x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Tour produces unlikely partnerships

Katy Perry, Tom Waits, Lady Gaga - the guest stars appearing live with The Rolling Stones lately have been a disparate bunch. What's in it for them, and what's in it for The Stones?

Mick Jagger and Gwen Stefani performed Wild Horses in Los Angeles in May. Kevin Mazur / AFP
Mick Jagger and Gwen Stefani performed Wild Horses in Los Angeles in May. Kevin Mazur / AFP

Since The Rolling Stones' 50 & Counting Tour got underway at London's O2 Arena last November, there have been 20 and counting special guests. Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton made a certain kind of "dad-rock" sense, but spots by the likes of Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga reminded us that The Stones are wily old campaigners ever keen to broaden their demographic.

When Stefani sang Wild Horses in Los Angeles, it was a measure of her fandom that she wore a T-shirt bearing the group's famous lips and tongue logo.

Gaga, a guest in New Jersey, seemed utterly lost in her gutsy performance of Gimme Shelter. She even matched Mick Jagger in the daft dancing stakes - and that's not easy.

Can always get who we want

Presumably, The Stones draw up a shortlist of who they think is cool or au courant, then send out the invites.

An appearance by Keith Richards' mate Tom Waits at an Oakland, California, show in May certainly fell into the cool category. Indeed, when Waits duetted with Jagger on Little Red Rooster, his craggy blues howl stole the show.

Miss(ed) you

Have any megastars turned The Stones down? We'll never know, but evidence suggests that The Stones' iconic status is still more than enough to tempt most stars.

Watching footage on YouTube, one sees that even megastars accustomed to the stage tend to find a typical Stones gig that bit more carnivalesque. (See Bruce Springsteen playing Tumbling Dice with The Stones in Newark, for example.)

Mixed emotions

Sheryl Crowe's impeccable rock chick credentials have long made her something of a shoe-in when it comes to playing live with The Stones, but she and Jagger's tacky stagecraft on their Chicago rendition of All Down the Line earlier this year was a bit cruise-ship cabaret.

Florence Welch's duet with Jagger at the 02 arena in London, on the other hand, seemed genuinely edgy - a competition of sorts - and few were expecting that from Welch, a woman some see as the bland face of corporate rock. The song, once again, was Gimme Shelter. It brings something out in people.

Some girls

"I think dancing [with] Mick is something that women from all decades would like to accomplish," said Katy Perry after singing Beast of Burden with The Stones in - where else? - Las Vegas. One could also add that it's a good thing that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, because Perry and The Stones murdered the song that night.

The country singer Taylor Swift, meanwhile, tweeted "never in my wildest dreams" after singing As Tears Go By with The Stones in Chicago just a few days ago. In terms of getting the right singer for the right song, that one was a much better pairing.

A bigger bang

Fireworks will doubtless ensue when The Stones bring their 50 & Counting tour to the Glastonbury Festival on June 29, but who, if anyone, will the special guests be? Personally, I'd love to see Björk and PJ Harvey reprise their subversive, 1995 Brit Awards rendition of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. I can't see Mick and Keef sanctioning that, though.

artslife@thenational.ae

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