For the first New Jersey stop on this very-limited, very-pricey victory lap of a tour, the Rolling Stones not only didn't disappoint, they outclassed 50 years of successors, including rightful ones. Frills were few: John Mayer hopped on early to roast his axe on "Respectable," and Mick's mysteriously quick costume changes from sparkly to sparklier jackets barely distracted from the well-aged thunderous canon (more like canyon) of hits. Only the Stones could toss off Richter-scale levelers like "Gimme Shelter" and "Paint It Black" in the first few numbers.
After Mayer's swift exit the band wasted no time bleeding every poignant note of "Wild Horses" raw and covering Chuck Berry's "Around and Around" for the first time since 1977. The garage-y new "Doom and Gloom" held its own with "One More Shot," and an extra-funky "Miss You" provided some respite as an extended jam. Mick performed a swiveling dance in the breakdown as both the snake and the charmer, attempted to help the beer-guzzling crowd through those "woo-hoo-hoo-oo-hoos" and yelled "where'd you get that New Jersey?" before Bobby Keys' sax did its thing.
Jagger and Ron Wood circled the coincidentally-or-not mouth-shaped stagepath. "Honky Tonk Women" was the only tune upstaged by the backing-screen visual: An animated X-rated King Kong with the woman replacing the ape as the role of skyscraper-climbing monster and fighter-pilot monkeys trying to shoot her down. But as Keith took the stage for the impressively-sung "Before They Make Me Run" and ageless "Happy," the night never again turned its attention from the music.
The biggest story is of course Mick Taylor, who appeared and ripped an elongated "Midnight Rambler" to shreds in a giant onstage guitar huddle. The whole night tumbled into a vortex of great rock history from there: "Start Me Up," "Tumbling Dice" and "Brown Sugar" all in a row, impossibly hard-hitting even five decades on, with Mick prancing around like he's 29 in a ridiculous blue waistjacket, bantering a flag about and returning in a gigantic cape of fur spaghetti to play Mr. D as the opening shakes of "Sympathy for the Devil" took hold. Keef's solo suddenly sounded a few decibels louder than any of his other playing Thursday night.
Not ones to waste time at this age, or as pleasing and demanding showmen, the Trinity Wall Street Choir was quickly hustled up onto either side of the stage for a tremendous encore of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," for which Jagger strapped on an acoustic. Again, his purple sparkling grandeur clashed with the natural musical forces thundering throughout the Prudential Center, but the Stones invented rock's absurdly sized contradictions if anyone did. But the sheer overtaking pleasure of these classics at this point didn't require answers, just dancers. Jagger won the crowd's participation after a particularly torrential Wood solo and a rare bish-bash climax from the normally fantastically controlled Charlie Watts.
Then without further ado, rock achieved middle age, came full circle, lined up the planets, etc., -- whatever monster-truck metaphor have you. The finest rock band in the world did "Satisfaction," the greatest rock song. And to their credit, they still sound hungry. "All I hear is doom and gloom," rightfully mocked Jagger's newest lyrics of the night. These titans have been providing an alternative for half a century, and there's no reason to think they'll stop now.