* Rolling Stones kick off mini-tour
* Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor to join quartet on stage
* Mick Jagger taunts fans over ticket prices
* Part of 50th anniversary for rock and roll veterans
(Adds start of concert, quote from Jagger)
By Mike Collett-White
LONDON, Nov 25 The Rolling Stones hit the stage
at London's O2 arena on Sunday with a roar of approval from a
sea of silver-haired fans as they tore into old favourite "I
Wanna Be Your Man".
A swaggering Mick Jagger dressed in sparkling silver and
black rolled back the years with the 1960s hit as he bounced
onto a stage shaped in the red lips logo that is the calling
card for one of rock and roll's most enduring bands.
Lead singer Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie
Wood and drummer Charlie Watts are all in their 60s and early
70s, but have promised a two-hour show that will stun the crowd
and include former band members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor as
well as R&B singer Mary J. Blige and guitar great Jeff Beck.
"Everybody all right there in the cheap seats?" Jagger asked
in reference to a controversy over the price of tickets.
"They're not really cheap though are they? That's the trouble."
A sellout crowd of some 20,000 people was expected in spite
of widespread complaints from fans at ticket prices that ranged
from 95 pounds ($150) to up to 950 pounds for a VIP seat at the
first of five concerts celebrating the band's 50th anniversary.
Costs went far higher on secondary ticketing websites,
although by Friday eBay was offering several seats to Sunday's
show at below face value and there were places still officially
available at around 400 pounds apiece.
There has been talk of a wider tour, but for the time-being
the only confirmed concerts are the five that have been
announced. Two will be played at the O2 Arena in London, the
first was under way on Sunday and another on Thursday with three
others in the United States next month.
The flamboyant veterans behind a string of hits including
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", "You Can't Always Get What You
Want" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" have defended the prices, saying
the shows are expensive to put on, although specialist music
publication Billboard reported the band would earn $25 million
for the four shows first announced. A fifth was added later.
BURST OF ACTIVITY
The concerts are the culmination of a busy few months of
events, rehearsals and recordings to mark 50 years since the
blues-infused rockers first took to the stage at the Marquee
Club on London's Oxford Street in July, 1962.
There has been a photo album, two new songs, a music video,
a documentary film, a blitz of media appearances and a handful
of warm-up gigs in Paris.
The O2 Arena was where another top band of the 1960s and
70s, Led Zeppelin, staged an eagerly awaited one-off reunion in
2007, and while the Stones have appeared together far more
regularly, it is their first arena performance in six years.
One factor behind the long break has been Wood's struggle
with alcohol addition, according to Rolling Stone magazine,
while Jagger and Richards also fell out over comments the
guitarist made about the singer in a 2010 autobiography.
"We can't get divorced - we're doing it for the kids!" joked
Richards in a recent interview after apologising to Jagger.
While the rock and roll excesses of the swinging 60s and 70s
are in the past for the band, and their very best songs may be
behind them, music critics praised their recent single "Doom and
Gloom" from the "GRRR!" greatest hits album just released.
And there have been hints from the band that the five gigs
which wind up at the Newark Prudential Center on Dec. 15 may not
be the end of their reunion.
"Once the juggernaut starts rolling, it ain't gonna stop,"
Richards told Rolling Stone. "So without sort of saying
definitely yes - yeah. We ain't doing all this for four gigs!"
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)