The Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood, left, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards performed the final show of the U.S. leg of their 50th anniversary tour, and possibly their last show as a group in the USA, on June 24 at the Verizon Center in Washington. H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
Mike Snider, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - If this were to be the last time for the Rolling Stones to perform in the USA, the band left fans with a blast of Satisfaction.
That song, the Stones' first track to hit No. 1 in the USA, served as the finale for a two-hour-plus whip-smart set of 21 songs spanning five decades. An always-energetic frontman, Mick Jagger preened across a mammoth stage underneath a giant set of psychedelic lips. He took several turns traversing a tongue-shaped walkway that surrounded a pit full of standing fans at the front of the stage.
So did guitarists Ron Wood and Keith Richards, who acknowledged fans while nailing riffs during Sympathy for the Devil, and regularly smiled and seemed to be having a good time. Richards tossed off his patented line: "It's great to be here. It's great to be anywhere."
While some $85 tickets were made available, there were seats at the Verizon Center priced at $650 or more. But fans such as Mike Allen, 37, of Cleveland, were happy to be in attendance. Having seen the Friday show in Philadelphia, he decided to head down the line to the Washington show, too. The band, he says, "is just unreal. The live show is the best."
Whether this is the Stones' last U.S. show remains to be seen, but that possibility was "a selling point" for Allen. "Charlie is 72 years old, " he says. "But they are still kicking a--."
Another fan Randy Bennett, 65, of Orcutt, Calif., hopes this isn't the last time he will see the band. "They were so good," he says. "They've stayed in reasonably good shape. Our generation ages a lot better."
And the band sounded as good as in recent memory. Jagger spat out the lyrics for the still-ominous sounding Paint it Black, the third song of the night. During Satisfaction, Richards' playing cut through the mix like a buzzsaw.
The nation's capital was the last U.S. stop on the band's 50 and Counting tour, which now goes to the U.K. Jagger noted that the Stones had first played Washington in 1965. "I don't think President Obama is here, but I'm sure he is listening in," he joked, referencing recent revelations about government surveillance.
Just before the floor lights dimmed at 9 p.m. ET, fans were stacked up five deep at the merchandise vendors, perusing everything from $5 key chains and $20 water bottles to $600 limited-edition leather jackets. Nearly all of the items prominently featured the red lips and tongue logo designed by John Pasche in 1971. Special commemorative Washington T-shirts with a baseball as part of the design sold out quickly.
Over the past weeks, the Stones' set list had solidified with some shuffling of songs, depending on guest musicians and Richards' lead vocal offerings. On this night, no special guest was brought to the stage other than one-time band member Mick Taylor, who had rejoined the band for certain songs on this tour.
Taylor replaced the late Brian Jones on guitar in 1969 and participated in a prolific period for the band that included the albums Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. Richards, who calls Taylor "a virtuoso" in the 2012 band bio-documentary Crossfire Hurricane, enthusiastically ceded the spotlight to Taylor during Midnight Rambler.
Taylor's presence only added to the energy, says concertgoer Charles Plymate of Vienna, Va. "It was worth twice what I paid. I hope they play again," he says. "I don't see any reason why they wouldn't."