Are the Rolling Stones even mortal?

They’re old, rich, and way past their sell-by-date but they don’t give a damn what people think

If you’ve ever contemplated your own mortality, give a thought to the Rolling Stones. Not because they’re not going to die, but because the manner in which they appear to be going to their graves might provide inspiration. They are ancient, wealthy and obsolete and if some call them clowns in the circus known as rock n’ roll, they couldn’t care less.

The Rolling Stones at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.
The Rolling Stones at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona.Massimiliano Minocri

The Stones are not searching for meaning in what they do because they are the meaning. In fact, who knows what came first: rock and roll or the Rolling Stones.

For more than half a century, the band – widely known in Spain as Los Rolling – has embodied teenage rebellion, hedonism and free love. There is, however, a shopping mall element to the circus, such as over-sized gigs and unbridled merchandising. Then there is the complacency and the mimicry...

Who knows what came first, rock and roll or the Rolling Stones?

Playing at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, the Rolling Stones took time to warm up. In fact, they were as cold as corpses when they played Sympathy for the Devil, a rendition devoid of its original wicked charm. With It's Only Rock 'n' Roll But I Like It, you could see some of the old magic at work. And by the time they got to Tumbling Dice, Jagger was dancing center stage with his contagious spasms, and rousing the audience as though their team had scored its first goal.

With Paint It Black, everything fell back into its rightful place. You couldn’t help but wonder what magic potion was keeping these guys on a permanent loop, like a set of Duracell bunnies. Mid-concert, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood were unstoppable on guitar while Mick Jagger writhed serpent-like around the stage, casting a hallucinogenic, irresistible spell on the 50,000-strong crowd.

Mick Jagger writhed serpent-like around the stage, casting a hallucinogenic spell on the 50,000-strong crowd

An attempt was made to give the giant stage the aura of a blues dive as they sang numbers from their latest album Just Your Fool and Ride 'Em on Down, with Jagger on harmonica. But the new songs –which are in fact blues artists Buddy Johnson and Jimmy Reed covers – are quite different from the old classics such as Rocks Off and You Can't Always Get What You Want, which capture the original brilliance that defined rock and roll for posterity. Happy was once of that ilk, but with an increasingly over-the-hill Keith Richards at the mic, it lacked class.

The evening ended on an electric note with Jagger charging up and down the stage singing Honky Tonk Woman, Gimme Shelter, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, and Brown Sugar. The closing number Satisfaction was not only accompanied by a firework display but also by the audience joining in with abandon, as though they too had been bewitched.

English version by Heather Galloway


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