Rolling Stones Bring Back Octogenarian Pride, Rocking as Vigorously as Ever at SoFi Stadium Show: Concert Review

The age question is suddenly America’s big question, as anyone who reads headlines can attest. Classic rock beat politics to the punch by at least a few years, in making that a crucial debate. There’s a general agreement that the president of the United States is not today what he was four years ago. But with the Rolling Stones coming into L.A.’s SoFi Stadium for the first time since 2021, with a lead singer who is only eight months younger than Joe Biden, can we say that this is the same group that it was three years ago?

Let’s just say that if George Clooney was in attendance Wednesday night, he will not be writing an op-ed for the weekend demanding that Mick Jagger step down.

More from Variety

Time remains on the Stones’ side, in every improbable, impossible sense, at least when it comes to Jagger, Keith Richards and Ron Wood, who continue to deliver the goods in a way that makes this outing a must-catch tour, even if you have heard them start a show up with “Start Me Up” a dozen times already. On paper, the essential brattiness that is a central part of the Stones’ ethos is not a good look for octogenarians. In ongoing execution, they wear it well. The only thing “diminished” about their show at SoFi was your own shrinking sense of skepticism about whether they can pull it off, or still should. With Jagger and Richards at 80, and Wood the baby of the core trio at 77, this is still a band in what can be considered a late-period prime. They’ll be back in Inglewood on Saturday night. If you’re in L.A. and you didn’t catch the first night, miss the second only if, like, you hate miracles.

Mick Jagger performs with The Rolling Stones at The Rolling Stones ÒHackney Diamonds TourÓ held at SoFi Stadium on July 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Mick Jagger performs with The Rolling Stones at The Rolling Stones ÒHackney Diamonds TourÓ held at SoFi Stadium on July 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

The Stones themselves are not dodging the longevity issue, even if they address it only briefly, like the woolly mammoth in the room that it is. Few of us would have had on our bingo cards that they would allow this tour to be sponsored by AARP. Fewer probably still thought that the band would make a sight gag out of flashing an image of the LaBrea Tar Pits on the overhead screen. The context for that: “When we first came 60 years ago — 60 years ago! — to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood, like a lot of other people,” Jagger said, “what we actually discovered was, our first gig was San Bernardino.” (Steve Jordan did not add a rim shot.) “And then, we did this famous television show called ‘The TAMI Show'” — cue the image of Jagger on-set with a moptop. “That was all so long ago, some of you probably think we were dug out of the La Brea Tar Pits” — cue an illustration of tusks stuck in mud. “Whatever. I’d like to welcome you all,” he continued, citing attendees from local cities continuing all the way through the joked-about San Bernardino. And that was it for the Yes, we get it, we’ve been around content.

After a rousing opening set by the War and Treaty, there was the obligatory nod to dead men coming in the Stones’ opening number. (“Start Me Up” isn’t the leadoff batter on every Stones tour — in 2021, it was relegated to ninth position — it only seems like it is, or ought to be.) From there, the theme of rocking was quickly established, with “You Got Me Rocking” — a recurring “Voodoo Lounge” cut that, honestly, the band possibly loves more than the overall fandom — followed by “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll.” As is typical with a modern-day Stones set, there are a few wild-card slots, mostly in the first third of the show, and among them, besides the last two aforementioned songs, L.A. first-nighters also got . On another night, they might’ve gotten “”Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Bitch,” “Rocks Off,” “Bitch” or “Street Fighting Man.” The repertoire is deep when it comes to “surprise songs,” almost as deep as Taylor Swift’s.

The show highlight was “Brown Sugar”… sorry, just kidding, of course. (That choice is as firmly retired as Bill Wyman. Shed a wistful tear if you must for 2019, very likely the last time anyone will have heard that problematic pick in concert, though they could always surprise us with it again in 2027.) No one has yet parsed the possible issues of “Midnight Rambler” to the point of banishment, anyway — so that remains in its perennial spot as a great “11:00 number” (not quite literally, but in Broadway terms), extended as always with stops and starts so that Mick can get down on his knees at the end of the stage’s thrush ramp, and so that it can go into double-time with as much blowsy harmonica soloing as ever from Jagger and his apparently bottomless lungs. On this 2024 tour, “Midnight Rambler” is immediately succeeded by “Gimme Shelter,” sung as a duet on that same mid-floor ramp with Chanel Haynes, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better classic-rock one-two punch. In fact, the whole last quintet of songs, also including “Honky Tonk Women,” “Paint It Black” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” is as exciting a five-song run as you could put in any rock show. Even if you came to it with the hope of hearing more deep cuts, that last stretch of the main set counts as some kind of peak-level scientific/visceral programming.

Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards performs onstage at The Rolling Stones “Hackney Diamonds Tour” held at SoFi Stadium on July 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards performs onstage at The Rolling Stones “Hackney Diamonds Tour” held at SoFi Stadium on July 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

What is different about the 2024 tour than the one that passed through the same venue in ’21? Not much, other than perhaps an increased level of astonishment on the audience’s part that we’re all still here and all the working parts are still so utterly well-oiled. One interesting distinction — not just from the previous tour, but even since the beginning of this one — is that Keith Richards’ traditional spot in the show as a lead vocalist has now been extended from one or two songs to a historically unprecedented three. Fans have theorized that this extension has been introduced to give Jagger more of a backstage breather an hour into a very physically demanding set. Whether that’s true or the extended Keith aside is just an act of greater humility on Mick’s part, it is never a bad idea to get more of Richards as a frontman. It helps that one of his three lead-singing numbers is “Tell Me Straight,” possibly the best of the four new songs the band performed from the 2023 “Hackney Diamonds” album, with a nervous poignancy to it that nearly counts as touching, in a catalog that doesn’t linger often on uncertainty… And “Little T&A”? Less poignant.

Another one of those “Hackney Diamonds” numbers was saved for a penultimate encore slot: the gospel-rock-flavored “Sweet Sounds of Heaven,” performed as nearly a duet with Lady Gaga on record, and turned into a second duet of the night with Haynes on stage. Jagger must obviously be sweet on Haynes to bring her to the fore twice in one night, and it’s not hard to see why: She is unabashedly Tina, for all intents and purposes. You’re thinking along those lines even before you remember, or look up, that Haynes was plucked for this position from actually playing Tina Turner on the London stage. Of course Ike and Tina opened for the Stones on tour in the late ’60s, but having Haynes so overtly recreate her image now across two different spotlight appearances doesn’t feel like a cheap nostalgic trip. Lifeforce is lifeforce, and Haynes has it to match Jagger’s.

Is anything diminished here, as the Stones push the envelope (as a man of a similar age and status, Paul McCartney, is also doing) beyond what was imagined possible? We could tell you that Jagger avoids hitting the high notes on a few times, either doing them a step down — as in the chorus of “Honky Tonk Women” — or relegating a very, very occasional chorus line to Haynes and Bernard Fowler. But his vocals remain forceful as well as cocky and playful across the board. Of course, as he ages, maybe it will turn out to be useful that he started out slurring. To say that a frontman doesn’t miss a step takes on extra meaning when someone like Jagger is getting his steps in literally every moment he’s on stage, never planting himself for more than a few seconds at a time. To see him skip down the ramp — or to see him teasingly lift up his T-shirt to reveal a flash of skinny torso — is to see breezy youth personified, albeit in an admittedly somewhat gnarled package; it’s an oxymoron you can waste time trying to unpack, or just find ongoing delight in.

Richards and Wood also have some built-in advantage to always having fallen on the side of “ragged but right.” Perhaps one day one of them will be more ragged than the other, but for now, they make enjoyably equal contributions as soloist on roughly alternating selections — with “Before They Make Me Run” providing a special opportunity for some twin lead playing, even as the tune is nearly as sax-section-driven as it is powered by multiple shredding guitars.

As for the encore selections, there’s something telling about the juxtaposition of “Sweet Sounds of Heaven,” a latter-day attempt at spiritual earnestness — and a song that, to be honest, skirts right up to the edge of being corny — with “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the ultimate expression of immaturity. The Stones have always had both sides to ’em, and that was even exemplified earlier in the show, when the decidedly horny “Beast of Burden” was followed by “Wild Horses,” which Jagger introduced as “something more romantical.” They’ve covered a lot of ground, but if juvenalia gets the last word in the show, that’s so very much as it should be for the Stones, a band that convinced generations they’d never have to grow up, much less grow old.

Tanya Trotter and Michael Trotter Jr.of The War and Treaty performs onstage at The Rolling Stones “Hackney Diamonds Tour” held at SoFi Stadium on July 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.
Tanya Trotter and Michael Trotter Jr.of The War and Treaty performs onstage at The Rolling Stones “Hackney Diamonds Tour” held at SoFi Stadium on July 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

The husband-wife duo the War and Treaty proved a perfect choice for a Stones opening act, with serious dollops of soul, country and blues. And Tanya Trotter proved to be, besides Haynes, the other Tina soundalike of the night, joined by Michael Trotter, who answers the rarely-asked musical question: What if Ike had been a nice guy and able to belt it out as gloriously as his better half?

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.