Abu Dhabi: The UAE has been waiting a long time for the Rolling Stones to perform so it was only right the British rockers took the stage a few minutes early for their Abu Dhabi debut on Friday night, kicking things off with the aptly titled hit Start Me Up.
Clad in tight black jeans, a black satin shirt and sparkling red jacket, frontman Mick Jagger delivered the wiry energy fans have loved since the band started in 1962. Jagger, with bandmates Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts, launched their ’14 On Fire tour’ in the UAE.
Storming through all the songs a fan would have wanted to hear, the foursome – plus a full band and even a choir that came on for the second encore – gave fans young and old everything expected from a Stones gig: swagger, laughs and plenty of rock ‘n’ roll.
“Mara-haba” hollered Jagger by way of greeting, before sharing what the band have been up too since arriving in Abu Dhabi on Monday: Emirates Palace, the falcon hospital and a trip to Ferrari World. And if you thought performing for two hours, aged 70, was the most impressive thing Jagger can do, get this: The singer proceeded to ask if there was anyone from Sharjah in the house. Then Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and all the Emirates, getting the biggest cheer for Dubai. His pronunciation was flawed but his connection to the crowd faultless.
Richards too, had his moment to shine, with the legendary hellraiser singing two songs after telling the crowd “I’m happy to be here”. Then: “I’m happy to be anywhere.”
Any worries the band – a collective 208 years old – would be a geriatric version of their dynamic younger selves were quickly dispersed: a freakishly youthful Jagger moved as he did 40 years ago, his swaggering walk intact as he repeatedly stalked the 40-metre runway that took him to the centre of the crowd. Yes their faces are pretty craggy, but that’s the only thing to show, it’s 2014 and not 1964.
Fans in the UAE were asked to vote for their favourite song for the band to play, which turned out to be Gimme Shelter, but easily the biggest crowd pleasers of the night were the final song Satisfaction, mid-set classic Paint It Black and Brown Sugar. As promised, former member Mick Taylor joined them, for two tracks, and as good as the music was the camaraderie – real or not – portrayed by the men on stage.
There appeared to be no complaints in the crowd, which spanned the likes of German super fan Ulroch Schorer, who was watching the Stones for the 164th time, to 14-year-old Nicole, a Filipino- American who came with her mum and dad from Saudi Arabia for the show. “We came for her,” said dad Norman, who himself saw the band 38 years ago. “It was amazing,” said Nicole. “I couldn’t ask for more”.