These Rolling Stones gather no moss. The core trio of vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, and drummer Charlie Watts celebrated their 40th anniversary together this past January. Second guitarist Ronnie Wood was asked to join the Stones on tour in 1975, and was officially named a Stone in a press release on February 28, 1976.

     Certainly, the Glimmer Twins could never have envisioned their rag-tag R&B combo would go on to become the barometer by which all rock'n roll bands would be measured by in the 21st Century. Original founders Brian Jones and Ian Stewart would be astonished at the fact that the band has generated a billion dollars in income since the 1989 Steel Wheels World Tour.

     The group delivered two stellar performances at Wembley Arena. Night one on September 13 introduced an Exile On Main Street album theme, while the second night of September 15 featured a Sticky Fingers musical theme. For their part, the Stones made an effort to mix up their setlists for the hometown crowd.

     Richards' distinctive rhythm guitar strokes on "Street Fighting Man" launched the September 13 concert. A tough version of "Start Me Up" followed immediately, which was well received by the arena audience. Bassist Darryl Jones laid the foundation for a strong take of "Live With Me" with Jagger ad libbing the lyric, "Their so twenty-first century".

     "Wild Horses" featured Richards on acoustic guitar and harmony vocals. Wood added a choice guitar with the house erupting in approval upon the coda. Their 1972 classic "Loving Cup" began the Exile theme and was empowered by the Horn Section. Jagger's acoustic guitar and Watts' drumming made this one of the more memorable musical moments of the evening.

     Richards' melodic guitar playing fortified his moving cover of "The Nearness Of You". Londoners burst into cheers and applause for Keith's terrific performance. The Rolling Stones' international anthem "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" totally rocked Wembley Arena. Richards led an extended band jam with his fierce guitar solo on the classic 1965 single. The animated audience induced a party atmosphere by carrying the glorious chorus.

     The band's cover of the classic "Mannish Boy" on the B-stage was an exercise in revisiting their early days by cranking up the blues. Watts' timing was impeccable, and Jagger's harmonica solo ended the R&B workout. Saxophonist Bobby Keys popped up on the B-stage to solo on the 1971 classic "Brown Sugar". For an encore, the Stones jammed on an intense "Jumpin' Jack Flash". Charlie's pounding drums drove the excitement into a crescendo of eargasmic ecstasy.

     The September 15 arena performance commenced with a rousing rendition of "Start Me Up". The Stones motivated audience enthusiasm with a high-powered version of "If You Can't Rock Me". "Don't Stop", their latest single off Forty Licks, was embellished by Jagger's rhythm guitar playing and images projected by Wood's Ronnie-Cam mounted on his guitar neck.

     The Sticky Fingers theme presented three peak performances. Wood infused a C&W guitar influenced solo on "Dead Flowers" with Jagger on acoustic guitar. The Horn Section announced a powered up "Bitch" fueled by Watts' hot percussive style.

     Their 1971 opus, "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", is an extraordinary highlight of the Licks Tour. Each member is spotlighted on instrument in a solo musical segment. Richards took center stage to sing his power ballad "Slipping Away". Watts and Wood both contributed their individual touches to lift the beautiful piece.

     The Stones revived a climatic adaptation of "Paint It Black", wildly popular with European audiences. Watts' bombastic introduction signaled the Stones were ready to rock away on stage. Their R&B journey back in time presented a blues-swamped "Little Red Rooster" on the B-stage. Wood ripped on a fierce guitar solo.

     The big finale ignited on a scorching romp of "Jumpin' Jack Flash". The entire group of musicians supporting the Rolling Stones assembled on stage for a passionate performance that left the Wembley audience clamoring for more classic rock'n roll.

     The make up of both Wembley Park crowds was a diverse mix of baby boomers, college students, and parents with young children all enjoying the World's Greatest Rock'n Roll band in action. The Stones' musical appeal stretches across generational lines, welcoming new fans year after year. No band matches their combustible energy in concert or status as living legends on stage.

     The Stones knocked out a record six performances in London on their 2003 Licks World Tour. One date in particular, the August 24 Twickenham Stadium concert, has been preserved for posterity on their new Four Flicks DVD collection being released this holiday season.

     Speculation on whether the Stones will hibernate on hiatus or release a new studio album next year and tour America rages in debate among their hardcore fans. The Rolling Stones are simply too good at what they do to retire from the international stage.

RockonTour   Issue #25
Concert Fan - the Single Source for the Concertphile © 2003 RoT
                  the Single Source for the Concertphile

God Save the Rolling Stones
The Stones rule the road after four decades

by Timothy Tilghman