CHICAGO – For anyone who ever doubted Mick Jagger was superhuman, the Rolling Stones’ Soldier Field show Friday would make you a believer.
The 75-year-old rocker was in fantastic form, prancing and skipping and sprinting and strutting through a two-hour show, the kickoff for the North American leg of the Stones’ “No Filter” tour.
Given his age, it was an impressive feat. Given his recent health issues, it was nothing short of astounding.
The Stones postponed the start of their tour back in April after Jagger required medical treatment and time to recuperate. The band didn’t disclose the issue, but Rolling Stone and Billboard reported that he underwent heart valve replacement surgery.
Jagger made no mention of his health Friday. Combined with his energetic performance, it was like nothing ever happened.
For the opening 15 minutes, Jagger just couldn’t keep still, frantically pacing and running across the massive, football field-spanning runways for “Street Fighting Man,” “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and “Tumbling Dice,” frequently flailing his arms, shaking his hands, wiggling his hips and kicking his leg along the way.
Even when an electric guitar and stationary mic threatened to anchor him down, for a rare performance of “Sad Sad Sad,” Jagger playfully slammed into guitarist Ronnie Wood with his right shoulder.
Moves like Jagger’s quickly squashed any worries that he, finally, would rein in the energy at Stones shows. But beyond proving he was still capable of handling the job, he was clearly having a blast.
After an acoustic set on the end of the catwalk with just the core four – Jagger, Wood, guitarist Keith Richards and drummer Charlie Watts – the lights went out on the stage and the music for “Sympathy for the Devil” started up. As Richards, Watts and Wood casually strolled to the main stage, you could see Jagger in the darkness running like a giddy kid.
There was a lone moment Friday when Jagger was caught on the big screens taking an exasperated breath, in the middle of a blustery blues harp solo for “Midnight Rambler.” But it wasn’t fear or exhaustion that flashed across his face; it was sheer excitement.
Jagger finished his solo with gusto, and Wood spun down the catwalk while laying down dizzying blues riffs, the song falling back into a simmer over Wood and Richards’ smoldering guitar notes, until Watts’ light, tight drumming and Jagger’s audience-baiting call and response fanned the flames for the 12-minute blues opus’ fiery climax.
Across 20 songs, Jagger was absent for two of them, for a combined eight minutes. The breather gave Richards an opportunity to take center stage – he relinquished most of the flashy guitar work to Wood Friday – when he lent gravitas and gratitude to “You Got the Silver” and “Before They Make Me Run.”
Other members of the Stones’ touring band had moments to shine, from Chuck Leavell’s rollicking roadhouse keys for “Honky Tonk Woman,” to Sasha Allen’s hurricane vocals for “Gimme Shelter,” which still came through despite a muddy mix. And bassist Darryl Jones’ funky solo on “Miss You” seemingly sent Jagger into spontaneous, dancing spasms, the frontman contrasting Jones’ deep notes with some frisky falsetto cries.
Even Jagger’s spellbinding star power couldn’t help seizing attention during Jones’ big moment in the bassist’s hometown.