The Rolling Stones kicked off their five-performance 50th anniversary tour with a blockbuster performance in London this week, silencing critics who had complained that the ticket prices (from $140 to $1,000-plus) were too high, and the band members, all nearing or just past 70, were too old. The show reunited former Stones Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor with their band mates, and featured vintage high-voltage prancing by 69-year-old frontman Mick Jagger. The Stones brought 20,000 fans to their feet with a "phenomenal" performance of "Sympathy for the Devil" and a "rocking" "Jumpin' Jack Flash," providing fresh evidence for those who argue that the erstwhile bad boys of the music scene are the greatest rock band ever. Have the Stones proved once and for all that they deserve the title?
Absolutely. Nobody tops the Stones: Age may have slowed them down — a bit, says Mike Collett-White at Reuters, but the consensus among reviewers seems to be that the Stones' first golden-anniversary performance proved their preeminence. Their "high-octane, blues-infused" set list, plus an impressive encore that included "You Can't Always Get What You Want," evoked the days of their prime.
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Great, not the greatest: The Stones' are undeniably rock gods, says Neil McCormick at Britain's Daily Telegraph. Still, "in terms of creativity, invention, art, sales and cultural impact, the Beatles trump the Stones every time," even if "they were never purely and definitively a rock 'n' roll band." The Stones "are more embedded in rock than any other band," but several other groups — the Who, Led Zeppelin, U2 — can make credible claims to the title of greatest ever.
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Their work ethic, at least, is unmatched: "The Rolling Stones are on tour again and probably always will be," says Madora Kibbe at The Christian Science Monitor. That might be the most remarkable thing about them. In 50 years, Mick & Co. have never missed a performance. "Not one." Talk about work ethic. Unlike the Beatles, they never broke up. They just cranked out good, consistent music, decade in and decade out. "It's never been more — or less — than what they said it was. It's only rock 'n' roll. But I like it."
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