The lights on the four gargantuan screens behind the stage went dark. There they were: Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie at the end of the catwalk. The Rolling Stones, the self-proclaimed (but not entirely unfounded) “greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world,” cruising through the harmonica-sparked acoustic number “Sweet Virginia” — time kept with a healthy stomp and Charlie Watts’ ever-steady hands.
Under the lonesome spotlight in the temporarily darkened CenturyLink Field, pursed-lipped frontman Mick Jagger locked eyes with Ronnie Wood, who instantly pulled up into a twisted slide solo, eventually shifting to a rustic version of midtempo kicker “Dead Flowers.” For a few minutes, it felt like seeing the rock juggernauts in a dimly lit blues joint (pour one out for Highway 99), albeit one with tens of thousands of bar stools. Had anyone been industrious enough to smuggle in a washboard, they might have been welcome to sit in for a few bars.
It was an intimate mid-set highlight during a night full of them, as The Rolling Stones made their first visit to Seattle since 2006 on Wednesday, playing to a stadium full of eager fans who had been feeling the drought. “When we played here once before, it was called something else,” Jagger noted of the former Qwest Field after a soothing, gospel-tinged “Tumbling Dice” that got the band on track early on after an uneven opening jaunt through “Street Fighting Man.”
Jagger wasn’t overly chatty, save for a token string of local food references (Dick’s, Seattle dogs, geoduck) during Wednesday’s make-up date after the Stones postponed their No Filter tour earlier this year while the 76-year-old singer underwent a heart-valve replacement. Any concerns that Mick’s ticker would slow him down were put to rest by the time he twirled his way to the front of the stage in a green bedazzled jacket to start a rollicking “Sympathy for the Devil,” later wriggling like a cobra that accidentally swallowed a bottle of Viagra.
Judging by the tissue boxes kept around the stage, Jagger might have been a touch under the weather, though he sounded great (save for a precarious falsetto attempt in “Beast of Burden”). As for those signature moves, there were all the hip gyrations and jittery stutter steps expected from one of rock’s most limber frontmen, of any age. After his burner of a harmonica opener to “Midnight Rambler,” Jagger — who seemed to accrue layers just for the sake of shedding them emphatically later — swaggered his way down the runway to twirl his pink jacket over his head on more conspicuous turf.
Jagger was hardly the only septuagenarian with swagger to spare last night. A big part of The Rolling Stones’ magic is their ability to simultaneously sound raggedy and anthemic, for which Richards and Wood deserve a large chunk of the credit. The guitarists carried the song’s jammier stretches, reining it in and ramping up the barroom bluster before getting too frayed. Hypnotic fan-favorite “Paint it Black” that followed almost felt straight-laced by comparison. While Wood is a consummate showman, often hamming it up alongside Jagger, Richards was all business. His electric blues licks were pure attitude, confident and steely.
The Stones have long been a band to give the people what they want and Wednesday’s two-hour set was the veritable hit parade fans have come to expect. A stellar closing run picked up the pace after jammier versions of disco-strutting “Miss You” and “Midnight Rambler.”
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was fluid and flawless, and a barn-shaking “Brown Sugar” got a boost with a sizzling solo from saxophonist Karl Denson, who went a little underutilized — as did Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of indie-pop group Lucius, who sang backup for country-rocking openers Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real during their strong but short set. (It took Nelson all of four minutes to play a scorching guitar solo with his teeth. Jimi would have been proud.)
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” provided the final salvo, pushed into a brawny extended jam that could have lasted another 10 minutes. It felt like one last ripper for the jukebox before the bouncer kicks everyone out, though based on the cacophony of screams, no one wanted the night to end.
Here’s hoping it won’t be another 13 years until the Stones get back to Seattle, although at this rate, they’ll probably still be at it.
Street Fighting Man
You Got Me Rocking
Beast of Burden
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Sympathy for the Devil
Honky Tonk Women
You Got the Silver
Before They Make Me Run
Paint it Black
Start Me Up
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction