Oh, my God, that’s Mick!” a couple of female fans outside Fenway Park screamed, as the lean, shadowy figure jumped out of his limo. “Hey, Mick! Miiick!” Nice try, ladies — but it was Steven Tyler. A true rock-star gentleman, Tyler smiled and waved anyway. No hard feelings; it probably happens every time the Stones play Boston.
The World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band came to the home of the world-champion Boston Red Sox on Sunday, August 21st, to kick off the Bigger Bang tour. Like the Red Sox, the Stones are strutting proud these days, and for good reason. They played an aggressive, flashy, high-energy show, hitting the stage with brutal charisma and refusing to slacken for two hours. Mick Jagger took charge to “Start Me Up,” rocking a silver jacket, blue satin pants, a sparkly black chemise and a Britney-style fedora that was gone by the second chorus. Jagger didn’t slow for a second, prancing around the stage and swiveling panther hips as if Lucifer was his Pilates instructor.
“Boston is a champion city,” Jagger told the crowd. “We’re going to hit it over the Green Monster.” The Stones then launched into a sloppy, spirited version of “Shattered,” which seemed right at home in Fenway, since it was Boston radio’s favorite New York-bashing anthem in 1978, after the Sox got shattered by Bucky Dent. It was a statement of purpose, down to the casually flubbed lyrics and chords — the Stones were here to show and prove as a band, not a machine. They pulled out surprises, like “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” a nearly forgotten Seventies Shaft-funk gem, and the Eighties trash rocker “She’s So Cold.” “Beast of Burden” became a long guitar jam, with Jagger sashaying down the catwalk to do his “pretty, pretty girls” soliloquy.
“Thank you to the hallowed ground of Fenway Park for letting us rascals get in here,” Keith Richards said. Rock shows are rare in Fenway, so many familiar local faces were on hand: Denis Leary, Carly Simon, Doug Flutie. So was California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in town for Republican fund-raising and greeted by protesters around the park. (Unsurprisingly, the Stones shied away from their anti-Republican protest, “Sweet Neo Con.”) The band debuted a batch of strong new songs from A Bigger Bang, with Jagger playing mean slide guitar on “Back of My Hand” and Richards wailing “Infamy.”
The Stones need a little demonic mania to stay the Stones, so it was gratifying to see them refuse to do any kind of standard oldies set. They didn’t touch a single 1960s tune until the final half-hour, when they brought down the house with “Satisfaction.” It started a deluge of late-Sixties classics: “Honky Tonk Women,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Brown Sugar.” But the peak had to be the electric noise rush of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” — this is the Keith riff, the Mick swagger, the first song you’d play for a visiting Martian who wanted to know what rock & roll was, what a drummer did, why humans can’t get over that whole messy sex business or what function the United Kingdom ever served for the rest of the planet. By the time the show ended with “It’s Only Rock and Roll,” the Stones had met the toughest challenge of all: their own.
This story is from the September 22, 2005 issue of Rolling Stone.