The Rolling Stones rolled into Staples Center on Monday night for what Mick Jagger described as the band's last show in Southern California -- "for a while, anyway." Following an earlier Staples gig, two at Anaheim's Honda Center and a warm-up throwdown at the Echoplex, Monday's 2½-hour concert concluded the group's extended stay in the region Jagger said he and his mates had been visiting since 1965.
They're off next to the East Coast, where they'll continue their so-called 50 & Counting tour before returning home to England for a headlining appearance at the massive Glastonbury Festival. Here are five things we learned -- or relearned -- about the Rolling Stones on Monday.
1. They're not worried about disappointing. Beginning with the tour's first dates late last year in London, New York and New Jersey, the band has invited special guests to sit in every night, from Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga to Gwen Stefani and Dave Grohl, the last of whom joined the Stones on Saturday in Anaheim for a blistering rendition of "Bitch." Yet despite rumors that the Black Keys might turn up, no one materialized Monday. "The special guest tonight is you," Jagger told the crowd rather lamely before "Miss You," and he seemed honestly to believe that fans would accept that. (He wasn't wrong.)
2. Jagger's dancing might be improving with age. On Monday he used the band's lengthy deconstruction of "Midnight Rambler" — complete with bleary blues-guitar action by sometime Stone Mick Taylor — to show off several of his signature moves, including the Punching Man, the Well-to-Do Robot and the Ants-in-His-Very-Tight-Pants. But even simply walking across the stage, sashaying nimbly like a schoolgirl in a uniform, Jagger demonstrated a body language unequaled among his peers then or now. He's still adding phrases to his vast vocabulary.
3. Keith Richards has written some terrifically weird guitar riffs, lines that would seem to make no sense in isolation but work beautifully with the band's other moving parts. His slashing lick in "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" was a highlight at Staples, as was his playing in "Tumbling Dice," which seemed to spill from his instrument like the objects in the song's title. Ronnie Wood was no slouch, either. He contributed some lovely pedal steel to "You Got the Silver" and peeled off a great, treble-streaked solo in "Start Me Up."
4. Nobody cares about the band's new stuff. The Stones did both "Doom and Gloom" and "One More Shot" — fresh songs from last year's three-disc "GRRR!" compilation — but neither inspired much reaction from a crowd happy to hear relative rarities such as "Sway" and the dusty Bakersfield homage "Far Away Eyes." A forgettable piece of pro forma bar rock, "One More Shot" was justifiably ignored. "Doom and Gloom," though, actually sounded great, with Jagger yowling about fracking and class warfare over a funky stop-and-start groove.
5. If the Rolling Stones tour again after 50 & Counting — and history certainly suggests they will — it might be because Charlie Watts is enjoying himself this time. Powering "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" into an epic arena-garage jam during Monday's finale, the famously blank-faced drummer cracked a smile that seemed to suggest he'd gotten what he wanted.