We can all be thankful that none of the Rolling Stones groused about his lumbago acting up when the group closed the U.S. leg of its long A Bigger Bang tour Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
But clearly, the veteran rockers are now at that time of life when health issues can take over the conversation. The show took place four days late because Mick Jagger’s physician ordered a few days of additional rest for his overstressed voice, and the 63-year-old rock god humbly thanked fans for their patience. Then Keith Richards, 62, gave a shout-out to his head doctor during his two numbers in the spotlight, and, for a change, a rock star wasn’t referring to his psychiatrist. He was, of course, referring to the brain surgeon who drilled his skull to alleviate a blood clot last spring after a freak accident during a vacation in Fiji.
Charlie Watts, 65, gave his bandmates and fans a scare when he underwent surgery for throat cancer two years ago, although he’s given every indication on this tour that he’s back in top form. Guitarist Ron Wood, the kid of the core band at a spry 59, seemed no worse for the wear following his recent stint in rehab.
The gargantuan video screen sandwiched between the multi-story set, which allowed a few hundred fans to share the stage with their heroes, made the age factor all the more evident: These guys’ faces have more wrinkles than a week’s worth of dirty laundry.
Yet with a performance as vigorous as they turned in Wednesday, it takes neither a brain surgeon nor a rocket scientist to figure out why the Stones are still at it after more than four decades. The two-hour show was packed with grand-scale music and staging easily big enough to fill the vastness of a stadium, while retaining enough looseness and unscripted moments -- musical and otherwise -- to make it clear this remains a real rock band passionately playing real rock music.
Now that the immediacy of 2005’s “A Bigger Bang” album has receded into the recent past, it was pretty much back to Stones business as usual. The hit-jammed set list included just two songs from “Bang,” its liveliest album in a generation -- the confessional ballad “Streets of Love” and the quintessentially Stonesy rocker “Oh No, Not You Again.” (As if there’s a rocker in the group’s repertoire that’s anything other than quintessentially Stonesy?)
In that respect, there was a missed opportunity, given the presence of opening act Bonnie Raitt, whose set with her band was more easygoing (and easy listening) than you might have expected for a Stones event. Sure, it was nice that she came out to harmonize with Jagger during “Dead Flowers.” But the ideal use of her talent would have been to let her strap on a Strat and handle the greasy slide-guitar work of “Bigger Bang’s” down-home bluesy “Back of My Hand,” which also would have injected an extra bit of freshness into the set list.
What helped temper the over-familiarity quotient was the choice of some deep-catalog songs, including “Connection” from “Between the Buttons” and a particularly driving rendition of “She Was Hot” from “Undercover.”
Near the show’s end, Jagger ran the equivalent of wind sprints across the stage’s long runways that stretched from left field to deep right, a rock ‘n’ roll Jack LaLanne still fit enough in his 60s to flex his toned physique.
He’s taken his share of hits over the years for his famous youthful boast that he’d rather be dead than still singing "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” when he was 45.
Ahh, but he and his mates were so much older then -- they’re younger than that now.