The best Rolling Stones performances

By Sergio Ariza

Without a doubt, 2022 was the year of the Rolling Stones. Mick, Keith and Ronnie toured Europe (playing for the first time without legendary drummer Charlie Watts), with their SIXTY tour, celebrating 60 years since the band's inception back in 1962. Guitars Exchange would like to take this opportunity to remember some of the most legendary performances and tours of one of our favourite bands of all time.   


The TAMI Show (29 December 1964)

It is curious that the concert that made them world stars, one of the most legendary events of the 60s, was an incredible performance - but overshadowed by the fact that it appeared just after James Brown who did not forgive the fact that they made him enter the stage before the young Brits. Mick Jagger and company were able to learn several things from Mr. Dynamite, how to dance, how to give everything on stage, and also a fundamental one: you never go on stage after James Brown has walked on it.

Even so, as I said, their performance was historic, closing a mythical performance at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California, in front of 2,600 enthusiastic teenagers, which was broadcast to the whole of the USA on television. Before the Stones had appeared on stage, the man they took as their main source of inspiration, Chuck Berry, but also the Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and his Miracles, their compatriots Gerry & The Pacemakers and the aforementioned James Brown.

They sounded as dirty and crazy as the young punks they were, Keith Richards with his 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard and Brian Jones with his Vox Teardrop, with Jagger beginning to prove that he was going to become the most iconic frontman in rock history. Despite the fact that the only Stones single that had entered the American Top Ten singles chart up to that point was Time Is On My Side, they were given the desired closing slot and did not disappoint, playing songs such as Chuck Berry's Around and Around, Off the Hook, Time Is on My Side, It's All Over Now, which had been number one in England, and I'm Alright.

The Ed Sullivan Show (13 February 1966)

In little more than a year things had totally changed, the band already had two number ones in the US, Satisfaction and Get Off Of My Cloud, and several more top tens in that market, presenting themselves as the only possible option to the Beatles' empire. At that time the Stones appeared for the third time on the most famous American TV show to present their new single, 19th Nervous Breakdown, which would reach number 2, but the best performance was the one they gave with their most famous song, the immortal (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, with Jagger already in total possession of all his movements, eating up the stage and the screen without anyone being able to take his eyes off him.

It didn't matter that Keith Richards' fuzz didn't sound particularly good on his Guild M-65 Freshman, nor that Brian Jones couldn't stand the song, which he saw as the end of his brief period as leader of the band (he sometimes played Popeye the sailor on his Gibson Firebird VII), everyone wanted to move like Jagger and to go wild finding satisfaction while singing about the impossibility of getting it.


1969 Tour (Altamont/Madison Square Garden)

The Stones stopped touring on 17 April 1967, almost a year after the Beatles. When they returned to touring on 5 July 1969 in Hyde Park, Brian Jones had been kicked out of the band (and died two days before the gig) and had been replaced by Mick Taylor, they had also recorded the best album of their career to date, Beggar's Banquet, and were recording one that was going to be even better, Let It Bleed. The Stones had found themselves again with Keith Richards' open tuning and a return to the rock & roll and blues of their origins. Taylor was also the best instrumentalist to ever play in the band and the sound equipment had improved enormously since 1967.

It was on this tour that they began to be presented as "the greatest rock & roll band in the world", and rightly so, because this is the Stones at their absolute peak, with such mythical concerts as the one at Madison Square Garden in November, where they recorded the best version of Midnight Rambler, which would be released on the best official live album of their career, Get Yer Ya Ya's Out. The tour ended with the most legendary and controversial concert of their career, on 6 December 1969 in Altamont, at a free festival where before Their Satanic Majesties played: Santana, Jefferson Airplane, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The Grateful Dead were also on the bill but Jerry Garcia's band decided not to play because the Hells Angels, who had been hired as security, were already pretty much out of it. Jagger and company went ahead and tragedy struck when one of the Angels stabbed a spectator who had allegedly pulled a gun while Under My Thumb was playing. The thing is, that on its own that would have been more than enough, but there was more - you only have to look at the chilling images of the Stones playing Sympathy For The Devil while all around them all hell on earth seems to be breaking loose.

