - the Stones are still the world’s greatest rock and roll band, and will be for some time yet.



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Article by: Steve McConville

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