The Rolling Stones – NRG Stadium, Houston, April 28, 2024

Usually, the hits inside the 72,000+ capacity NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, are delivered courtesy of beefy men colliding against one another in the gladiatorial contests of the National Football League. Tonight, however, it is The Rolling Stones who deliver them, in an energetic and life affirmative two-hour set that kicks off their 19-date Hackney Diamonds tour of the States and Canada.


60 years on from their first American tour, the band also tentatively navigate some nooks and crannies of their catalogue via lesser-played cuts and a handful of tunes from the album that gives this tour its name. As it transpires, the three tracks from Hackney Diamonds that make their tour debuts tonight all fit seamlessly into the wider set list. An energetic “Angry” seems to ignite a whirling, bitter-tongued Mick Jagger, while “Mess It Up” proves an uptempo jolt of contemporariness (though the raw, pile-driving “Bite My Head Off”, played at a New York record release gig, would have elevated this evening). Although Lady Gaga isn’t around to reprise her part on “Sweet Sounds Of Heaven”, the powerful and charismatic Chanel Haynes more than fills the role with gospel fervour and some testifying in Texas.


Haynes’ also proved a skitteringly evil and slinky duet partner to Jagger as they came down the runway for “Gimme Shelter“, a song has lost none of its apocalyptic edge over the years. “Sympathy For The Devil” (with its hellish-looking graphics on the back and side stage projection screens) and an ominous “Paint It, Black” also stood out. Not for the first time, when the band went “dark”, they were at their peak.

Jagger, of course, remains the consummate rock ‘n’ roll frontman, striding the lengths of the stage – including the main runway that juts into the floor seats. Strutting, swerving, swaying, shedding shirts (only to replace them) and using every inch of his toned and lean physique, he’s a powerful electric conduit to the audience.

For the most part, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood remain happy supporting players to Jagger’s magnetism. Wood takes a particularly hot solo on an emotional “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, which also features some fine work by longtime keyboardist Chuck Leavell. The stage band is filled out at times by backing vocalist Bernard Fowler – (there since 1989!), an additional keyboardist and a horn section.


Richards – surprisingly sedate this evening – seems more intently focussed on his instrument than anything else throughout the show. He got his solo spot on a rote “Little T & A”.

Pity poor bassist Darryl Jones – 30+ years of service to the Stones and yet still not an “official” member. Nevertheless, he gets a much-deserved spotlight with an extended deep bottom run on audience favourite “Miss You”. Jones locks in with drummer Steve Jordan, who brings a more muscular tone to the backbeat than his predecessor, Charlie Watts.

A couple of deeper cuts received an airing, including a frenetic “Rocks Off” from Exile On Main Street and – going back even further – the mid-‘60s pop vibe of “Out Of Time”, which Jagger says has never been played before on American soil.

As this was the opening date of the tour, of course, there are some things to iron out. Jagger mentions some Houston rehearsals (in between his Instagrammed visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center and under a giant armadillo). There is also some confabbing amongst members onstage. The working-it-out tenativeness shows in a slightly draggy “Beast Of Burden”, while “Honky Tonk Women” feels surprisingly disjointed.

The set closer, predictably, is “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. While the Stones would likely have been stoned by the audience if it wasn’t included, it ended the evening on a high note inside the stadium. Though a better ending for future gigs might have just Jagger and Richards, alone on stools with harmonica and acoustic guitar, reprise Hackney Diamonds’ album closer “Rolling Stone Blues”: the Muddy Waters‘ number from which they took their name bringing it all back home.

In 2024, the Rolling Stones are alone among their ’60s contemporaries who continue to put on a rock ‘n’ roll circus at this scale. And as big tent shows go, this one hasn’t lost any of its magic to enthral and entertain.

Houston set-list:

Start Me Up
Get Off My Cloud
Rocks Off 
Out Of Time 
Beast Of Burden
Mess It Up
Tumbling Dice 
Can’t Always Get What You Want 
Little T&A
Sympathy For The Devil
Gimme Shelter
Honky Tonk Women 
Miss You
Paint It Black
Jumping Jack Flash

Sweet Sounds Of Heaven 
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction