Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, May 12, 2013 | 12:59 p.m.
The Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger and Katy Perry at MGM Grand
It began as a normal weekend for the English tourists: a visit to Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles’ Love” at The Mirage and a brother-in-law’s nuptials in The Wedding Capital of the World. It ended with the ultimate and triumphant Rolling Stones victory lap. Onstage and off, Mick Jagger and his rockers had one very successful visit.
Regardless whether rumors of a second return date in November are true, The Rolling Stones are without doubt the greatest rock and roll band of all time, and they proved it again Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The tour is “50 and Counting,” but the reality is we may never see them perform together again after this tour.
Nobody has said this is a farewell tour, but that reality hangs over the hard-living, hard-drinking and hard-partying nearly septuagenarians. (That’s the 70-year mark when guitarist Ronnie Wood already admits that he has blurry vision at 65 and guitarist Keith Richards says he’s going deaf at 67. Frontman Mick will be 70 in July, although drummer Charlie Watts is already 71.)
Scalpers who paid premium prices to up-sell tickets may have lost out last night discounting handfuls for less than they paid. MGM Grand sold its last two tickets for $750 each just 80 minutes before show time, which began 40 minutes late. These knighted gentry of England may be showing bald spots among the graying hair, but they can shame rockers half their age. In cricket terms, it was a hit for six (akin to MLB’s hitting it out of the ballpark).
I last saw them perform when I was on Australia’s Gold Coast 10 years ago in Brisbane. They were better last night at MGM: more pumped up, more musical. If it’s not Viagra, I want to know the pill they take. Our thanks to Denise Truscello of WireImage and Sam Morris of the Las Vegas Sun for their photo galleries. I posted some Vine looping videos on my Twitter @Robin_Leach and one YouTube video.
A decade ago not long after I had relocated to Las Vegas, one of my first stories was about a wealthy banker who paid them $1 million to play at his birthday party at The Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas. Last night at MGM, they probably walked out with $2.5 million apiece.
The $10 million payment to book the Stones today — before travel costs, backup singers and musicians, lighting, audio and other road-tour equipment — is certainly the fee the Seminole Indians are paying Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie for an upcoming show at The Hard Rock Hotel the tribe owns in Florida.
The Stones have been given a $100 million guarantee for their U.S. shows on this mini-tour before returning home to Britain for London performances this summer. The next stop is Anaheim, Calif., for two nights of shows Wednesday and Saturday and then a return for a second show at Staples Center in Los Angeles on May 20.
Half a century ago when I’d left my first local newspaper, The Harrow Observer, to join The Daily Mail, The Beatles had arrived on the scene as four clean-cut boys in matching suits. Right behind them came The Stones, the bad boys of rock and roll. Back then, they performed for less than $10 a show.
Even with all the frenzy and fan fainting for both groups that I watched first-hand and reported on in the early 1960s, I never would have guessed that 50 years later, The Stones would be rocking stronger, more vibrant and energized than ever. I never would have guessed, either, that The Beatles would last a surprisingly short seven years before their split and the deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison.
Here on the Strip, we have Cirque’s “Love” to remind us forever of the Liverpool lads’ genius and talent. For the London-born Stones, there is no such residency, and after last night, we may never get to see them perform here again. But one never knows what the future holds.
There was an irony in last night’s spectacular show. Many in the audience — including top Las Vegas hotel executives (MGM brass Jim Murren, Scott Sibella and Chuck Bowling) and business and medical leaders — were the same age as the four music superstars, but some on the stage had never heard of them.
Our Green Valley High Madrigal Singers choir were onstage to sing with them for the first number of their encore, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” There were 24 students under the direction of choral Director Kim Ritzer, who had auditioned the singers via Skype to Stones management in London. She admitted, “Initially, we thought it was a joke. Some of the kids didn’t even know who they were when I told them, but their parents sure did!”
Katy Perry, who lived for a while in Las Vegas and has family here, also was a surprise guest to many in the sold-out crowd, although I reported it on Twitter early Friday. The “Teenage Dream” and “Fireworks” singer wore a revealing black leather bustier and black leather thigh-high boots to sing “Beast of Burden” with Mick after fans voted it as “their favorite for Vegas” on the group’s website.
