NEW YORK — It sure didn’t feel like a farewell.
The Rolling Stones — average age 68, if you’re counting — were in rollicking form as they rocked the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for 2 1/2 hours Saturday night, their first U.S. show on a mini-tour marking a mind-boggling 50 years as a rock band.
And though every time the Stones tour, the inevitable questions arise as to whether it’s "The Last Time,” to quote one of their songs, there was no sign that anything is ending.
"People say, why do you keep doing this?” mused Mick Jagger, the band’s impossibly energetic frontman, before launching into "Brown Sugar.” "Why do you keep touring, coming back? The answer is, you’re the reason we’re doing this. Thank you for buying our records and coming to our shows for the last 50 years.”
Jagger was in top form, with all of his usual swagger — strutting, jogging, skipping and pumping his arms like a man half his age. And though he briefly donned a flamboyant feathered black cape for "Sympathy for the Devil” and later, some red-sequined tails, he was mostly content to prowl the stage in a tight black T-shirt and trousers.
The four grizzled rock icons — Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and of course drummer Charlie Watts, were joined Saturday by singer Mary J. Blige, who sang a searing "Gimme Shelter” with Jagger, and the Texas blues guitarist Gary Parker Jr.
The band played a generous 23 songs, including two new ones, but mostly old favorites. The rousing encore included "Jumping Jack Flash,” of course, but the final song was "Satisfaction.” And though the song speaks of not getting any, the consensus of the packed 18,000-seat arena was that it was a hugely satisfying evening indeed.
"If you like the Stones, this was as good a show as you could have had,” said one fan, Robert Nehring, 58, of Westfield, N.J.
The Brooklyn show followed two rapturously received shows in London late last month. The band also will play two shows in Newark, N.J., on Dec. 13 and 15. Before that, they will join a veritable who’s who of British rock royalty and U.S. superstars at the blockbuster 12-12-12 Sandy benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. Also scheduled to perform: Paul McCartney, the Who, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Eddie Vedder, Billy Joel, Roger Waters and Chris Martin.
In a flurry of anniversary activity, the band also released a hits compilation last month with two new songs, "Doom and Gloom” and "One More Shot,” and HBO premiered a new documentary on their formative years, "Crossfire Hurricane.”
The Stones formed in London in 1962 to play Chicago blues, led at the time by the late Brian Jones and pianist Ian Stewart, along with Jagger and Richards, who’d met on a train platform a year earlier. Bassist Bill Wyman and Watts were quick additions.
Wyman, who left the band in 1992, was a guest at the London shows last month, as was Mick Taylor, the celebrated former Stones guitarist who left in 1974 — to be replaced by Wood, the newest Stone and the youngster at 65.
The inevitable questions have been swirling about the next step for the Stones: another huge global tour, on the scale of their last one, "A Bigger Bang,” which earned more than $550 million between 2005 and 2007? Something a bit smaller? Or is this mini-tour, in the words of their new song, really "One Last Shot”?
The Stones won’t say. But in an interview last month, they made clear they felt the 50th anniversary was something to be marked.
"I thought it would be kind of churlish not to do something,” Jagger told the Associated Press. "Otherwise, the BBC would have done a rather dull film about the Rolling Stones.”
Associated Press writer David Bauder contributed to this report.