Those flailing arms, those swiveling hips, that rooster strut. You know it’s Mick Jagger from half a stadium away even if the Jumbotron screen isn’t working.
Neither rain nor age nor Jagger’s hesitation about how to pronounce “Minneapolitan” could stop the world’s oldest, richest and greatest rock ’n’ roll band Wednesday night at TCF Bank Stadium.
It wasn’t Mick’s moves, business acumen or affected rock ’n’ soul drawl that were front and center in Minneapolis. It was his ingratiating groveling, which he’s never done here before.
He managed to mention “A Prairie Home Companion,” Minnehaha Falls, the Mall of America, the Gophers (and their “ski-u-mah-mah” cheer) and other local references. But then again he’s never spent a few days exploring the Twin Cities before. He even reflected on the Rolling Stones’ local debut in 1964 at Danceland in Excelsior. “There were only 243 people and none of them liked it very much,” he reminisced.
Mr. Chatty was playful about all these Minnesota shout-outs, too, introducing guitarist Ron “Minnehaha” Wood and then singing “Happy Birthday” to Wood, 68, and Charlie Watts, 74, who both celebrated their special days in Minneapolis this week.
Jagger, who turns 72 next month, clearly was the life of the Stones party, prancing and preening from sideline to sideline in the football stadium and scooting down a runway to midfield. Meanwhile, Wood and Richards stood together at center stage, conjoined by a guitar groove as they exchanged riffs and smiles. Richards probably died decades ago, but that ghost in the green shirt onstage is 71. He took his turn at the microphone mid-show to sing “Before They Make Me Run” and “Happy.”
The Stones, who haven’t released an album of new material since 2005, focused on their timeless past, playing songs mostly from 1968 to 1978. They threw in a few tracks from 1971’s “Sticky Fingers,” a deluxe edition of which will be released next week. Even if they’re not making new music, the Stones are still marketing.
“Moonlight Mile,” a meditative ballad from “Sticky Fingers,” gave Jagger a chance to show his falsetto. It was a nice change of pace, along with the darker “Doom and Gloom,” a newer tune that was featured on a 2013 hits collection, and “Out of Control,” a burst of unfamiliarity from 1997’s “Bridges to Babylon.”
But what excited the 50,000 fans and the frontman were the classics. Jagger’s blowsy harmonica introduced “Midnight Rambler” and, by song’s end, he turned into Manic Mick as Wood soared on guitar. (Curiously, Wood probably took more solos than Richards on Wednesday by taking the slots that ex-member Mick Taylor had on record.)
“Miss You,” the Stones’ then-fashionable foray into disco, kept the crowd dancing, thanks to Darryl Jones’ irresistibly liquid bass work. And the hits kept on coming with “Brown Sugar” spiked by newcomer Karl Denson’s jazzy saxophone, and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” bolstered by the Twin Cities’ own VocalEssence choir. “Gimme Shelter” became a showcase for the sinuous guitar of Richards and the vocals of Grace Potter (the opening act), who was not only screaming too hard with Jagger, but her amplified voice didn’t carry properly.
While the band sounded crisp but not always road-tested tight (this was the third show on a 15-city stadium tour), the sound system was not particularly kind (especially on the out-of-balance “Sympathy for the Devil”) — and certainly less satisfying than when U2 inaugurated this stadium in 2011 in a driving rain. (But the Stones’ crew did fix the faulty Jumbotron screen after a few songs.)
Ultimately, though, this 2¼-hour, 19-song concert was a celebration of Jagger in all his jitteriness and the indestructible strength of the Stones’ songs. There’s no sense of danger and outrage anymore (this isn’t 1969) but there was a sense of exhilaration and urgency. The Stones, now in their 53rd year, once again served notice that rock ’n’ roll has nothing to do with age, it has to do with attitude. Because as that great philosopher and athlete who toils on the turf in TCF Bank Stadium Adrian Peterson says: “Age is just a number.”
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719