An hour into a rousing show at London's O2 Arena, things were going great. After a speech from Mick Jagger in which he and the crowd mutually agreed to pretend that the opening set by Scouting For Girls hadn't happened, the band went right into it, mixing old favourites like Under My Thumb and She's A Rainbow with less appreciated but still excellent tracks like You Got Me Rocking and Undercover Of The Night. Start Me Up, Paint It Black, It's Only Rock 'N' Roll, the classics kept coming, sounding great, feeling great.
But then after an epic Brown Sugar, a pall suddenly fell over proceedings. The band looked at each other for a long time, fear and a sort of nervous sickness apparent in their faces. The lighting seemed to go grey. Wearily, suddenly drained of life, Jagger slumped towards the microphone and mumbled, barely audibly, "I suppose we have to play Satis-bloody-fucking-faction now".
Keith's annoyance was visible and Charlie Watts' eye rolling could've been seen from the stalls. As the well-known riff began, a huge roar of protest swelled up from the crowd.
"Now, now, come on" said Jagger. "Let's just get it over with alright, we don't like it any more than you do."
"Do you have to play that fucking song at every show?" cried a heckler. "I didn't come hear to listen to a song I hear fifty times a day on the classic rock radio station!"
"Boo!" came general cries from the audience. "Sell out rockstars riding on old hits! Play something fresh and exciting! We don't want these tired old dinosaur numbers! We're bored to tears of Satisfaction! Why don't you play Laugh I Nearly Died?"
Soon a mantra like chant began to fill the stadium. "LAUGH I NEARLY DIED. LAUGH I NEARLY DIED. LAUGH I NEARLY DIED. LAUGH I NEARLY DIED."
It was as though the band had been reborn, phoenix like, suddenly alive with passion and wonder. "You're right" Jagger nearly shrieked. "We don't have to play Satisfaction 10,000 times a year, do we?" Keith seemed suddenly to be two feet taller. "We can actually surprise and entertain our audience!"
The Rolling Stones completed the set with a dizzying whirlwind of improvised pieces, Jagger reciting lysergic tone poetry over beats and riffs redolent with hints of world music, hip-hop, jazz, chamber music and reggae.
The audience all agreed that it was just about the worst thing they had ever heard, but at least the band had been surprising for once.