Veteran Rockers keep it simple

… and that’s their appeal

The Rolling Stones have always held the answers to all of life’s troubles, and by answers, I mean lots of growling guitars and a frontman fond of stuffing his mic down his trousers. The band has become the musical equivalent of guzzling a 12-pack and belching all your problems away. It’s like Confucius once said, “Keep it simple, brah.”

And that’s why the Stones’ appeal never seems to get old, even if the same can’t be said of the band members.

Musing about the group’s ability to still pack arenas is a bit like wondering why lovemaking is still en vogue after all these years. Some thrills don’t suffer from repetition, even when they’re as predictable as Las Vegas weather. The forecast for the evening: nothing but clear skies, with a good chance of some lusty Brits swiveling their hips in your girlfriend’s direction. Not that she’ll mind. All taught stomachs and Tae-bo kicks, the Stones looked like the million bucks they probably were paid to play here. “There’s a lot of sharp angles up there,” a guy next to me noted, commenting on the band’s cut physiques. There were plenty of sharp riffs, too, particularly in serrated blues stomper “Midnight Rambler,” which the band teased out into a 10-minute come-on that ended as breathlessly as a one-night stand.

Of the Stones’ 20-song set, eight of the tunes were different from when the group hit town in November, including a two-song suite that had guitarist Keith Richards taking center stage to croak through newer numbers, the dusky, bittersweet “This Place Is Empty” and the hard-swinging kiss-off “Happy.” For the most part, though, the show was filled with all the expected favorites and few surprises, save for late in the set, when a portion of the motorized stage moved out into the crowd toward the back of the arena. There, the Stones serenaded the cheap seats — although cheap probably isn’t the operative word here, considering that even the most modestly priced tickets demanded that patrons choose between seeing the Stones or sending their kids to college. But the band worked hard for the money.

Frontman Mick Jagger’s voice never wavered, sounding as if it had been preserved in amber. He turns every song into an exhortation, a sweaty call to arms, even when he’s singing about a no-good chick — which is often. But really, it’s not what Jagger says but how he says it that makes folks clap their hands and stomp their feet, nudged along by Richards’ sly licks, which are more limber than muscular. Jagger could recite the warranty to your toaster oven, and thousands would cheer along. And that’s the Rolling Stones’ defining trait: creating a mountain of sound out of a molehill of meaning.

But hey, there’s no crime in refusing to over think things, and no shame in giving people what they want. But charging close to $500 a pop to do so? Well, now, that’s another story.

(Jason Bracelin, REVIEW-JOURNAL)