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The Rolling Stones Are a Deathless Good Time

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The Rolling Stones with Grace Potter TCF Bank Stadium, Minneapolis Wednesday, June 3, 2015

No band has had their logo tattooed on more asses than the Rolling Stones.

It's an odd (and, admittedly, unsubstantiated) metric, but the Stones are so immense, long-lived, and influential that humanity has honestly run out of ways to accurately quantify their success. Now in their 53rd (!) year as a touring rock band, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood have superseded every conventional definition of "band."

They're an institution, a lifestyle, and a near-perfect rock 'n' roll corporation (check out this ace co-branding). Their last three tours netted them more than the GDP of Vanuatu, for Christ's sake.

So what's the use of evaluating the "World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band" as a band at all? It's like trying to explain Kilimanjaro in terms of pyrite. The only valuable measure for a group so transcendent is legacy.

See Also: Slideshow: The Rolling Stones at TCF Bank Stadium, 6/3/15

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The show began as it has for generations, with the simple intro of "Ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones." Welcomed by thunderous applause, Jagger and his bandmates took the stage, ready to churn out their stadium-ready set. In town on their ZIP CODE tour, which is basically designed to sell copies of their new Sticky Fingers re-issue, the boys knew just what to do with their momentum, parlaying into "Jumping Jack Flash" and "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" out the gate.

From there, they carried on with a nearly procedural awkwardness. It was a strange turn, as if the Stones were zombified by their quinquagenarian history of being enormous. Watts tinked along like a sunken-cheeked automaton; Richards's jaw looked as though it could detach if he got too enthused. Jagger strutted with the gait of an arthritic shih tzu. It was far from graceful, but all the physical aspects were inconsequential. What was at hand was an intensely important concert -- quite possibly the Stones' last show ever in the Twin Cities. Viewed with that fatalism, it was intoxicating.

The Rolling Stones as they are in 2015 -- with an average age of 71 and an inexhaustible piggy bank -- are really just a vessel. Figureheads insomuch as Queen Elizabeth. At any given moment, their members only represented about half the personnel on stage. Supplemental musicians the likes of Lisa Fischer, Bernard Fowler, Max Clifford, Tim Reis, Carl Denton, Darryl Jones, and Chuck Leavell handled much of the fanfare, especially on the chorus of "Tumblin' Dice," where Jagger left all the flourish to his backup. As the 50,805-seat stadium echoed the spirited vocals of "Honky Tonk Women," and Jagger looked on with his devilish charisma intact, it was clear the band was facilitating more than performing.

Richards then took two songs on the mic, which would've been a misstep for any band that was still subject to forces like momentum. But the Stones do not meddle with such mortal things. Their forms are inconsequential -- the almost deathless allure of their music reigned uninterrupted. They continued, through seamless costume and guitar changes, to an utterly rapturous rendition of "Miss You," where even the security guards, realizing the anthropological importance of the moment at hand, cooed along. [page]

Myths of the Stones' looming expiration date have persisted for a generation, the lowlight being their 2013 "Night of the Living Dead" tour. But Jagger still exuded an unfossilized sexual energy, one that he'd clearly channeled from beyond. It's easy to point at the British rockers' waning bodies and fantasize that they're finished, but death is an abstraction to the Rolling Stones.

They even went so far as to mock the very concept of dying. During their newest song, "Doom and Gloom" -- from 2013's forgettable comp GRRR! -- an illustration of rockin' skeletons played on the Jumbotron. And, as the song ended in a cocksure punch of guitar, an undead hand burst from a grave on the screen.

In a night of few surprises, the Stones, who haven't played Minneapolis since a 2005 gig at the Xcel Energy Center, still managed some unexpected turns. A lengthy jam version of "Midnight Rambler" showed some welcomed spontaneity, and Grace Potter's addition to "Gimme Shelter" was vibrant and kinetic. But, in the end, it was the predictability of the standards that sold the crowd -- those immortal, unchanging classics like "Start Me Up" or "Sympathy for the Devil" that pervade even logic to be so undeniably fun.

The Rolling Stones are an artifact. This isn't to say they're lifeless, but that they are no longer simply human. They're conduits of an incredible, expansive cultural language, which is why so many people permanently needle the Rolling Stones insignia into their keisters. It's an immutable symbol that will never die or go out of style.

Random notebook dump:

Critic's bias: My dad used to play Forty Licks on the road to every hockey game I played as a child, and I learned to really love the Stones via that constant osmosis. That being said, it primed me perfectly for a late-career show, because anything outside those 40 songs is alien to me.

The crowd: Unlimited dads.

Notes on the opener: I saw Grace Potter and the Nocturnals at the Pier 6 Pavilion in Baltimore in 2011 opening for the Avett Brothers. Pretty amazing how far they've come despite not being very good.

Setlist: Jumping Jack Flash It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It) All Down the Line Tumbling Dice Doom and Gloom Bitch (selected by internet poll) Moonlight Mile Out Of Control Honky Tonk Women Before They Make Me Run (Keith Richards) Happy (Keith Richards) Midnight Rambler Miss You Gimme Shelter (with Grace Potter) Start Me Up Sympathy for The Devil Brown Sugar

Encore You Can't Always Get What You Want (with the Vocal Essence Ensemble Singers) (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

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