The Rolling Stones: The Arena in Oakland

A review of the Stones' arrival on their

The Rolling Stones perform at Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California on November 15, 1997. Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The No Security tour, coming only four months after Bridges to Babylon finished its U.S. road trip, risked giving the faithful too much of a great thing. But this night's sold-out, two-hour show – which saw the world's first performance of Sticky Fingers' "Moonlight Mile" – captured the Stones redefining intimacy in more ways than one. The No Security tour will stick to arenas rather than stadiums, and the Stones are charging fans more (tickets run from $39.50 to $300) for the chance to watch them rip the roof off places that actually have a roof. And during a bluesy three-song set ("Route 66," "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and "Honky Tonk Women") from a small stage in the crowd, the band succeeded in making a sold-out arena feel like a club date.

The Rolling Stones Live

The Stones appeared first onscreen, seen approaching the stage, looking like a hardened gang from a Sergio Leone movie. Then, on a stage uncluttered with inflatables or cherry pickers, the Stones launched into a furious "Jumpin' Jack Flash" to open a show that was leaner and more guerrilla than their post-Steel Wheels spectaculars. In smaller confines, their performances seem less athletic and more musical.

Mick Jagger may be an imperfect husband, but he remains a definitively defiant frontman, a strutting cock in no need of Viagra. Certain selections resonated with recent headlines. "Some Girls" became a psychosexual gold mine – a pissed-off complaint of paternity and pussy whipping. "Respectable" sounded more like a punkish personal anthem, with Jagger spitting, "Get out of my life, don't fuck my wife, don't look back." After decades of seeming respectable, Mick the midnight rambler was uncaged, an unrepentant satyr still on the prowl. Perhaps it's taken a tabloid scandal to make the old dude dangerous again.

Keith Richards was in all his ragged glory for a tentative but lovely "You Got the Silver" ("I don't think I've done that since I did it," Keith said of the Let It Bleed chestnut) and the timeless "Before They Make Me Run." Indeed, the evening balanced evergreens "Sympathy for the Devil," "Start Me Up," "Paint It Black" and "Brown Sugar" – with rare pleasures, such as a holy rolling "Shine a Light," "Live With Me" and a haunting, never-before-performed "Moonlight Mile."

The Rolling Stones Live, 1964-2007

Not everything thrilled, however. Voodoo Lounge's "You Got Me Rocking" remains too generic, and "Undercover of the Night," an interesting, politically charged choice, was oddly tepid. "Saint of Me," on the other hand, is that rare recent Jagger-Richards composition that's turning out to be a keeper.

The Stones have long done their best work on the road, not in the studio (as the new live album this tour is named for proves). Whether they ever record another Exile on Main Street, in concert they can still get yet ya-ya's out; and without actually playing "Satisfaction," they remain the real deal.

This story is from the March 4th, 1999 issue of Rolling Stone.