Time fortunately remained on the side of the Rolling Stones at Dodger Stadium the night before Thanksgiving, but given the litany of personal issues (health scares, rehab, deaths in the family) since the start of their “A Bigger Bang” tour in 2005, the band was probably most thankful that this, their fifth SoCal-area appearance, was their last U.S. gig and that the year was winding down.
Fans hoping to catch the Stones for the first time, a final time or simply once more had to be extraordinarily patient and willing to wait for them this time around. Not only had this show, initially skedded for Nov. 18, been pushed back to address throat concerns Mick Jagger encountered earlier this month, but the pre-holiday traffic maelstrom across the city and especially approaching the stadium threw the band yet another curve.
With a start time nearly an hour and a half after opener Bonnie Raitt to accommodate those arriving late, fans already at their seats had plenty of time to kill playing “Spot the Celebrity” (“Look, Alec Baldwin!! … cool, Jake Gyllenhaal and Lance Armstrong!”) until that eventually reached a point of diminishing returns (“Hey, um, Bob Saget … yeah, okay, Tom Green … uh, Joe Don Baker?!”).
But when Keith Richards, looking none the worse for wear — relatively speaking — walked onstage and began the signature riff to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” all was forgiven and forgotten for the next two hours. Jagger made the point of graciously thanking the crowd for their patience in dealing with all the delays, but the setbacks seemingly had no effect on the subsequent energetic perf and delirious aud response.
“The world’s greatest” pulled off yet another stadium show like no one else can, and it’s been a lasting, iconic image for many years, with massive videoscreens, flames, fireworks, Macy’s Parade-sized inflatables, moveable staging, etc.
But more importantly, at the core, was Jagger, a remarkably still-in-shape singer/showman well-versed in reaching the upper decks — even if it requires wearing running shoes to get from left field to right. And all the other “Stonesy” musical elements were there in full force: Richards capriciously stabbing and slashing at his guitar, trading Chuck Berry-inspired licks and poses alongside guitarist Ron Wood, while bassist Darryl Jones, drummer Charlie Watts (still pounding at age 65) and keyboardist Chuck Leavell held the team together, slugging out hit after hit and covering when someone was having an off night — which certainly wasn’t the case Wednesday.
After band intros and Richards’ own heartfelt thanks to the doctor in attendance who treated his serious head injury earlier this year, the two-song spotlight of “You Got the Silver” (with Wood on beautifully rendered acoustic slide) and “Connection” found the other Glimmer Twin in fine voice — again, relatively speaking. Other flawless numbers included searing versions of “All Down the Line” and “Midnight Rambler,” the latter with Jagger on harmonica and the band at its most bluesy minimal. Only opener Bonnie Raitt might have missed a step when she joined Jagger a bit late to duet on “Dead Flowers.”
With a mere two songs from “A Bigger Bang” (“Streets of Love,” “Oh No, Not You Again”) and two from the early ’80s (“Start Me Up,” “She Was Hot”) sprinkled among the other 15, circa 1965-74, the concert might have seemed mechanical to those having witnessed multiple shows, desiring more varied setlists or hoping for smaller venues. But it’s a marvel of a well-oiled machine, and one almost with a sense of tradition and legacy and family, as even the backup singers and supporting musicians have been along for the ride for some time now.
Much like the Grateful Dead, something as big as a Rolling Stones tour, always among the highest-grossing roadshows, will be sorely missed when fans and band ultimately spend that last night together.