From the comparatively stripped-down stage to Jeff Beck’s cameo on “I’m Going Down,” the Rolling Stones‘ first major show in five years Sunday night at London’s O2 arena was full of surprises. We’ve compiled five of the biggest and are expecting plenty more at their remaining dates. Will Eric Clapton show up during their second night in London on Thursday? Jimmy Page? In New York, will Paul McCartney sing “I Wanna Be Your Man” with the band? We’ll have to wait and see.
1. Opening with “I Wanna Be Your Man”
The first song is arguably the most important moment of a Stones show, from the stripped-down “Not Fade Away” to kick off the Voodoo Lounge shows to the dramatic meteor explosion during “Satisfaction” on the Bridges to Babylon tour. This time, the band surprised fans with “I Wanna Be Your Man,” which John Lennon and McCartney wrote for the Stones when they needed a hit in late 1963. “John and Paul flogged us a song which we’ve never played onstage before,” Keith Richards told the BBC recently. “You realize this is a new song to me. You get into it and everybody’s playing and you’re going, ‘This is amazing.’ This could be almost a new song!” One prediction: With all the guests popping up at these shows, it’s not far off to imagine McCartney joining the band for this song – perhaps at the December 15th Newark gig, to be broadcast on Pay Per View?
2. Keith Richards‘ playing
Fans have been considerably worried about Richards’ playing since several erratic performances after he fell out of a tree in Fiji in 2007. And he’s admitted he didn’t spend the years following the Bigger Bang tour playing guitar. “I don’t practice as much as I should, probably,” he said recently. “But now that we’re putting the act together again, I’m getting the chops back together.” There were a few hiccups, including Richards flubbing the intro of “Honky Tonk Women,” but fans agree his playing was better than it has been in years. Said “citadel” on fan forum It‘s Only Rock and Roll, “At the start he seemed almost nervous . . . Not moving much, playing the rhythm . . . Somewhere in the middle it was as if the old confidence, posing, playing all came back. Suddenly some great riffs, licks, solos, moving, posing, even running around.” Added “rockenrohl,” “Best Keef I’ve seen in more than a decade. He really got his shit together.”
3. The length of the show
Even though the band cut two songs that had been in the night’s set list (“Lady Jane” and “Satisfaction”), their 23-song set was one of the longest shows in their history, clocking in at over two and a half hours. Not too bad for a band whose drummer is 71 years old. “I think the band wants to give the fans their money’s worth,” keyboardist Chuck Leavell told Rolling Stone during rehearsals. “There’s no secret what the ticket prices are, so I think we want to make sure that we deliver.”
4. “Midnight Rambler” with Mick Taylor
Fans have missed Taylor’s epically proficient playing since he walked in 1974, and his return has been Number One on every hardcore fan’s wish list for decades (he did play with the band onstage in Kansas City in 1981). He returned full force during “Midnight Rambler.” According to everyone who was there, the guitarist hasn’t lost any chemistry with his old bandmates. Said “Silver Dagger” on the Stones forum IORR, “It was brilliant though and Mick was a bit sluggish at first, but then really up[ped] the pace. Grown men wept. It was almost like being transported back to the US tour in ’72. Almost.”
5. Bill Wyman still rocks
Whenever the Stones swing through London, fans always wonder whether Bill Wyman – who left the band in 1992 – will make a surprise cameo. Last night, it finally happened. While the Stones had announced Wyman would be joining the band before the London show, the image of seeing the 76-year-old original member back with his old friends wasn’t any less moving. Wyman looked right at home, cracking a grin as he laid down a rock-solid groove on “It’s Only Rock and Roll” with Charlie Watts while Keith and Ronnie wailed away on Chuck Berry-style licks, and sticking around for “Honky Tonk Women.”
It’s also surprising Wyman didn’t play on more songs. Surely current bassist Darryl Jones would have understood taking a backseat to let Wyman play the entire show to celebrate their 50th anniversary, but it’s likely the band didn’t want to disrespect Jones, who’s played with the band since 1994. “Darryl doesn’t get enough recognition,” Richards told Rolling Stone in October. “He and Bill can talk about songs they want to step in and out of.” Here’s hoping Wyman gets more songs on Tuesday.