BOSTON -- Rolling Stones fans at the TD Banknorth Garden got a distinctly Boston-flavored show on Friday night.
The Stones played the second of two near-sellout shows at the Garden as part of the band's "50 and Counting Tour." The band is celebrating the 51 years the Rolling Stones have been playing music.
As for the Boston theme, Friday night's show featured "Memory Motel," last played in 1998, which, of course, contains the line "When I asked where she headed for / ‘Back up to Boston, I'm singing in a bar.' "
Later in the set, there was a little darker reminder of the influence Boston has had on this band when lead vocalist Mick Jagger sang the lines, "Well, have you heard about the Boston -- honey!" an ominous reference to the Boston Strangler, who terrorized this city around the time the Stones were touring the States for the first time.
Overall, Friday's show was 100 percent undistilled Rolling Stones: No cover tunes and no special guest stars. The latter was a welcome change from most of the rest of the tour, which featured a varied roster of A- and B-List artists (which, in the opinion of this humble reviewer, produced greatly mixed results).
The band was superb. No hyperbole; there is good reason for this. First, there is simply no better rock drummer than Charlie Watts: 50 years in, Watts remains the steady, reliable backbone of the Stones' sound. When Watts is introduced, the salaams of praise the other band members bestow upon him are not in jest.
Secondly, the guys are all sober now. Everybody hits their mark, the solos are crisper and the songs are tighter. On Friday night, the energy was there, the chops were there and, of course, the material is always electric. What's the big mystery?
n Lise Fischer's turn on the vocals in "Gimme Shelter" remain spine-chilling.
n Mick Taylor. The Stones' guitarist of four decades ago isn't the willowy artiste he was in 1972. But his guitar skills remain formidable. He appeared only twice in the show, but his otherworldly solo on "Midnight Rambler" gave the song a dark, eerie tone. When he teamed with Keith Rchards and Ronnie Wood on "Satisfaction," it was a powerful triple-lead guitar punch.
n Bobby Keys. The Stones' house saxophonist for 40-plus years always makes his one or two solos count and did so on "Brown Sugar" and "Miss You" on Friday.
n The Boston University Marsh Chapel Choir delivered a lovely choral intro to "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
Individual songs that stood out included the Watts-flavored "It's Only Rock N' Roll" and "Tumbling Dice"; Richards' solos on "Sympathy For The Devil" and "All Down the Line" and Woods' slide guitar on several numbers, including "Rambler."
The eternal Jagger remains a marvel of energy and affability. He doesn't move quite as quickly as he did, say, 20 years ago, but there are few -- if any -- front men who are his equal in getting a crowd up and moving as Jagger did on Friday.
Long may they all play.