The old adage "less is more" has seldom been as spectacularly realized as it was last night when the Rolling Stones' "No Security" tour opened its doors for business. Instead of being hurled on stage through a virtual loop of fire like they were during last year's "Bridges To Babylon" extravaganza, rock's most enduring war horses sauntered casually through the bowels of the newly refurbished arena, dressed almost to a man in black leather and black jeans. (Except, of course, for Charlie Watts, who was in subtle gray.) A single camera was trained on their simple progression, feeding live images to three video screens throughout the venue. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, both donning dark glasses, led the low-key brigade onto the sparse stage set up, settled in and then dove into a biting version of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," setting the tone for this stripped-down, back-to-the-roots evening. Never mind that it's been just a year since the Stones last graced this city with their presence (that time, at the much larger Oakland Coliseum), they managed to entirely overhaul their show, their set list and their very demeanor in the interregnum.
"It seems just like yesterday since we were here playing with the Pearls [in outsider parlance, that's Pearl Jam]. We had such a good time," Mick told the capacity crowd of 18,000. "But this is a little bit smaller, so we can see how beautiful you all are." Jagger was on his best behavior, alternately teasing and charming the audience -- without a trace of the sardonic ennui that has marked other outings. Gone, too, are the fey, Twyla Tharp-inspired gyrations, replaced by lean and provocative posturing from days of yore. At times Jagger even crouched on his sinewy haunches to deliver his lines. More often than not, he turned his back on the crowd and leapt on the risers that ringed the stage to play to the fans in the "cheap seats" behind the stage. (That is, if you can call anything on this tour cheap, since most of the ducats were in the $150-$300 range.)
But that's not to say fans didn't get their money's worth. During their two-hour set, the Stones blazed through twentyone songs, some that haven't seen the light of day since the Stones' 1972 tour, including two songs Jagger swore that the band had never performed live before: the haunting "Moonlight Mile" from Sticky Fingers and "Some Girls" from the 1978 album of the same name.
"We've never done this one before, but I'm sure we'll be okay," Jagger reassured the crowd before tearing into "Mile." Indeed, it was more than okay, and Jagger didn't flub a single word. (That, perhaps, had more to do with his teleprompter than his good memory.) "Some Girls" played like a narrative inspired by Jagger's recent skirmishes with wife Jerry Hall and Brazilian fashion model Luciana Giminez Mora, who claims to be bearing his child -- all the more when he altered one of the lines about "Some girls give you children" to "Some girls have my children." Jagger also revised the infamous "Black Girls want to fuck all night" line, which caused so much controversy back when the album was released, to "white girls." Go figure.
An hour into the show, Keith Richards, whom Jagger introduced as "guitarist and vocalist," grabbed a stool and performed two songs accompanied by Ron Wood on pedal steel guitar and back-up singer extraordinaire Blondie Chapman on guitar. Richards' eccentric rendering of "You Got the Silver" made for one of the night's brightest moments. The fact that Richards, who obviously didn't use the prompter, flubbed a line only made it more endearing. He flashed an impish grin and the audience was completely won over. They roared their approval at the end when he told them, "I don't think I've done that since I did that. Nothing like taking chances."
As during "Bridges To Babylon," the Stones returned to the small stage that was set up smack in the middle of the hall to perform a few acoustic numbers. Setting the time machine on way-back, they commenced the brief set with "Route 66," which featured Jagger alternately ducking water hurled onstage by fans and showering them in return. He pranced suggestively only inches from their faces, stuck his microphone down the front of his tight black pants and teased the audience mercilessly. He continued the foreplay with "I Just Want to Make Love to You," reminding us that no one on this planet says "love" exactly the way he does.
This tour was so low-fi that the only stage prop the band used was a rubber cage that descended from the ceiling containing a rabid Jagger singing "Out of Control," a tune from Bridges. Anxious, frenetic, and painfully metaphorical, the song struck the only jarring note in the entire set.
The Stones dusted off "Brown Sugar" to end the set on a high note, subsequently pelting the crowd with balloons and foil streamers dropped from the lofty ceiling. They were back within seconds for the encore, which included a fast-paced, percussion-heavy "Midnight Rambler" and an updated "Sympathy for the Devil," as if to remind us that they really have been around "since Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain." And that they intend to be here until his second coming.
The Rolling Stones set list: