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You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.
Luckily for us, when it comes to seeing the Rolling Stones live, you get both. Collectively, we've all gone through (and still are going through) a traumatic year and a half, one that saw us cut off from communal experiences like live music. But the Stones are offering some spiritual succor and ecstatic joy through the healing power of rock & roll as they return to the stage.
Objectively one of the greatest bands of all time, they're that rare entity that is still out there delivering epic rock shows without missing a beat after more than 50 years. Their second of two shows at Los Angeles' Sofi Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 17 was a rollicking good time, the encapsulation of Rock & Roll (capital Rs!) as it was and is. It's clear the band missed performing during the COVID-19 pandemic as much as audiences missed seeing them live, and they've put their entire being into making up for lost time. Perhaps Mick Jagger summed it up best himself, telling the audience as he left the stage that the entire night was "f---ing brilliant."
Here's 10 things you'll see at a Stones show in 2021.
A tribute to Charlie Watts
Back in August, the Stones lost their longtime drummer Charlie Watts, who had been with the band since 1963. His presence was felt throughout the night, as Jagger dedicated the show to him, but the proceedings also began with a touching tribute to the musician. Before the Stones took the stage, a drum solo and a litany of photos of Watts from his six decades with the band flashed across the giant screens, offering a celebration of their late friend.
Mick Jagger still defying space and time
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
May we all have the energy, charisma, and well-oiled knee and hip joints of Jagger when we're in our late seventies. The Stones frontman has long mesmerized with his signature gyrations and nimble footwork, but what's astonishing is how much he's still got it. Whether he's picking up the acoustic guitar to lead the band into a rendition of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" that escalates into a bluesy good time, strutting his stuff down the catwalk, riffing on the harmonica, or literally sprinting from one side of the stage to the other, his tireless, guileless love of a crowd and putting a show are the electric pulse that makes the Stones still feel like a super-charged live wire of a band.
Ronnie Wood's sparkly converse
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images Ronnie Wood performs during the Rolling Stones' No Filter tour at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif.
At one time, Jagger and company turned heads (and radically changed fashion) with their flamboyant clothing and high-heeled boots. They have had to convert to more practical footwear over the years, but Ronnie Wood still finds room for that pizazz with his glittery converse.
The Stones mostly want to keep you dancing, but they do make time for the occasional ballad. On the No Filter tour, they've introduced a nightly vote for a ballad, giving the audience four choices ahead of the show and then launching into the "surprise" selection. Sunday night saw all-time great "Wild Horses" named the winner, and Jagger delivered a soulful rendition that kept audiences on their feet in his thrall.
The most eye-catching collection of colorful blazers and jackets the world has ever seen
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images The Rolling Stones rock out at the No Filter tour at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif.
The Stones wouldn't be the Stones without their signature flashy looks, whether it's Keith Richards' scarves, Wood's eye-catching blazer, or Jagger's carousel of gorgeous jackets. The No Filter tour is no exception with Jagger regularly stripping off one jacket, cavorting momentarily in his lithe, black mesh top, and donning another one. There's even a mini clothing rack on stage for him to pull from. He really pulls out the big guns for "Sympathy for the Devil," donning a bottle-green, bedazzled topcoat that ups the ante on Jagger's embodiment of a sexy Lucifer.
The longest version of "Midnight Rambler" known to man
Widely considered the quintessential Jagger-Richards song and in Richards' own words, a "blues opera," 1969 jam "Midnight Rambler" has never been a short entry in the Stones' oeuvre (the studio track runs 6:53). But the Stones go long (over 10 minutes!) on this encapsulation of their distinctive blend of blues and rock, coming together and playing as a group in the most distinctive tableau of the night. Plus, it's the perfect showcase for Jagger's dance moves and harmonica skills. The Stones have transformed this into an extended riff on their musical style, but you still probably will never want it to end.
A new song
In addition to their litany of greatest hits, the Stones are still regularly making new music. The No Filter tour features the 2020 single, "Living in a Ghost Town," a tune that Jagger tweaked to reflect the social distancing and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's probably the grooviest song that will ever be penned about a global pandemic, and Jagger leans into it with his utmost swagger, proving the Stones can still write new classics. He even finds a way to include the audience in the fun despite it probably being less familiar to our ears.
Sasha freaking Allen
The Stones have never had a shortage of great on-stage performers when it comes to their band and backup vocalists. But they have an extraordinary talent in Sasha Allen, who sings back-up vocals throughout the night, before getting to shine as a soloist on "Gimme Shelter." Her visceral howl lends the song the potent urgency it requires, reaching down straight into your gut and refusing to let go. Plus, she holds her own facing off against and duet-ing with Jagger.
Plenty of reminiscing
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images Keith Richards performs onstage during the Rolling Stones' No Filter tour at SoFi Stadium on Oct. 17, 2021 in Inglewood, Calif.
The Stones have been doing this long enough that no show is complete without some nods to their storied history. But Sunday night was particularly special as it marked the 60th anniversary of childhood friends Jagger and Richards randomly reconnecting on a British train platform, a pivotal moment in rock history as it spurred their enduring musical partnership. "Keith and I met each other on the train station at Dartford," Jagger told the audience. "We knew each other before because we were at school together. But we hadn't seen each other for awhile, so that was a good re-meeting."
The greatest hits proving why they're still great
It's nearly impossible to choose a favorite Stones track because their catalog is so robust and varied. The No Filter tour is a testament to that fact, pinging from one hit to the next, buoyed by Jagger's sexy swagger and manic energy. Opening with "Street Fighting Man," it's a rollercoaster of rock from then on. They offer a breathtakingly electric, mesmerizing take on "Paint It Black" and remind us why classics like "Sympathy for the Devil," "Start Me Up," and "Satisfaction" are still some of the greatest music ever written. It's incredible that given the wild lives they led, Jagger and Richards are still able to offer such a mind-blowing show — but their music also makes it easy to believe that they just might be immortal.