Eran and his wife, Orly, Jerusalem residents in their 30s, arrived at Yarkon Park on Wednesday night two hours before Rami Fortis was due to take the stage warming up for the first Israel performance by the Rolling Stones.
“Despite the hefty cost of the tickets, I wasn’t about to miss this,” said Eran. “They may not be as great as they once were, but they’re still legends.”
It turns out that Eran was errant in only one of his observations.
The Stones may actually now be as phenomenal as they once were when they roamed the land as the “best rock & roll band in the world.”
Seventy-year-old singer Mick Jagger had them at “Erev tov, hag Shavuot sameach,” (“Good evening, happy Shavuot”), his greeting to the 50,000 fans crammed in the sold-out park on a sweltering Tel Aviv night following the band’s opening song, “Start Me Up.”
Video: Leah Lublin
But even without Jagger’s endearing, Hebrew betweensong patter (like “Atem nehanim?” – “Are you enjoying it?” or “Hacol sababa?” – “Is everything cool?”) – the British superstars could have won the crowd over on musical merit alone. Playing nonstop for two hours in what was essentially a 19-song greatest hits revue – including “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Brown Sugar,” a powerful “Gimme Shelter” and “Sympathy For The Devil” – the Stones, as guitarist Keith Richards promised in a TV interview last week, were indeed “firing on 12 cylinders.”
Richards in particular, beaming, white-haired and healthy, led the band into battle with ringing riffs and rakish grins, like he was in on a personal joke with 50,000 of his closest friends. And Jagger was simply a wonder of nature – running and dancing kilometers in a body a 20-year-old would be envious of, while belting out the classics, cheerleading and keeping the show running with unflagging energy and showbiz panache.
Although they’ve long outgrown their beginnings as a pure blues band on their way to becoming the biggest rock & roll act in the world, those roots are still very much evident – on the show-stopping “Midnight Rambler” with special guest, Stones’ alumnus Mick Taylor, on the Richards-led gem “You Got The Silver,” which allowed guitarist Ronnie Wood to shine on acoustic slide, and on the still sinewy mid-’60s hit “Get Off My Cloud.” With stoic drummer Charlie Watts (whom Jagger wished a “Yom huledet sameach” (“Happy birthday”) leading to a crowd sing-a-long for the bashful septuagenarian) and like-a-rock bassist Darryl Jones holding the songs together with their unwavering rhythm, the Stones possessed a collective power and yin-yang tightness/looseness that takes about 50 years to perfect.