The Rolling Stones played a surprise set outside New York City's Julliard School of the performing arts just after one o'clock on Tuesday to announce their upcoming world tour and studio album.
On a perfect spring afternoon, a crowd of nearly 2,000 people -- from media members and celebrities (designer Tommy Hilfiger, model Linda Evangelista, TV host Matt Lauer) seated in front of the impromptu stage, to the hordes of fans in the plaza below and on a nearby rooftop -- managed to catch the three-song set. A group of very enthusiastic Julliard students wearing matching Rolling Stones T-shirts stood to stage left, just below a giant banner bearing the band's signature tongue logo (stitched like a baseball, to evoke the stadiums their tour will visit).
Once the Stones -- singer Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ron Wood, drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Darryl Jones -- took the stage, they launched into "Start Me Up," with Jagger grinning broadly and playing to the kids in the crowd.
"This is one of the earliest concerts in a while -- that we've been to, anyway," quipped Jagger, before launching into the new song, "Oh No Not You Again." The straight-up rocker featured a guitar solo from Keith Richards and the lyric, "Oh no, not you again/You're fucking up my life!" At its close, Jagger turned to the music students and said, to big cheers, "There was one bum note . . . I think the examiners at Julliard would make us take that one again."
For the final song, the Stones played "Brown Sugar," with the crowd pitching in on the chorus' "Yeah, yeah, yeah/Woo!" With surprisingly pumped-up biceps, Jagger tossed off his jacket and managed -- in spite of the jaded press presence -- to work the crowd, and Richards tossed his guitar pick into the audience.
After the set, Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts returned to field questions about their massive Rolling Stones On Stage tour. This time around, the veteran rockers will hit more than thirty-five cities in the U.S. alone, kicking off at Boston's Fenway Park on August 21st, before moving on to Latin America, Japan, possibly China and Europe by the summer of 2006.
While the set list for the shows hasn't been decided -- "Sometimes [the songs] choose themselves!" said Richards -- Jagger revealed that the band "might dig into the catalog" for songs they haven't played in years, as well as work up some "cover versions and some blues." And for the first time ever, the stadium set will feature a second stage on which approximately 400 audience members will be seated, in the middle of the show. Those lucky fans, said Jagger, "will get a great view of our bums."
Tickets for the first round of U.S. dates will go on sale on Saturday (ticket prices will start at around $100, up approximately ten percent from the band's last outing). The Stones hold the record for the two most well-attended North American tours of all time.
Between tour rehearsals in Toronto, the Stones will finish off their next, as-yet-untitled album -- their first studio effort since 1997's Bridges to Babylon. "We tried to make this album a direct album, very simple as far as lyrics and ideas are concerned," Jagger said. "It's eighty-five percent done."
While no release date has been set for the record, the band will be debuting the new material on tour.
1/23/06: Chicago, United Center
1/25/06: Chicago, United Center
1/27/06: Saint Louis, Savvis Center
1/29/06: Omaha, Qwest Center
2/1/06: Baltimore, 1st Mariner Arena
2/11/06: San Juan, PR, Coliseo de Puerto Rico
2/18/06: Rio De Janeiro, BRA, Copacabana Beach
2/21/06: Buenos Aires, ARG, River Plate Stadium
2/23/06: Buenos Aires, ARG, River Plate Stadium
2/26/06: Mexico City, MEX, Foro Sol
3/2/06: Inglewood, CA, The Forum
3/7/06: San Antonio, SBC Center
3/9/06: Little Rock, AR, Alltel Arena