Marquee Club, London, 26 March 1971

The Rolling Stones had played their first gig under that name at London's Marquee Club on 12 July 1962, so this performance had a bit of a homecoming feel to it. Of course their first British tour since 1966 was that of a different band, now with the Beatles split they could boast about being the biggest band on the planet and Mick Taylor was already fully on board, having brought back Keith's '59 Les Paul, and they had just recorded their third masterpiece in a row, Sticky Fingers, which was to appear the following month.

In the audience were Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and his former manager Andrew Oldham, and the Stones played four songs from the new album, including a rarely played I Got The Blues, with the wonderful new horn section of the indispensable Bobby Keys and Jimmy Price, as well as proving that Keith's friendship with Gram Parsons was giving the band its best country rock songs, as evidenced by the glorious Dead Flowers.


1972 Tour (Madison Square Garden)

The year they released their masterpiece, Exile On Main Street, the album that brought their most glorious period to a close, from '68 to '72, and which they presented with a tour with a top-class opening act, a Stevie Wonder who had reached maturity with the remarkable Music Of My Mind, and who that same year would release the first of his masterpieces, Talking Book.

The tour was chaos and the nexus between two eras, that of the countercultural group and that of the untouchable superstars. There were still riots and arrests at the concerts, but in the dressing rooms came Jagger's jet-set friends, with Truman Capote as the official chronicler and depraved parties, with Count Basie's orchestra as the band.

The fact is that the Stones still sounded magnificent despite Keith's drug problems and a Taylor who was beginning to distance himself, but listening to a band at their peak, with an artist who was coming into his own, Wonder, is a marvel, as when they coincided on stage for a medley of two of their greatest hits, Wonder's Uptight and the Stones' Satisfaction. Mick Jagger celebrated his 29th birthday on stage at Madison in an evening that ended with a cake fight between the band and the audience.

1975 Tour (Forum of Los Ángeles)

Taylor had left but the Stones found in Ronnie Wood the perfect replacement, he may not have played as well as Taylor but he was, quite simply, a Rolling Stone, and you could see that from his first concerts with the band on the 1975 tour. This tour was perhaps the most "it's only rock & roll but we like it" of them all, with adrenaline-fuelled versions of songs like the aforementioned number, or Star, Star.


1978 Tour (Live In Texas)

It is clear that Some Girls is the last masterpiece of the band, and the best album of the Wood period, so it is normal that their presentation tour resulted in one of the best concerts in their history. Specifically that of 18 July in Fort Worth, Texas, which would be released in 2011 and sees a band with their batteries charged with a huge connection between Richards and Woods, a Jagger eager to vindicate himself before the new punk generations and an immaculate, unblemished repertoire, in which the songs from Some Girls, which had just climbed to the top of the Billboard charts, are mixed with the classics and covers by the father of it all, Chuck Berry.

1981/82 Tour (The storm in Madrid)

Presenting another great album, Tattoo You, the Stones embarked on another successful US tour in 1981 (the same one in which Keith Richards knocked down a fan with his Telecaster who decided to invade the stage), from which they would release another of their live albums, Still Life, released on 1 June 1982. By that time the Brits were already in Europe where they would give another of their most memorable concerts, the first of the two they gave at the Vicente Calderón in Madrid on 7 July 1982. It was a very hot day that ended, minutes before the Stones played for the first time in the Spanish capital, with a tremendous thunderstorm. Jagger and company didn't care and went out to warm up in a concert that was apocalyptic, with the 65,000 people in attendance totally devoted to the Stones, from the opening riff of Under My Thumb to the finale with Satisfaction.


2022 Tour

No, it's no joke, there's no Brian Jones, no Bill Wyman and, worst of all, Charlie Watts no longer sits behind the drums; of the original line-up only the ‘Glimmer Twins’ remain, and Keith is no longer up to much, but what can I say, it's absolutely outrageous that at 79 years old Mick Jagger is still moving like he does, singing with a great voice and giving people a glimpse of what it's like to see the greatest rock band of all time.

Almost 50 years after the TAMI Show Jagger is still the perfect frontman, someone who learned from the best, James Brown, Tina Tuner, etcetera, but who knew how to make it his own, even managing to squeeze in the odd gem they had never played before, like Out Of Time, which had its premiere at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, 40 years after the perfect storm.

We should seriously consider that in Mick Jagger's pact with the devil, the latter has lost out, because it seems that the singer is immortal...