In the summer of 1962, a couple of lads from England decided to get together and jam on some bluesy rock and roll, which at the time was still a blossoming fad in music. Five decades later, complete with a billing as The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band, The Rolling Stones regrouped and celebrated a legacy that will go down in the history books, with a short run of shows, including a sold-out date at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Saturday, Dec. 15. Kicking off the night at 9 p.m., a bevy of gorilla mask-wearing percussionists marched down the aisles of the Prudential Center while the Stones famous lips and tongue emblem stage protruded into the crowd. After the procession ended, a different drumming took over when Charlie Watts broke into the famous opening of the 1965 hit Get Off of My Cloud. From the opening, it was clear the band was in high spirits with Mick Jagger frantically running around the over-sized stage and flailing his arms wherever possible and Keith Richards sheepishly grinning from ear to ear.
Continuing with its earliest material during the opening segue, the band dipped back to 1965's Out of Our Heads for a charging rendition of The Last Time. By this point, it was impossible to not appreciate how The Rolling Stones music – and insatiable guitar riffs – helped shape the sound of modern rock and roll. Ironically, the band followed up with a ferocious take on the staple It's Only Rock and Roll (But I Like It), which found Jagger traversing the tongue section of the stage and coming out into the audience for some of his patented dancing (perfectly exemplifying the Maroon 5 song Moves Like Jagger.)
Paying homage to 1966's Aftermath album, the band served up a spot-on rendition of the fan-favorite Paint It Black, with bassist Darryl Jones playing the late Brian Jones' signature sitar riff.
As the night was billed as having special guests, Richards and Ronnie Wood started off the legendary riff for Gimme Shelter with Jagger and vocalist Lisa Fischer handling the song's first verse. Immediately afterwards, Jagger pointed to the side of the stage and exclaimed Lady Gaga!
Coming out dressed rather toned down – there were no masks or outfits made of meat – Lady Gaga delivered a show highlight by singing with soul and elegance, a drastic change from her normal radio-friendly pop hits.
Delivering a pristine take on the ballad Wild Horses, Jagger introduced John Mayer and Gary Clarke Jr. who came out for a rousing rendition of Freddie King's Going Down complete with some fiery guitar work from the often underrated Mayer. As part of the release of their official app for Smart Phones, the band held a contest where fans could vote for one of several songs to be played during the pay-per-view show, and while holding the official result, Jagger announced the winner was the country-laden Dead Flowers, which came across as a show highlight.
After bringing out the Black Keys for a bluesy take on Bo Didley's Who Do You Love, the band broke out Doom and Gloom, and One More Shot, from its latest greatest hits compilation, GRRR!
For the remainder of the show, the hits were abundant, beginning with Jagger strapping on an electric guitar for a breezy run through the crowd-inclusive Miss You. Following an upbeat Honky Tonk Women, Richards took over vocal duties for Before They Make Me Run, and Happy, before the band paid sentimental respect to one of its former members by introducing guitarist Mick Taylor (who left in 1974) for an exceptional take on the early hit Midnight Rambler.
Not being one to hide at the back of the stage, Richards took front and center to unleash the unmistakable opening to Start Me Up, with Jagger firing the crowd up with his over-the-top stage presence which has helped establish him as one of the best front men in rock and roll.
Jagger, who chatted with the crowd between nearly every song, said a lot of the people who played with us tonight flew from thousands of miles away to be here; this next guy just walked here and introduced New Jersey's favorite rock and roll son, Bruce Springsteen, for an incendiary version of the classic Tumblin' Dice.
Watching The Boss perform with The Rolling Stones is akin to a religious experience, and for seven minutes at the Prudential Center, it was the closest thing to Heaven.
Brown Sugar, complete with one of the loudest audience parts of the night (yeah, yeah, yeah, WOOH!,) led perfectly into an extended version of Sympathy For The Devil, with Jagger coming out in a long fur jacket and turning the song into a theatrical juggernaut.
For the encore, the band invited the Choir of Trinity Wall Street to lend backing vocals to You Can't Always Get What You Want, before launching into a monumental version of the early hit Jumpin' Jack Flash. While most of the crowd already knew what was next, it's still an indescribable feeling when you get to hear Richards unleash arguably one of the greatest guitar riffs in rock and roll history by ripping through the opening of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.
After bringing Taylor back on stage for a final bow, The Rolling Stones left the stage, but the energy of the night remained.
They all maybe around 70 years old, but the music, vocals, friendship and fan appreciation remain stronger than ever. If celebrating fifty years of musical legacy is what was needed to bring them back to the stage, the boys will undoubtedly be giving its fans satisfaction for at least a few more tours.
And the beat goes on…
Ryan O'Malley is the music journalist for The Sunday Dispatch and a correspondent for The Weekender. He may be reached at [email protected]