It is unfortunate that the first thing many people think of when they hear that the Rolling Stones are on tour is how old the guys are.
So let's address that first.
Are they old? Yes. And every close-up on the high-def giant video screen shows the years of experience on each face.
Are they too old? I don't think there is anyone who was at the Wells Fargo Center tonight who could answer yes to that.
Of course, I remember people complaining that the Stones were too old when I went to see them for the first time at JFK Stadium in 1981. They were around 40 at that point, over the hill for a rock and roll band. Even Mick was thinking that he might be nearing the end the line.
But they caught a second wind, and a third and, well, here we are for their golden anniversary celebration.
They started this 50 and Counting Tour with a quick group of concerts around New York late last year, and I caught one of their Newark shows. My review to friends then was that they were still the "greatest rock and roll band in the world."
Tonight, though, they were better. Since picking up this second leg of the tour in L.A. last month, they have loosened up, they're in sync, they've ironed out some of the rough patches (and look, Stones fans admit, the rough patches are part of the fun), and they showed a rapt house in South Philadelphia that they are not an oldies act. They are a rock band.
As they have for this entire tour they opened with "Get Off Of My Cloud," Mick strutting the lip-adorned stage in a metallic jacket. Are we sure this guy has aged at all since he strutted around the stage in an Uncle Sam hat in 1969? In football pants and kneepads in 1981?
From that point on it was one classic hit after another, until they performed their two new songs, and that was when it was clear, these guys are good, and their fans love them. Instead of using "Doom and Gloom" and "One Shot" as bathroom breaks or beer runs, the crowd stayed put. No one ever likes a band's new stuff. They liked it tonight.
As they have throughout this tour, the band had a couple of guests. Brad Paisley joined them for "Dead Flowers." Keith and his Telecaster stood back and watched Brad and his Telecaster share the front of the stage with Mick. The song and the guest were a great mix. Was it really a coincidence that "Dead Flowers" was the fan's request for the night in the band's online poll?
The other guest was former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. He has joined them throughout the tour on "Midnight Rambler" and "Satisfaction." Mick's departure from the band in 1974 was odd. There was talk then that he never felt like he fit in. He fit in tonight. His back and forth with Mick Jagger's harmonica ranged from intimate to searing. In Newark, Taylor seemed like a visitor, in Philadelphia he stood in a row alongside Ronnie (his successor) and Keith and the three played like they had been doing it together for a lifetime.
From start to finish, Mick Jagger paraded, swaggered, sashayed, pranced (get the thesaurus, he did all of those things). He made faces that can only be described as Jaggeresque. Somehow he still manages the falsetto in "Emotional Rescue," the "ooooh ooooh oooooooh ooh oooooooh" in "Miss You" and the tender tones of "Wild Horses." For some fans his one misstep was thanking Mayor Nutter for his hospitality, which led to the only boos of the night.
Philadelphia's Crossing Choir joined the band for "You Can't Always Get What You Want," I think they were having as much fun as the fans.
It all ended with "Satisfaction."
31 years after I heard them first perform it, 48 years after they recorded it, I fear it may be the last time I ever hear it live, although, as they have shown through 50 and Counting they aren't slowing down, they're somehow getting better.
If you have a chance to see them Friday for their second show, go. These guys aren't getting any younger... are they?