Aside from death and taxes, the third certainty in life is that it's almost impossible to not enjoy oneself at a Rolling Stones gig. For seasoned fans and newcomers alike, what you're going to get might be fairly predictable - a faithful run through of their biggest hits with a couple of surprises thrown in for good measure - but then, what else would you want to hear?
With a canon as plentiful as the Stones', there will always be an element of subjective disappointment if they don't play a particular favourite or stray deeper into their back catalogue, but for an evening's entertainment, watching the greatest rock and roll band in the world performing their most iconic songs certainly takes some beating.
That's not to say that the Stones' stage performance is flawless. Never the most polished of bands (check out the untuned guitars on their 1969 Hyde Park show), they still, even after all these years, don't quite know how to finish songs, and there are times tonight when a tumbling drum fill and cymbal crash from Charlie Watts signals for his bandmates to finish, sometimes taking them by surprise. But recklessness has always been a defining trait of The Rolling Stones, and rock 'n' roll should never be perfection. Yet, given that tonight was the closing night of the European leg of their No Filter tour, there was a distinct feeling that the Stones were zipping through a (still storming) set with the end in clear sight.
It began with 'Sympathy For The Devil', whose extended intro allowed for individual entrances. Charlie Watts provided its voodoo rhythms as keys man Chuck Leavell teased the intro's piano chords. Mick Jagger strides centre stage, spinning on the spot to twirl his knee length coat - devilish red, of course - before we allow him to finally introduce himself. The song's first chorus explodes with a twin guitar attack, and thus appears Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards. A simple yet effective entrance, it was a bold choice for an opener, kicking the Stones immediately into a gear they'd have to work hard to maintain.
'It's Only Rock 'N' Roll' and 'Tumbling Dice' ensure they do, but while 'Just Your Fool' and 'Ride 'Em Down' were highlights of last year's 'Blue And Lonesome', the rawness and intimacy of that blues covers album is lost in the cavernous U-Arena. Then, after a spunky 'She's So Cold', their attempt at the glorious 1967 psych classic 'She's A Rainbow' is a little weak; the winner of a public vote, it appears to leave Keith on an unsure footing, as if he's suddenly having to relearn the chords.
So, when they get back on track, the thrusters are turned to max and it's pow-pow-pow from here. 'You Can't Always Get What You Want', 'Paint It Black' and the immense 'Honky Tonk Women' raise the temperature enough that Jagger has to leave the stage, leaving his Glimmer Twin, Keith Richards, to take on lead vocals for his 'Happy' and 'Slipping Away'.
'Miss You' welcomes Jagger back with a party vibe, but while 'Midnight Rambler' continues the pace, the band aren't quite together on its changes and so the song trips up a couple of times when they lose unity.
They return to solid ground with the end approaching, dropping surefire bombs in the shape of 'Street Fighting Man', 'Start Me Up', 'Brown Sugar', 'Jumpin' Jack Flash', and then 'Gimme Shelter' and 'Satisfaction' as encore.
A little road weary tonight, then, but given all that the Stones have collectively been through, it's not like they're ever likely to let tiredness get the better of them. When the No Filter resumes, have no fear, they'll surely be back on their finest form - up and rolling once more - and proving there's still more life in these old dogs than any performers half their age.
Clash stayed in Paris courtesy of the Hôtel Le Pigalle, a funky boutique hotel for music lovers in the heart of Pigalle, formerly the city’s red light district, and recovered the morning after the Stones' gig by spinning ‘Marvin Gaye Live!’ on our in-room record player. For information and reservations go to lepigalle.paris/en
Words: Simon Harper