BOSTON (AP) _ Fenway Park is to baseball what The Rolling Stones are to rock 'n' roll: Part icon, part relic, part survivor. So it was perfectly fitting that the ageless rockers would launch their latest North American tour on what Keith Richards himself called ``hallowed ground.''
Hallowed ground was in fact the Fenway outfield, filled by a gargantuan stage that stretched from the famed ``Green Monster'' in left field to the bullpens in right field, and rose some three stories into the air.
``It's great to be back here in Boston,'' chirped Mick Jagger, moments after the Stones opened the show on a hot, steamy night by ripping through the classic ``Start Me Up.'' It was the second time in a row the band had opened a major tour in Boston, having kicked off ``Forty Licks'' in 2002 indoors at the FleetCenter.
After ``You Got Me Rocking,'' from 1993's Voodoo Lounge, the Stones belted out ``Shattered,'' the first of three songs from the 1978 album ``Some Girls.'' There was the staple ``Tumblin' Dice,'' from 1972's Exile on Main Street, followed by ``Rough Justice,'' the first single off ``A Bigger Bang,'' which, set for release next month, is their first new studio album in eight years.
The Stones, however, did not perform ``Sweet Neo-Con,'' an overtly political song from the new album that seems to take aim at the Bush administration in everything but name.
To use another baseball metaphor, the Stones may have lost a little off their fastball. But like a veteran pitcher who makes up for it with great location and command of his pitches, the Stones more than compensate with great timing and an uncanny ability to connect with their audience.
There was Jagger, 62, strutting, swiveling his hips, clapping his hands above his head, racing from one end of the giant stage to another _ in short, doing everything that one expects from Jagger, regardless of age. There was Richards, 61, knees bent, kicking one leg into the air as he delivered one driving guitar riff after another.
The other core members of the Stones, drummer Charlie Watts and guitarist Ron Wood, were equally sharp throughout the roughly two-hour, 22-song show.
But there were also moments when the band seemed rushed as well as moments when the show seemed to drag, if ever slightly. And there were moments when the massive stage almost seemed to work against the band, causing the players to be too spread out and resulting in a loss of spontaneity and give and take between the band.
Fortunately, that changed about midway through the show, when one small section of the stage lifted up hydraulically and carried the entire band about 50 feet or so into the heart of the crowd seated in the Fenway outfield. The ensuing set would be the most intimate and energetic of the show, beginning with ``Beast of Burden,'' from ``Some Girls,'' followed by ``Oh No, Not You Again,'' from ``A Bigger Bang,'' and a pair of classics: ``Satisfaction,'' and ``Honky Tonk Woman.''
``Satisfaction,'' now more than 40 years old, came off surprisingly fresh, and the crowd's response was jubilant.
The kickoff show ended with a flurry of tried and true favorites, including ``Jumpin' Jack Flash,'' ``Sympathy for the Devil'' _ punctuated by bursts of flames from the top of the stage _ and finally ``Brown Sugar.''
The encore included the 1970s ballad ``You Can't Always Get What You Want,'' with the crowd only too eager to join in the refrain, ``but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.'' Truly, the Stones delivered a show that, if not perfect, was pretty much what their legions of graying baby boomer fans needed.
The Stones will play another show at Fenway Park on Tuesday, before continuing on with what is currently a 42-show, 37-city tour.