Afterward, she used Twitter to exclaim: “I’m much obliged and quite honored!” and later added: “Yes, I did just gyrate on Mick Jagger. WHAT?! #Stones50.” They sang as if they were flirting and grinding together, giving further fuel to the “devil’s fire” war with her preacher parents. The sequined mini-skirt also was an eye-opener for those below her and up close. Gwen Stefani, Bonnie Raitt, John Fogerty and Keith Urban have been among other guest stars for the one-number fan favorite at different tour stops.
The other guest last night was former Stones member Mick Taylor, who many consider one of the top rock guitarists in the world. He’s become somewhat of a regular on this tour with his riveting riffs that seem endless without him taking a breath. He left the band back in 1974 but reunited with them last year. Last night, he played “Midnight Rambler” and “ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” the closer.
If the story is true, there might never have been a “50 and Counting” tour: Mick reportedly said that if Keith had not apologized for his slur about the size of his penis in his autobiography “Life,” the tour would have been a no-go. “He apologized. It was a pre-requisite,” Mick is quoted as saying.
Last night, it really was all about the music: the guitars, the songs and Mick’s harmonica, an great incredible night of old time rock and roll that proved why they are the biggest and best. Sir Michael Jagger was brief in his chats to the ecstatic audience, but got one great laugh line off when he said, “What happens in Vegas turns up on Instagram 10 minutes later.”
Here’s the setlist, but I leave it to my far more knowledgeable music colleague, Editor at Large John Katsilometes, for his report of the performance: “Get Off of My Cloud,” “It’s Only Rock ’N’ Roll (But I Like It),” “Paint It, Black,” “Gimme Shelter,” “You Got Me Rocking,” “Beast of Burden” (by request with Katy Perry), “Emotional Rescue,” “All Down the Line,” “Doom and Gloom,” “One More Shot,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Before They Make Me Run” and “Happy” (with Keith on lead vocals), “Midnight Rambler,” “Miss You,” “Start Me Up,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Brown Sugar” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”
The encore: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (with the Green Valley High Madrigal Singers), “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” I don’t know if pop siren Ke$ha sat in on the show, but she did turn up later at nearby Hakkasan Las Vegas, while Luxor headliner comedian Carrot Top was backstage with the boys.
Oh! And that wedding I referred to at the top of this story? One-time hellraiser Ronnie, 65, who married wife Sally, 34, last December attended her brother’s wedding Saturday morning. And who was at “Love”? None other than Mick, knighted by the Queen of England in 2003 despite decades of headline stories of his romantic involvements, sexual shenanigans and drug use.
Forget all the notoriety, and you’re left with four extraordinarily talented musicians who at this age still have more than it takes to put on the show of the decade, one we might never see again.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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MGM Grand, a AAA Four Diamond resort, offers 5,044 rooms and suites.
MGM Grand features KÀ by Cirque du Soleil; Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club; and world-class entertainment at the Grand Garden Arena and Hollywood Theatre.
The resort offers signature restaurants by celebrity chefs including Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak, Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Fish House, Wolfgang Puck’s Bar & Grill and Michelin three star and Forbes Five Star restaurant, Joël Robuchon.
As part of its ongoing “Grand Renovation,” MGM Grand has remodeled all rooms and suites in its main tower and is adding several new experiences to its lineup including Hakkasan Las Vegas Restaurant and Nightclub, a new upscale dining/nightlife concept (coming in April 2013).
MGM Grand also features a state-of-the-art, non-smoking conference center, the Grand Spa, Cristophe Salon, "CSI: The Experience" and an inviting pool complex featuring the tantalizing daylife of Wet Republic.
Upscale accommodations include The Mansion, an exclusive hotel within the hotel; the luxurious two-story SKYLOFTS at MGM Grand; and The Signature at MGM Grand, a luxury all-suite, non-gaming hotel located adjacent to the main resort.