There is a moment in this nearly three-hour show, just after the six-piece Stones have completed their stripped down, B-stage mini-set, when all but Mick Jagger have crossed back over to the main stage. As Mick begins his return strut, with quintessential moves like Jagger, there is a fleeting, almost bashful look on his face. It’s speculation, surely, but the expression suggests this: Jagger is truly happy, maybe even happiest, being the singer for the Rolling Stones.
Why not? On this 1997-98 tour supporting Bridges to Babylon the greatest rock-and-roll band in the world would play to over 4 million people. The Bremen show, presented here restored and complete, would come near the end of the run, and despite the months and months on the road circumnavigating the world, the band- background singers and horn section included- was just as energized then as they were on day one, maybe even more so as they were also playing for a global TV audience tuning in as well.
Add to that the group’s latest stage spectacles- a 150-foot telescoping bridge extending out to the B-stage and an enormous circular video screen behind them- and once again the Stones somehow made a stadium filled with tens of thousands feel as intimate as such a vast space could. Yet, what makes any concert worthy of such showmanship and set design is the music that accompanies it. The Bridges tour followed a successful studio record, so an album single like “Saint of Me” or newer cuts such as “Flip the Switch” and “Anybody Seen My Baby?” co-mingling with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” (in a surprise role as opener), or “Gimme Shelter” (also landing uncharacteristically early in the evening) gave the first half plenty of fresh variety and verve.
There are a few deeper dives, such as Keith Richards’ “Wanna Hold You,” and the B-Stage homage to Bob Dylan on “Like a Rolling Stone,” that break up the stretch of gold starting with a decadent “Miss You,” with Jagger at his devilish best, and running all the way through to the “Brown Sugar” finale. These hits have become known in Stones fan circles as the war horses. Still, piled one after the next, they are a relentless reminder of how great the band has been for so long. (The four bonus songs from a performance in Chicago also give a bit of contrast to the repertoire, and are no less charged with Stones magic.)
By the Bridges tour, the Rolling Stones had become somewhat masterful in their execution of a stadium show. New toys gave the returning audience a novel thrill, but it was the online voting during the show that provided the telling evidence of why the fans really keep coming back. In real-time, they chose a relatively obscure album track, a plaintive ballad, to be played, and the Stones, without hesitation, played it. For all the staging and pageantry and enormity of the event, it was a simple trip to the “Memory Motel” that they wanted, and, essentially, throughout the entire extensive performance, what they got, from a band that, over 30 years in, seemed more than happy to oblige.