Rolling Stones @ Principality Stadium, Cardiff – June 15, 2018

After 56 years the legacy of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world remains incomplete, and with the No Filter tour being a stadium audience draw, thousands of Rolling Stones fans hit Cardiff to get their satisfaction.

Recently downplaying rumours this could be their last UK tour, the four principals – all in their 70’s – may only embark on short runs every few months, but it certainly doesn’t mean they have finished. Tonight, the hand-clapping, strutting peacock that is Mick Jagger, along with stalwarts Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood, hammer this fact home, opening with the classics ‘Street Fighting Man’, ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)’ and ‘Tumbling Dice’.

Obligatory thanks to Elbow for their opening set comes before Jagger talks about the Stones’ previous Cardiff gigs since the early 60’s. He refers to a 1973 show cancelled by councillors after the violence-marred 1969 Altamont concert in the USA. On the large screen behind him, a poster for the doomed show is displayed. “The most famous one was one that never happened!” he says.

From front to back, left to right and high up in the stands, the Principality Stadium crowd are on their feet, as the juggernaut thunders on with ‘Paint It Black’, the fan requested ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ and a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. “I hear you’re good at singing around here” says Jagger, as he puts on a guitar for the recently Trump hijacked ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’. Sure enough, the participation is loud and proud.

The legendary, hard-living, rock ‘n’ roll icon Keith Richards leads the charge with his raw – if occasionally imperfect, but forgivable – guitar work. He goes toe-to-toe with Ronnie Wood, who for the most part just looks happy to be here, while Charlie Watts, the ever sombre looking elder of the band, holds the whole thing together from behind the kit. His unmistakable, eight-bar, cowbell groove intro to ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ has the place really rocking again.

There’s no doubt that Mick Jagger’s voice has aged better than many of his contemporaries, and with it, this charismatic showman’s performance and entertainment value is something to be appreciated. During tonight’s workout, he covers a staggering distance – dancing, prancing, back and forth along the huge stage, up and down the runway. Energy exudes from his tiny frame, and you can’t help but admire the level of fitness.

Congratulating Cardiffians on their return to Premier League football, Jagger gives an account of what the band have been up to in the City, before introducing them to the crowd. His three long-time comrades take turns to walk down the runway, each receiving a fantastic welcome. “There’s a curfew y’know!” he quips as Charlie eventually makes his way back to the stage, before chants of “Keith, Keith, Keith ..” for the man himself, who takes up lead vocals for ‘You Got the Silver’ and ‘Before They Make Me Run’.

Returning in a sparkly jacket, one of several costume changes, Mick leads us into an outstanding performance of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ with the entire audience joining in on every “Woo, woo!” Then comes “Miss You”, including a bass solo from Darryl Jones, and a high energy ‘Midnight Rambler’ with the exuberant front man on harmonica. We hurtle towards the end of the show with a number of essential, timeless Stones classics. The infectiously thumping ‘Start Me Up’ is followed by the ultra-catchy ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, which Keith initially fluffs. “Forget that happened!” says Mick. But I don’t think anybody even notices, let alone cares.

Completing the main set is ‘Brown Sugar’, an irresistible anthem which for all its present day lyrical concerns, has the most PC-conscious listener singing and dancing along. For the encore, the talent of Sasha Allen is brought to the fore, during ‘Gimme Shelter’, as she joins Mick to add those haunting screams of “Rape, murder! It’s just a shot away ..” the penultimate exhilaration, before ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ concludes with a mass clap-along and pyrotechnic finale.

In 2018, for two hours, it’s easy to live in the moment with the Rolling Stones, before coming away and taking on-board the history of the band. From impudent bad boys, terrorising parents and authorities, to accomplished musicians still thrilling audiences worldwide, the Stones have seen and done it all. Sure, they won’t be around forever, but at this time they remain masters of their craft, and it is truly a privilege to catch them.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston // Rock Music Photographer