On Sunday night, Mick Jagger paused his band’s show at Massachusetts’ Gillette Stadium to take in the perfect New England summer evening. He said he hoped everyone had a great July 4th weekend — and added that the Fourth had always been a “touchy holiday for us Brits.” “In fact, the President made a very good point in his speech the other night,” Jagger deadpanned. “He said, ‘If only the British had held on to the airports, the whole thing might have gone differently for us.’”
It’s a great gift that the Rolling Stones are still on the road in the summer of 2019 — their 57th year as a band — let alone having as much fun as they are. Sunday’s show was the fifth date of their No Filter tour, which was postponed this spring so that Jagger could undergo heart surgery. (“Sorry for changing the date on you and screwing up your plans,” Mick told the crowd.) He seemed to have even more energy than on their last U.S. tour four years ago, whether he was prowling the catwalk howling a chilling “Gimme Shelter” or punching the air during “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” From the “Sympathy for the Devil” guitar solo to classic between-song banter (Keith broke out his staple “Gold rings on ya” and Charlie Watts showed off red socks in honor of the local baseball squad), the entire evening felt like a victory lap. “This is our 29th show in Boston,” Jagger said in an unusually wistful moment. “I want to thank you for coming out to see us so many times. Thank you.”
Boston has always been a major Stones city, from their infamous 1972 concert at Boston Garden, which the mayor had to bail Mick and Keith out of jail to play, to when they opened 2002’s 40 Licks tour by tearing through three venues in town — the tiny Orpheum Theater, the FleetCenter arena and Gillette Stadium — all within a week and a half. Jagger took time to call out North Brookfield, where the band spent six weeks on a farm rehearsing in 1981 — plus other neighboring New England towns like Providence, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine. He also noted the famous fans in the audience including Aerosmith and New Kids on the Block.
After a dramatic intro set to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the band kicked off with “Street Fighting Man,” a song Keith Richards recently told Rolling Stone “can’t be topped” as a set opener. It’s clear why — Jagger came out firing, dancing in a yellow leather jacket, moving to each of Keith Richards’ powerful Telecaster riffs. He strode down to the B-stage during a wildly fun “Tumbling Dice.” His manic command reached a new level during “She’s So Cold” — a rarity that won the nightly fan online vote. As Richards wrung licks out of his Gibson hollow-body and Ronnie Wood played a twangy solo, Jagger danced furiously. “She’s so goddamn cold!” he shouted, and then spit on the stage.
The energy only picked up from there. The band invited out Gary Clark Jr, who opened the show, for “Ride ‘Em on Down,” an Eddie Taylor cover the Stones recorded for 2016’s Blue & Lonesome. Earlier in the day, Richards posted a backstage photo with Clark, and the kinship between Clark and the band was clear onstage as well, Jagger grinning as the young guitarist let out a flurry of tasteful licks, before Jagger unleashed a furious harmonica solo. The next surprise came when the band ventured to the B-stage — a segment that Jagger noted has gotten a folk makeover this tour. They strapped on acoustic guitars for a wonderfully ragged take on 1965’s “Play With Fire” (a song Ronnie Wood had been campaigning for) and “Dead Flowers,” with Richards stepping up to the mic to sing backup, evoking their 1972 tour, and giving a taste of his and Jagger’s goosebumps-inducing vocal blend.
Richards wrote in his autobiography Life that part of the magic of the Rolling Stones’ shows is that you’re actually hearing them live, with no tracks or fakery. That rawness was clear during “Midnight Rambler,” when Jagger was in the middle of working the crowd into a frenzy during the instrumental section of the blues epic, about to begin his eerie spoken-word section (“Well, you heard about the Boston …”). But before he could, when the music quieted down, Richards unexpectedly skipped that spoken section and started playing the song’s famous fast riff. The screens captured Jagger frozen for a moment, before he shot Richards a funny look. Richards realized his mistake and stopped playing, put his arm around Ronnie Wood and started laughing. It was an endearing moment that made the Stones feel like a garage band. There were other small hiccups — like when Jagger had to ask the production team to turn on the house music so they could take their journey to the B-stage, or during band introductions when he accidentally said that keyboardist Chuck Leavell was their bassist. “I fucked up,” Jagger said, laughing. The band took all these problems in stride. Their attitude recalled something Keith often says onstage: “It’s good to be here; it’s good to be anywhere.”
There were plenty of other great moments. Richards sang a wonderfully soulful “Slipping Away,” and noted that he’d missed playing the song during its hiatus from the set list. “Paint it Black” was menacing as ever, Watts’ drum hits echoing through the stadium as Richards played the riff determined and stone-faced. As usual, Ronnie Wood was a blast to watch, nailing the sitar melody of that song and firing off a series of staccato licks during a furious solo in “Miss You” that seemed to blow Jagger away.
The band closed out with a nearly 10-minute “Satisfaction.” It’s a song that could easily feel uninspired at this point in their career, but on Sunday, it became a highlight. As Richards and Wood improvised over the riff, Jagger sprinted down the catwalk and threw off his jacket, getting lost in the song’s R&B reverie. As backup singers sang “Give me some satisfaction,” Jagger howled, “I’ve got to get it!” He kept shouting, “Got to, got to, got to!” louder and louder. On this tour, the band are still searching for satisfaction, and as long as they are, the world is a better place.