All kinds of comments can be made about The Rolling Stones as the band embarks on its "50 and Counting" tour.
"They're kind of old," would likely be the first.
Yes, lead singer Mick Jagger is 69 and drummer Charlie Watts is 72. Guitarist Keith Richards? It's hard to tell how old he is; he looks ancient, but has a transcendent Buddha smile, especially when puffing a smoke.
But at Oakland's Oracle Arena Sunday evening, the tour's second stop (the first was Friday night in Los Angeles), the Stones' energetic, hours-long performance dared anyone to say they were not the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band.
The group has been active for five decades and counting and their peers don't really exist any more. How the Stones have managed to remain center stage for so long is part of their mystique, but their blistering, 23-song, two-hour-and-20-minute show Sunday night proved that they still belong there.
The music still matters to them and they played the hit-drenched concert with intensity and conviction. Jagger comes from the old "you will be entertained" school of showmanship. He shimmied, skipped, danced, waved, and clapped just about every moment the lights were up. He seemed to search the on-their-feet capacity crowd (mostly middle-aged, but with definitely a younger factions as well) for someone not dancing and singing along.
Bursting out in a sparkling, royal blue jacket and matching shirt, Jagger rarely stopped moving as the band ripped through "Get Off My Cloud," "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll," and "Live With Me" to open the show.
The stage protruded from the open lips of the iconic Stones logo that framed it, with a "tongue pit" of several hundred audience members positioned in front of it.
Guitarists Richards and Ronnie Wood stalked the stage behind Jagger, chopping out Chuck Berry-based rhythm riffs and trading solos as they would do through out the show.
"We've been in Los Angeles for a month," Jagger said during a short break. "I woke this morning and saw something I hadn't seen in a while - people walking. I thought I'd try it so I went down to Fisherman's Warf and then Golden Gate Park. It was quite nice."
Jagger then said the band was going to play "an old blues" tune and Tom Waits shambled out to the microphone next to Jagger. The band launched into "Little Red Rooster," with Jagger and Waits trading choruses and the Stones singer adding a harmonica solo to Woods lead slide guitar.
All you really need to know about the Stones these days came during the song "All Down the Line" - not exactly an obscure track, but one of their many exceptional songs that doesn't get played very often.
Opening side four of one their arguably greatest albums - 1972's "Exile On Main St.," the song has a bluesy, gospel core that gives way to Richard's chunky rhythm and Woods' insistent lead fills, accompanied by a horn backing.
During the song, Jagger skipped around the stage's outer rim, exhorting the crowd as his life depended on their involvement, and the powerful groove held everyone at Oracle in the pocket of its sway.
A beaming Richards soloed on "Before They Make You Run" and "Happy," saying, as he always does, "I'm very happy to be here, but then I'm very happy to be any where."
Former Stones lead guitarist Mick Taylor came out for "Midnight Rambler," though his solo seemed to lose steam.
The band closed the set with a blistering trio of "Tumbling Dice," "Brown Sugar," and "Sympathy For the Devil." A choir from San Jose State University flanked the stage for a swelling encore of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," which was followed by "Jumping Jack Flash," and "Satisfaction."
Sure, their best songs are 30 years old. But so what? The band played them for keeps and the audience was there to live them in the moment.
Call The Bee's Call The Bee's Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.
"Get Off My Cloud"
"It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)"
"Live With Me"
"Paint It Black"
"Little Red Roster" with Tom Waits
"All Down the Line"
"Doom and Gloom"
"One More Shot"
"Honky Tonk Women"
"Before They Make You Run"
"Midnight Rambler" with Mick Taylor
"Start Me Up"
"Sympathy For The Devil"
"You Can't Always Get What You Want"
"Jumping Jack Flash"
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"