The Rolling Stones Live Review: Stones sparkle anew on opening night of Hackney Diamonds tour

Stones roll back the years as the Hackney Diamonds tour kicks off in Houston, Texas.

The Rolling Stones, Houston Texas, 28 April 2024

by Andrew Dansby |
Updated on

The Rolling Stones

NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas, April 28, 2024

BEFORE A RIFF HAS RUNG OUT, the opening night of the Rolling Stones’ Hackney Diamonds tour raises questions. Both now in their 80s, only Mick Jagger and Keith Richards remain of the line-up that defined rock and roll in the 1960s. Yet here we are on their first tour to promote an album of original material in almost twenty years. Is this beginning of something? Or is it the end of something? Is it the beginning of the end of something?

Or is it just the first date of the next Rolling Stones tour? The 18-song, two-hour set feels most like that: A legacy band - THE legacy band - playing its hits very well and with a renewed fervour.

Those expecting an acknowledgement of loss or the passing of time - a comment, say, on the death of drummer Charlie Watts in 2021 - do not find it on the menu tonight. Having endured death, dope, arrests, fights, falls from trees, cancer, and more death, the band’s status as the ultimate rock and roll survivors doesn’t play into the show beyond the skull stitched to Keith Richards’ guitar strap. But for the sequins stitched onto Ronnie Wood’s jacket, this is not a band that revels in reflection. It’s only rock & roll, and people like it.

Their movements are by now familiar, only with more sensible footwear: Jagger remains a perpetual motion machine; Richards hangs back by the drum kit; Wood engages with Richards at times, and occasionally wanders along the sprawling stage like a chicken that escaped its coop. The Stones do what they do as they have done for a very long time. As Jagger points out to his Houston crowd, the Stones first visited Texas 60 years ago: “Our first rodeo,” he says.

The band takes the stage with the familiar three-note ignition of Start Me Up. Two hours later they shut it down with Satisfaction. Between those bookends, they present a lean setlist designed to please. Fourteen of the 18 songs are core hits.

Aside from the merchandise being sold, the Stones barely come across as promoting a new album. Hackney Diamonds is represented by just three songs: spirited lead single Angry, Mess It Up and a beguiling and grand Sweet Sounds Of Heaven, a song the band thinks enough of to let it share encore space with Satisfaction.

The Stones do, however, dig out a single deep cut for the archivist fan: Out Of Time from 1966’s Aftermath, which, as Jagger points out, the band have never played in the States before.

As for the other 14 songs, they have a certain snap to them on this evening that feels like a renewal. Watts specifically selected Steve Jordan to fill his seat behind the drums when it became clear he could no longer tour, and Jordan plays sensitively with Watts’ original parts. He also proves even the best-known songs are malleable. Jordan’s left hand has the spring of a bear trap, and he hits even harder than Watts on Paint It Black, helping to turn a ‘60s garage rock song into something more grandly theatrical.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 28: Mick Jagger performs on stage during The Rolling Stones' 'STONES TOUR '24 HACKNEY DIAMONDS' at NRG Stadium on April 28, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for RS)

 A few rough spots in the show will no doubt get polished as the tour continues. The usually telepathic guitar interaction on Gimme Shelter is interrupted on this night. Jagger’s path back to the mic during Sympathy For The Devil gets blocked at one point pushing the vocal back a few seconds. But the product the Stones are selling sounds undiminished as the band navigates its seventh decade. Jagger’s voice retains its fluidity and range. Angry proves Richards still can sift through the ash tray to find dogend riffs worthy of lighting up.

The show feels like a Rolling Stones set disconnected from the emotional concerns about time we often affix to musicians nearing the finish line. Hackney Diamonds closes with Rolling Stone Blues, the Muddy Waters song that lent the band its name. A nod to their beginnings six decades ago, they don’t play it this evening. Perhaps it would’ve sounded like a farewell and these musicians don’t come across as sentimentalists until then they touch on their present in Sweet Sounds of Heaven: “Let the old still believe that they’re young.”

Who knows how the rest of the Stones’ story will play out, but it’s a mantra that tonight serves them, and us, very well indeed.


Start Me Up

Get Off of My Cloud

Rocks Off

Out of Time


Beast of Burden

Mess It Up

Tumbling Dice

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Little T&A

Sympathy for the Devil

Gimme Shelter

Honky Tonk Women

Miss You

Paint It Black

Jumpin’ Jack Flash


Sweet Sounds of Heaven

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Photos: Kevin Mazur/Getty

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