Omaha Rock City: Four decades later, the Stones remain strangely vital.
The Rolling Stones knew bloody well that they hadn't played in Omaha in about 40 years -- nearly as long as the band's ostensibly undying, but proud existence. Not only did eternally peppy frontman Mick Jagger say as much, but the group displayed its dour and desperate rite of spring ode to Dionysus with frenzied and carnally willful energy. The aged but hip band did not rest on its certified rock star laurels. Rather, they most demonstratively played for over two hours in front of a vicariously charged, sold-out crowd at the new, downtown Qwest Center. Seasoned and saucy, the group initiated the show with the telling tale of transcendence and survival, "Jumpin' Jack Flash". With its distorted, diabolic murmur anticipating pirate-rogue guitarist Keith Richards's trademark jerky ingenuity and active reluctance, "Flash" overwhelmingly pronounced the band's sense of indestructibility and rough, ironic musical machismo. "But it's all right now, in fact, it's a gas!" sung Jagger, shaking in what seemed like a Red Bull rush. The Stones, clearly aware of the many cynics, managed to brush aside any belittlement about their age and aptitude. The song was a harsh, determined slap in the face -- not to mention the emblem of a renewed, seminal viability and force. The band -- near the close of its mammoth North American tour supporting A Bigger Bang -- donned several showy, flashy, and mock-formal Lucullan outfits. Of course, this kind of thing is almost standard fare: in St. Paul, for instance, Richards, jokingly wore a "Homeland Security" shirt for a good part of the show; in Omaha he gussied himself up in numerous glistening but loose and gaudy shirts -- mostly in ebony. Jagger mimicked Richards, hitting the stage in a silver-spangled, short, black coat with tight matching pants. His St. Paul opening garb consisted of a dime-store ruby hat and a long coat. For the Stones, the Omaha event was something of a dignified, decadent mass. From the band's 20-song set, three songs were particularly noteworthy. "She's So Cold", the laughably cruel and kind number, was no doubt the early riotous standout. Jagger auspiciously dragged and drawled out the song to compliment its primitive, libidinal rhythm as he acted out its sense of sorrowful, animal attraction. "She's So Cold" metamorphosed into "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" territory in its delightful, yet doleful titillation and feeling. The band's brief set in the arena's center featured the rare, psychedelic classic "Get Off of My Cloud" -- this song went off rather brilliantly, with Richards manipulating a common bluesy sound, and Jagger spitting the chorus with authority. But by far the eerie war-evoking "Gimme Shelter" took the cake at the hits banquet: stellar singer Lisa Fischer nailed her notes, and she persuasively played luscious coquette to Jagger's rapacious Eros. The two sexily brushed against one another, singing with passion and a credible sense of intimacy. This unique moment was surely one of a kind -- "Gimme Shelter" is not played all too often after all. Jagger knows not his age, for he still parades and prances as if he were in his 20s. Throughout the evening he raised his hands manically and shook his hips scandalously, taking few breaks. Richards competed with Jagger for stage dominance while still managing plenty of vehement guitar solos. While Ron Wood and Charlie Watts each played fairly, it was the other two that demanded the spotlight. Watts laid the beats, but, alas, looked noticeably frail, having recently overcome cancer. Jagger and Richards were both talkative: Richards mischievously said, "Happy New Year" because he thought he could get away with it (it was almost February!). Jagger thanked the crowd with "You're very kind" and "You're a fantastic audience." The classic band performed a greatest hits show, but also mixed several novel songs, including the risqué "Rough Justice" and the cleverly mocking "Oh No Not You Again". The final climactic song, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", saw Jagger sporting an air-blown pink shirt and finally, graciously curtsying to the crowd. The Rolling Stones are far from washed up: they seem to have found the elixir of life -- or at least some concoction to skirt death a little longer.