The Rolling Stones will wrap their 2012-2013 50 & Counting Tour on Saturday (July 13th), at London's Hyde Park. Highlights on the tour included the two trek closing spots at Hyde Park -- marking the band's first appearance there since 1969, the Stones' first time as headliners at England's Glastonbury Festival, and their brief set at Madison Square Garden for the 12-12-12 benefit for Hurricane Sandy relief.
Apart from a trio of "impromptu" club dates -- two in Paris, one in L.A., the tour garnered far more press about the exorbitant ticket prices than the setlist. Although original bassist Bill Wyman appeared for a couple of numbers at the band's 2012 UK shows, he declined to travel to North America for such a limited amount of stage time. Former guitarist Mick Taylor frequently breathed new life into the Stones' live act by reprising some of his signature licks on such classics as "Midnight Rambler," "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," "Sway," and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," -- but by tour's end was usually allotted only two two songs to play on each night -- three if there was no special guest.
The tour was most notable for the amount of indoor venues, which except for the three open air British shows played to arenas seating around 15-to-20,000. For the first time in their career -- perhaps in response to the negative press regarding the ticket prices -- nearly every show featured a special guest. Although many of the cameos were newsworthy, die-hard fans complained that the guest stars were mainly a distraction from the main event -- even from the handful of guests who also came from the rock world.
Over the course of the band's 2012-2013 50 & Counting dates, the Rolling Stones welcomed the following special guests: Mary J. Blige, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Florence Welch, Keith Urban, Gwen Stefani, Tom Waits, John Fogerty, Bonnie Raitt, Katy Perry, John Mayer, Dave Grohl, the Black Keys, Carrie Underwood, Taj Mahal, Sheryl Crow, Taylor Swift, Win Butler of Arcade Fire, Gary Clark Jr., Brad Paisley, and Aaron Neville.
Mick Jagger admits that although the Stones played up their bad boy tendencies in the mid-'60s, he's still amazed at how quickly the establishment chose to embrace the band: "But, y'know, in a funny way, we didn't really have a (laughs) choice, y'know? 'Okay, I'm gonna be an anti-hero now -- now I'm not going to be!' I had no real idea that our kinda slight scruffiness was going to turn into this anti-heroic act. In some ways, we were swept along with the tide, but we helped ourselves propel ourselves along with it."
Keith Richards revealed to us his standard for guitars these days -- for both his classic "Open G" as well as the normal, standard tuning: "For the five-string stuff, I use Fender Telecasters. But for the six-string, I've always been interested in trying different guitars that turn up to me. Some are given and some are found for me by Pierre (de Beauport), my guitar man. Pierre knows what interests me. So the Gibson (335), hell, the black Gibson I've been using a lot -- it's a lovely guitar. But I really like. . . y'know, sometimes you get a Gretsch, sometimes I get something that somebody's handmade themselves. I just love to experiment, really."
Ron Wood told us that at this point, the Stones are sailing in uncharted waters: "We notice that we're cutting new ground, y'know, in that no bunch of guys have ever stuck together this long in the rock n' roll field."
Mick Taylor shed some light on "Midnight Rambler," which proved to be his star moment of the 50 & Counting shows: "It's very different from the recorded version for Let It Bleed, and it was always a highlight of the show -- one of the highlights -- in the show in the '70s, during my tenure with the Stones. Because it's a very bluesy, sort of swampy, kind of blues jam between me and -- well now, between me and Ronnie and Keith. The song was written by Mick and Keith. And it give Mick the opportunity to play some blues harmonica, as well, which he's very good at."
Charlie Watts admits that he's never even considered the Rolling Stones to be an institution: "I don't look at the Rolling Stones like that. Y'know, it just. . . they're a group of people that I know that become the Rolling Stones when they get together. Something happens around us when we play that is either magic, or (a) catastrophe -- whichever way you look at it. It always has done and I assume it always will."