LOS ANGELES — Mid-way through the Rolling Stones' first concert here, Mick Jagger stepped to the front of the Forum stage, grinned at the 18,000 who had come to welcome him back to the U.S. and said, "Has it really been three years? It doesn't seem that long."
In many ways it didn't. It was just like 1966. Police carried the more enthusiastic fans out of the hall, limp or tied in knots. Girls were screaming and guys were calling for their favorite hits. Jagger was still grinding his skinny hips and doing outrageous things with his tongue. When the Stones started playing "Satisfaction," at least two-thousand rushed the stage to form an adoring sea of bobbing heads and reaching hands.
Creating – rather than causing – this pandemonium wasn't all that easy in 1969. Jagger had to work for his satisfaction.
There had been interminable delays in covering the Forum hockey rink that had been used in the afternoon and in getting sound and lighting equipment installed. It was nearly midnight Saturday and the eighteen-thousand had been waiting patiently since seven.
Finally Sam Cutler, the Stones' tour manager, walked out to the microphone and said, "Here they are . . . The Rolling Stones! The Rolling Stones!"
Mick came bounding from behind a pile of amplifiers. He was dressed nearly all in black — black belled mariachi pants, a long-sleeved tee-shirt (also black), a silk print scarf that hung to his hips, a red-white-and-blue Uncle Sam hat. On the shirt, on his chest, was the omega – like symbol of Leo, the sign of the king or president, a fixed fiery sign: proud, energetic, domineering, authoritative.
He literally pranced from one side of the stage to the other. (The rest of the band was busy plugging in their instruments, seeming almost bored.) Jagger bowed from the waist from stage left, right and center. He rolled his eyes like Eddie Cantor. He waved, wagging a limp wrist that could have won him Tangents' Dream Date of the Year award.
Finally he found the microphone. "Sorry you had to wait so long," he said. "We had to wait, too – right?" And so saying, the Stones dove into the first song in the set, "Jumping Jack Flash."
The applause was near deafening.
The Jagger wondered aloud about the rapid passage of the years and Keith Richard started hitting his guitar, fingering perfect Chuck Berry notes as the band, and Jagger, leaped for "Oh Carol," one of Berry's songs. During the instrumental break, Jagger bobbed his hips at the audience, then sprinted for one side of the stage, where he peered into the balcony and started moving his mouth as if he were eating a giant-sized ear of corn: chop chop chop. His arms and legs seemed as if controlled by puppet strings.
During "Sympathy for the Devil" Jagger dropped to his knees and wedged the microphone between his thighs, phallus-like. He dropped his head, cradling it in his arms. He was screaming into the mike: "All right! All right!" He rolled backward – a reverse somersault – then stretched to his slender height and began cake-walking back and forth again.
Next the Stones played, and Jagger sang, "Stray Cat Blues," the ultimate groupie song. "I can see that you're thirteen years old," he screeched, changing it from the way he wrote it, when she was fifteen. "I don't want your I.D./I can see that you're so far from home but/That's no hangin' matter/It's no capital crime/Oh yehhhhhhh, you're a stray, stray cat/Come to scratch my back ..." And there was no mistaking where Jagger was saying his "back" was at.
It was building and Jagger felt it was time to ease the pressure slightly. Two low stools were placed center-stage, and Keith was handed an acoustic guitar, as Mick said, "We're gonna sit for a minute or two."
Jagger sang and Keith played "Prodigal Son," with Charlie Watts providing a just-discernible beat on the hi-hat, no other accompaniment. This was the concert's "quiet spot."
The stools were removed and Jagger stood again, chomping gum, saying thank you thank you and now we'd like to do one from the new album, Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain." This was a slow electric blues, featuring a Mick Taylor bottleneck solo that begins like a Hawaiian steel guitar, then slides into a tense bluesy Delta sound.
In his next song, "I'm Free," Jagger sat on the edge of the stage, swinging his legs, and as the photographers moved toward him, he jumped up and stalked stage-right to throw the audience a kiss, returning after that to his original position. Again he changed the words to a song, saying "we're free" rather than "I'm free."
You know we're free
You know we are free
You know what I'm talkin' about
We know we are free
That's something we know
We're goddamned gonna be free...
The ad-libbed verse was thrown against the audience with all the volume Jagger could rally.
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