(Credit: Nicola Gypsicola)

The view from Far Out: The Rolling Stones – Old Trafford, Manchester

The grandfathers of the stadium tour are back for another round of fun in the summer sun, playing mega venues across the UK and Ireland

Lazily lampooned by the tabloids as gnarly, hopelessly out of touch, Jurassic old timers, the band is nevertheless oft-cited as a prime influencer by emerging acts.

Millennials and Generation Zs are astounded at the Stones’ fabled onstage endurance. They gasp as band members defy creaking bones to criss-cross the stage for two hours, gurning, grinning and pumping out a succession of ever-fresh foot-stampers written before their parents were born.   

The Old Trafford faithful in their many thousands sought nothing more than that and were lucky enough to be favoured with arguably the band’s finest setlist.

The restless troubadours like to shuffle their deck – chopping this song, importing that one with minimal rehearsal – often rejecting classics in favour of obscure numbers. Not tonight, though. Tonight, Manchester hit the motherlode.

Arriving to a rampant ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, the Stones simply built on what others would have been delighted with as a show stopper.

‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)’, ‘Tumbling Dice’, ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ and ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ followed in breathless succession. A Stones jukebox. Every big hit.

Mick Jagger had the delighted crowd in the palm of his hand from start to finish – pouting, prancing, preening outrageously and feeding off the adulation as he strutted the boards like a hoary, brightly coloured old cockerel.

Ronnie Wood seems to be shouldering more of the guitar duties nowadays, skilfully delivering meaty riffs and intricate guitar solos, while Keith Richards usually appeared to be wrapping his swollen, arthritic fingers around another song entirely. Just when you’re wondering if his six-string is wired for sound, though, he storms in with a killer crunch or an exquisite bit of noodling.

They wear their years well. Although Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood both resemble austere Muppets raptor, Sam Eagle and Keith Richards dresses as if he inspired Captain Jack Sparrow (which he did!), none are bald or fat.  

Indeed, Jagger revealed his washboard stomach and 28″ waist whenever possible.

His voice is bearing up, too. While those of other rocking 70-somethings, such as Bob Dylan and Brian Johnson, have been stripped to exhausted, helium-toned wheezes, Mick’s big booming baritone powers on, timeless and oblivious.

Surging through ‘Paint It Black’, ‘Honky Tonk Women’ and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, the band romped into the home straight. A glorious, meandering ‘Midnight Rambler’ and their last big singles success, ‘Start Me Up’ carried us to the joyous ‘Brown Sugar’, with the exhausted crowd on its feet, right into the encores.

Pleasingly, they wrapped with the riotous, singalong, ‘Can’t Get No Satisfaction’. Cue fireworks… house lights… bows to rapturous, adoring masses.

The many thousands would have been happy for them to play all night, but these canny old showmen know it’s better to leave ‘em wanting more – and wondering if there will be more.

Words and pictures: David Gatehouse.

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