At the Rolling Stones concert held on Thursday 19 October at the Racket club in New York there was a big final surprise: Lady Gaga joined Mick Jagger and companions to sing the song live Sweet Sounds of Heavena song in which the singer lends her voice to the Stones’ new album, Hackney Diamonds. Nobody expected to see her go on stage. The pop star had been watching the show from backstage all evening, unseen by the audience.
What we define as a “Rolling Stones concert” actually didn’t present itself as such: the band itself had defined it as a big party.
The invitation actually spoke of an “Album launch party”, referring to the newly released album Hackney Diamonds.
“We were told that all phones and smartwatches would be placed in designated pockets, and that ‘armed guards’ and ‘personal security’ would not be allowed. ‘Dress cool,’ the invitation read. ‘It’s a party!’”, says Andy Greene in an article recently published in the American edition of the magazine Rolling Stone.
The party started with a DJ set by Questlove and Samantha Urbani while the VIP section was filled with people like Elvis Costello, Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Chris Rock, we learn from RS USA. Rumors had been circulating all week that the Rolling Stones would be playing a mini set. “The stage was set with their instruments, but it seemed like an impossible dream that the biggest rock band in the world would be playing in a 600-capacity club that had two nights on the calendar featuring Ben Kweller and a Talking Heads tribute band,” writes Andy Greene. And finally the dream came true: the lights dimmed after 10pm and the Rolling Stones actually took to the small stage. The basic lineup of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, bassist Darryl Jones and drummer Steve Jordan were accompanied only by keyboardist Matt Clifford and background singer Chanel Haynes.” However, longtime keyboard player Chuck Leavell, backing vocalists Bernard Fowler and Sasha Allen, and horn players Karl Denson and Tim Ries were missing.
“How are you?” Jagger asked the audience. “Are you having fun? We’ll play the old songs and the new ones!”.
The evening turned into a riot of surprises and twists, the biggest of which was Lady Gaga’s appearance on stage.
You can watch the video of Lady Gaga’s performance with the Rolling Stones in the clip at the bottom of this article.
A concert that took place like a big party
The Stones started with an old song from 1978, Shattereda tribute to the New York that hosted them last night.
“This was the Rolling Stones’ first performance in over a year, and there had been concern in some circles when a planned summer tour was canceled without explanation,” notes Greene. But he adds that last night there was no hitch or even any kind of “sign of rust” in those eternal boys who seem to have sold their souls to the devil at Robert Johnson’s crossroads… “Jagger was in perfect shape while he moved on the narrow stage.”
They then moved on to perform the songs from the new album live for the first time, starting with Angry And Whole Wide World. The magazine Rolling Stone calls them two of the best songs of Hackney Diamondswhich in turn some define as the best album by the British band released in recent decades.
Mick Jagger: “We always seem to launch our new albums in New York”
At one point Mick Jagger admitted: “We always seem to launch our new albums in New York. We did it on a blimp in 2002, on a flatbed truck down Fifth Avenue in 1975. We did it in a convertible crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in 1997, and on a train pulling into Grand Central in 1989. We felt the lack of launches, so we had to do another album to come back and re-launch it.”
Then they played Tumblin’ Diceoffering a fast and raw version, similar to the original contained on the album Exile on Main Street.
“This is the first time we’ve played a club in New York in a long time,” Jagger said when the song ended. “I used to come to this club when it was called Highline, then Blow, and then Powder.”
Jagger: “It’s great to be here making noise!”
The Stones frontman electrified everyone with his determination and innate enthusiasm. “It’s great to be here making noise! And we’ll make even more noise with the next song. Is called Bite My Head Off”.
This is the song of Hackney Diamonds on whose recording the bassist of the Stones’ eternal rival band, the Beatles, played. There’s Paul McCartney on bass and, like Greene’s RS points out, it would have been a truly historic moment to see him take the stage as a guest, but unfortunately he is on tour in Australia with his band.
Then the group played Jumpin’ Jack Flash and seeing that performance up close in a club instead of an 80,000-seat stadium “was simply surreal”, those present said. “And even though they’ve played it more than 1,200 times in the past 55 years, more than any other song in their vast catalog, nothing about the performance felt even remotely routine,” Andy Greene said.
The grand finale with Lady Gaga singing Sweet Sounds of Heaven with them
Eventually the Rolling Stones left the stage, then after a minute they returned to play the song live for the first time Sweet Sounds of Heaven of the album Hackney Diamonds (it’s the penultimate track on the new album). Lady Gaga is there to sing it with them on the album. Seeing her unexpectedly go on stage to join Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and co was mind-blowing.
Lady Gaga was dressed in a flashy bell-bottom jumpsuit, half burgundy and half black, and high stilettos.
In Sweet Sound of Heaven, Gaga provides counterpoint to Jagger’s lead vocal. “On the album she tends to be a bit emphatic, but it’s another story to see her duetting with Jagger, smiling and cheering each other on,” writes Jim Aswad in an article that recently appeared in the American magazine Variety.
In addition to Lady Gaga – who we can define as the guest of honor of this concert party – many stars of the show were present, including Daniel Craig, Mary Kate Olsen, Chris Rock, Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, Taylor Hill, Rachel Weisz, Christie Brinkley, Ed Burns, Keegan-Michael Key, Minka Kelly, Christy Turlington, Hackney Diamonds producer Andrew Watt and others, with Elvis Costello and Diana Krall. Questlove DJed both before and after the performance.
You can watch the video of Lady Gaga’s performance with the Rolling Stones in the clip below.