Mick 'n' Keef 'n' Chichester!

The Midnight Rambler and his band of (still) merry men might have been strutting their stuff at a Southampton stadium, but it was Chichester that was very much on Mick's mind.
The Stones in SouthamptonThe Stones in Southampton
The Stones in Southampton

Forty-five minutes into the concert, he gleefully reminds the crowd that he 'had been in jail just up the road' - a reference to his and Keith Richards' drug bust at Keith's West Wittering house in 1967, their appearance at Chichester Magistrates Court and subsequent brief few weeks in Lewes Prison.

The septuagenarian Rolling Stones, arguably still the world's supreme rock n' roll band, certainly know how to put on a show and give the crowd 'Satisfaction' in heaps, though fans at the current tour are having to pay for it; like the other UK stadiums, tickets for the Southampton gig at St Mary's Stadium were more in the Glyndebourne price range – selling for up to £275, even the cheapest (standing in the pit) were £99.

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The Stones are rolling back to the UK for their first tour here in five years, playing at eight stadiums - including Southampton - along with Dublin and five European venues. The tour is called No Filter which is, perhaps, a passing reference to their advancing age and the fact they can still outperform other rock bands, but without added gimmicks to deliver the 'wow factor'.

In a throw-back to the 60s drug-addled years, there is a strong police presence at the gates and inside the stadium, inviting a surreal image of Keith Richards being possibly barred from his own gig (though he did give up drugs long ago)!

The passage of time has shrunk the set-list to 19 songs, but they remain the heavy-weight crowd-pleasers the fans want to hear. As dusk turns the evening sky to taupe, the boys saunter onto the stage, the crowd erupts and Sir Michael Philip Jagger sets the tone for the rest of the night.

They kick off with Start Me Up (which Microsoft's Bill Gates is reputed to have paid $3m to use to launching Windows 95 in August 1995), followed swiftly by the rousing Let's Spend The Night Together, Tumbling Dice and that oft-used strap-line It's Only Rock N' Roll – four classics that get the crowd up from their seats, dancing and punching the air.

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There was, of course, a brief homage to Mick and Keith's shared love of Blues (which cemented the Stones' musical roots back in 1962) with a quarter-way break with Mick singing Just Your Fool, an upbeat number from their 2016 blues LP, Blue & Lonesome, and which visibly cheered up Keith.

Homage paid, it was back to the business in hand with classics such as Under My Thumb, long regarded as the band's most sexist hit (but which the audience whoop vigorously along too), You Can't Always Get What You Want, Paint It Black and Honky Tonk Woman.

A now immutable set-piece of Stones' concerts is a solo segment by Keith (thus allowing Jagger to slip off-stage, gulp water and change his jacket) and, despite hands now afflicted by arthritis, his dexterity with the strings is beyond doubt (as evidenced by the unforgiving behemoth screens at the back of the stage).

Unlike Jagger, he no longer belts out the two numbers, rather caresses the microphone with his lips and 'whisper-sings' in an acceptable high-pitched 'tobacco voice'. He is still revered and his army of fans duly display their appreciation.

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Self-deprecating to the end, Mick engages the Southampton audience with quips, including that they “last played here in 1966 when we were the support band at the Gaumont” (now the Mayflower Theatre), and thanks those who had come to see them then, return 52 years later! And when introducing the main, and extended, band members, Keith Richards was simply “....local boy Keith from West Wittering”.

Mick, who began the show in a natty blue front-zipped jacket, with red stripes on the arms (is the beer company sponsoring part of the tour?), returns on stage appositely dressed in a long black satin shirt for Sympathy For The Devil.

We're on the home straight now, with five tracks to go before the end. Our peace-pact with the devil is followed by a spectacularly funky Miss You, replete with Studio 54-esque disco neon lights, and with Jagger now in an equally-funky purple sparkling jacket.

An extended Midnight Rambler gives Keith and Ronnie the chance to gang up and demonstrate their masterly riffs, and Mick to both get his lips around his beloved harmonica and yet another costume change.

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Disappointingly, he returns in a Stones merchandise T-shirt (that iconic tongue is all over his chest) but, as he launches into Jumpin' Jack Flash – who, incidentally, is based on Keith's old gardener at Redlands – the show has gained the momentum of a bullet train and nothing will derail it.

The Stones are now too long in the tooth to adopt stage gimmicks (as used by numerous contemporary, and younger, bands) and, as elder statesmen of rock, there is no need. But their shows are perfected by the top lighting directors and with the most sophisticated lighting rigs and consoles in the business.

Several huge specially-constructed towers, each housing three platforms of lights, computer consoles and an operator some 55 feet up seamlessly provided a kaleidoscope of colour to complement each song.

Despite a combined age of 294, brain surgery and brushes with lung and throat cancer, their energy beggars belief.

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For one-hour and 50 minutes straight, and without a minute's break between the seamless tracks, Mick walks, runs, dances, jumps about the stage like a demented flea, waves his arms, wiggles his snake-like hips, shakes his head, purses his lips and enthrals the audience.

But towards the end, Ronnie, Keith and Charlie are clearly flagging, a look of exhaustion etched on their faces – while Mick, who reputedly covers an average distance of ten miles on stage at each show - looks as if he was still warming up. At 74 (75 next month), he is a force of nature.

Even so, he is the one to call it a night. A very brief 'thank you and goodnight' precedes an abruptly hasty exit from the stage as the lights ebb to semi-darkness. For a full five minutes the crowd, kept in suspense, claps, cheers, wolf-whistles and screams 'more, more', knowing the exit has been too hasty for this to be The End.

Finally, blinding white lights from the rigging towers herald them back on stage for the mother of all finales: extended, high-octane renditions of Gimme Shelter and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. The crowd goes wild until fireworks inform us that it's (really) all over now.

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It would, perhaps, be more apposite to name this tour The Greatest Hits are Still The Best Tour, for their 60s, 70s and early-80s back catalogue is still what sells tickets.

It's only rock n' roll, but we like it, yes we do. And wild horses wouldn't keep us away.

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