All this talk about how old the Rolling Stones are is itself getting old.
Besides, many of the band's best-loved songs are no spring chickens, either.
"Brown Sugar" (you know, the one our forefathers hummed aboard the Mayflower) is surely well past its sell-by date. "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" has been only rock 'n' roll since the twilight of the Nixon administration. And by now, those infamous "Honky Tonk Women" of yesteryear must be settled down in the suburbs with little honky tonk girls and boys of their own.
Even "Start Me Up" is old enough to buy itself a beer. Cheers!
Despite their longevity, those tunes and other time-tested hot rocks, big hits and fazed cookies sounded remarkably vital last night at Gund Arena — as did the Stones themselves. It's hard to believe they're marking 40 years in show biz.
Up first was another seasoned pro, new-waver Elvis Costello. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee and his Imposters band made the most of their opening slot, delivering passionate renditions of "Alison" (punctuated with a few bars of "Suspicious Minds"), a timely "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" and "Pump It Up."
The Stones got their set rolling with the one-two punch of "Street Fighting Man" and "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll."
Lead singer Methuselah — er, Mick — Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards are pushing the big 6-0. But the so-called Glimmer Twins haven't lost their spark.
After Jagger tossed off his jacket early on, Richards promptly kicked it out of the way.
In his role as rubber-limbed ringleader of the longest-running rock 'n' roll circus, Jagger was constantly in motion as he belted out "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and other crowd-pleasers.
He strapped on a guitar for "Don't Stop," a new song from the band's latest release, the career-spanning retrospective Forty Licks.
Richards got his chance to shine on "Before They Make Me Run" and "Slipping Away," which he embellished with an eloquent solo. He sang lead on both tunes.
"How are you doing, Cleveland?" Richards rasped. "It's nice to be back … anywhere."
Chain-smoking Ronnie Wood — "on the cigarette and guitar," as Jagger put it — made his six-string squawk during "If You Can't Rock Me" and traded interlocking riffs with Richards all night long.
Holding it all together was Charlie Watts. As usual, he was a study in poise and precision behind his drum kit.
The principals were accompanied by longtime sidemen Darryl Jones on bass, Chuck Leavell on keyboards and Bobby Keys on sax.
The band also had three other horn players and three backing singers in tow. The extra personnel provided a boost during a suite of tunes from the classic 1972 double album Exile on Main Street, including "Sweet Virginia," "Loving Cup," "All Down the Line," "Rocks Off" and "Tumbling Dice."
A spunky rendition of the Otis Redding chestnut "I Can't Turn You Loose" was a treat, too.
The Stones relocated to a B-stage in the middle of the floor for several songs, including an eminently fitting cover of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone."
Only rock 'n' roll? Maybe. But approximately 15,000 fans still liked it, liked it, yes they did.
Empires have risen and fallen. Wars have been won and lost. Bell-bottoms were in, then they were out, now they're in again.
Through it all, the Stones have endured- a testament to four decades of clean living. Or maybe not.
By the time "Midnight Rambler" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" brought the moss-free, two-hour concert to a triumphant close, it wasn't much of a stretch to imagine the Stones rolling on for at least another 40 years.
In fact, I'm hoping to take my great-grandchildren to catch the band's 80th anniversary tour. By then, the Stones probably will be headlining space stations. Think of it — Jagger at 99 in zero gravity!
"Cool, huh?" I'll say to the young ones. "But you should've seen these guys at Gund Arena in '02!"