Jagger rushed down the massive stage left catwalk during "Brown Sugar," 18 songs into the set, jerking and gesturing much like he'd done the rest of the night. Guitarist Ron Wood had been pacing about the left catwalk somewhere near the touchdown line at the open end of the stadium's horseshoe. When Jagger joined him and headed further along the wing, Wood tugged at one of his hands, trying to convince him the catwalk was to wet from the night's steady trickle. Jagger--inexhaustibly catty and snotty, no matter how nice he may become with age--shoved Wood away, sending a perturbed scowl to his bandmate.
Jagger came down from his stoop 30 seconds later, tacitly triumphant in conquering the slippery slope that took him nearly eye-level and face-to-face with those in some of the cheapest seats ($65) in the house. That feeling--completely suspected but still somewhat remarkable triumph--marked much of the Stones' set. Everything clicked, and nearly every little trick the band pulled out--from an opening video to a massive fireworks display behind the stage after the show--pushed the crowd higher. Onstage, everyone moved; even Keith Richards strutted along the apron and down the catwalks, offering his best poses.
Somehow, the band--at root, a rock 'n' roll, two-guitar quartet with Jagger, Richards, Wood and drummer Charlie Watts, all backed by bassist Daryl Jones, keyboardist Chuck Leavell, three backup singers and four hornsmen--connected with all 36,000-plus fans.
The massive video system and lights show spanned and swept the entire stage, from one wall of the horseshoe to another, from the bottom of the 90-foot-high stage to its top. A 50-yard catwalk extended through the crowd, and--when a small part of the stage carried the six principles to somewhere near center field--it suddenly felt as if the band was simply playing a very large nightclub. Fans on the floor tucked in and caught guitar picks from Keith Richards, while fans in the end of the horseshoe--previously, the furthest group from the Stones--went wild. It's no coincidence that the show's four-song piece de resistance--"Miss You," "Rough Justice," "Satisfaction" and "Honky Tonk Woman"--came during the mobile portion.
Not that other portions were lackluster. They opened, of course, with "Start Me Up," Richards rushing onstage first with those opening bars as giant torches atop the stage illuminated the stadium. The entire act really arrived five songs in with "Oh No, Not You Again," one of the more vintage constructs on the band's surprisingly inspired new album, A Bigger Bang. Jagger dropped "tits" and "fucking" during one song, not just mildly suggesting he still had rock 'n' roll in his aged bones. A roaring tribute to Ray Charles followed with "Night Time is the Right Time," Jagger sharing duties with longtime backup soul shaker Lisa Fisher.
But it wouldn't be the Stones (or not the good Stones, anyhow) without a few missteps, like Richards--whose gruff countenance is canceled by his beatific workhorse charm onstage--fumbling the opening chords of a sublime version of "Wild Horses."
"It's good to see you all," Richards said after "Infamy," the first of two songs in which he sang lead and Jagger disappeared. "Hell, it's good to see anything these days."
The Stones in Durham on a Saturday: Yeah, that's something, all right. And, if you were there, you saw and heard plenty that was far more than just good.
And, mainly, that owed to one self-manifesting tenet: Old Stones have learned new tricks.