Do Keith Richards and the other Rolling Stones think they’re the only band around? Do they still bet they’re the only ones in town for Mick Jagger? They shouldn’t, not after Jagger’s easy-winning charisma on the blowout season finale of Saturday Night Live.
The knighted 68-year-old British singer hosted the show and dominated the music segments, fronting Montreal’s Arcade Fire for a live-wire version of The Last Time, premiering a Chicago-styled 12 bars of the presidential-election blues with guitarist Jeff Beck, and more than keeping up with Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters on a medley of 19th Nervous Breakdown and It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It).
Jagger’s up-hill attempts to prove himself as a solo attraction in the past have failed, but with his recent appearance on the Grammys and now with his SNL spotlight holding, the singer is a star different than before: the Betty White of rock, a late-career wrinkle to his résumé.
First up, Arcade Fire (with The Strokes’ Nikolai Fraiture) struck the thumping bass and ecstatic electric lead riff of The Rolling Stones first Jagger/Richards single. (Those red patches the Fire members were wearing were a show of support for the protesting students of Quebec. One recalls The Stones anthemic Street Fighting Man: “My name is called disturbance.”) Rumours have been circulating about a 50th-anniversary tour for the legendary English band this year, but it now looks like a tour will only happen in 2013, if it happens at all. Maybe we’ve already seen The Stones for the last time – we don’t know – but Jagger with Arcade Fire might be a better, vigorous option anyhow.
Or Jagger (who more and more looks like a healthier David Johansen of the New York Dolls) could tour with the Foo Fighters: 19th Nervous Breakdown was trashy and charged, though Jagger hit a couple notes flatly. It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll was glam, blues-sleezed and muscular – “Can’t you see, that this old boy is getting lonely?”
Jagger being lonely (or at least restless) would explain last year’s Super Heavy project, the semi-successful experiment with Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, AR Rahman and Damian Marley.
Skit-wise, Jagger impersonated Steven Tyler, the Aerosmith singer and American Idol evaluator. This was turnabout fair play, as Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry had founded their careers as the second coming of the Glimmer Twins.
Jagger, Arcade Fire, Steve Martin and cast members sent off departing SNL cast member Kristen Wiig with a farewell homage that included versions of The Stones’s She’s A Rainbow and Ruby Tuesday – “still I’m gonna miss you.”
In his 2010 autobiography, Richards gloatingly frowned upon Jagger’s solo deal with CBS Records in 1983. “Anybody can get bigheaded once in a while and think, I can do this with any old band,” he wrote. “But obviously he proved it’s not true.”
Arcade Fire and Foo Fighters aren’t any old bands, but the Satisfaction singer proved something new: That the Rolling Stones might now be millstones around his neck; that Saturday night might have been the start of something fresh; and that Jagger has done it again, for the first time.