LIVE MUSIC

‘Sa-tis-fac-tion’ in Madrid

Energetic Rolling Stones play to a devoted crowd of 50,000 inside Real Madrid stadium

The Rolling Stones performing in Madrid on Wednesday.
The Rolling Stones performing in Madrid on Wednesday.Claudio Álvarez

Nearly 50,000 fans struggled between faith and disbelief as they watched the Rolling Stones play to a packed Santiago Bernabéu stadium in Madrid on Wednesday.

There was a lot of faith on display for a band that is to rock what the Catholic Church is to religion: there they were, much as they have been from the beginning, with all their gods and demons in attendance. But there was also much rubbing of eyes in disbelief at the sight of these 70-year-olds romping on the stage and looking as fresh as roses.

They leapt onto the stage around 10pm, a quartet with seven supporting musicians, and launched into Jumpin Jack Flash as three screens followed their every move. By the time the second song, You’ve Got Me Rockin, got underway, one man was clearly in charge: Mick Jagger, long hair in the wind, wearing a red suit jacket and challenging biology with his antics.

The Stones are who they are because they have toured the world with shows like this one

From there on, the Stones delivered their classic repertory and left no room for newer work, though there was plenty of space for virtuoso displays.

So was it worth the ticket price? Legends are not cheap. In this case, tickets sold for €85 to €225 in the space of one day. But judging by the public’s devoted attitude and the good vibes that the Stones have always sent out in Madrid since they first performed here 32 years ago, it would seem that it was money well spent.

Jagger’s pitch-perfect bawling can only be the result of complete control over one’s own breathing

After earning their paycheck with a selection of timeless hits — from Start Me Up, Tumbling It, and Honky Tonk Woman, to Sympathy for the Devil, Brown Sugar and, naturally, Satisfaction — there was still time for a couple of encores: a rendition of Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and a nearly 10-minute version of Midnight Rambler.

As for the state of their health in terms of performance quality, let it simply be said that they are light years away from that first concert in Madrid. Athletic jumps and powerful stage presence notwithstanding, Mick Jagger proved that there is no basis for the criticism once voiced by his colleague Keith Richards over the fact that Jagger had taken singing lessons. The guitarist had apparently viewed this initiative as intolerably vulgar and proof that Jagger was turning into a diva.

But it is clear that Jagger’s pitch-perfect bawling and impeccable harmonica solos could only be the result of complete control over one’s own breathing. Just as impressive was Richards’ serene virtuoso work with the guitars, which he kept switching almost at every song without this perturbing him in the least. Charly Watts was as impassive as ever as he expeditiously banged away on the drums, while Ronnie Wood contributed a dose of hard rock that crosses the path of the dark-tainted roots that pushed the Stones to make a living out of music over 50 years ago already.

Legends are not cheap. In this case, tickets sold for €85 to €225 in the space of one day

The Stones are who they are because they have toured the world with shows like this one. Their studio work is no longer as careful as it used to be in the late 1960s, and they have not recorded a well-rounded album in over two decades. Yet their monumental sense of show business still commands top prices, as they continue on their quest to become legends. Not that they aren’t that already, but they keep working at it, as though to ensure that they are legends every step of the way, on every square inch of the stage.

Those who witnessed the legends live on their first visit to Madrid 32 years ago — at which point the Stones had already been around for two decades — could not imagine that 30 years later they would get another chance to see them live again. Thus the renewed faith, and the disbelief. Nobody inside that stadium could say for a fact whether this would be the last time.

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