Fresh from White House show, Mick Jagger says: ‘Every gig is a gig’


Mick Jagger performs at a White House concert celebrating the history of the blues. (AP)

We don’t need Maroon 5’s ubiquitous pop hit “Moves Like Jagger” to remind us that the physicality of rock-and-roll still lives in Mick Jagger’s muscle tissue.

On Tuesday, the 68-year-old Rolling Stones frontman threw limb and larynx into a concert at the White House honoring the American blues, strutting, stomping, huffing and howling beneath the East Room chandeliers.

Eyebrows and heart rates were raised — but imagine if he had just stood politely behind the microphone. Would it have been a Mick Jagger performance?

“Uh, no,” said Jagger, phoning from his New York hotel room on Thursday. “I don’t think I can do that.”

Performing alongside B.B. King, Buddy Guy, fellow British invader Jeff Beck and others on Tuesday, Jagger helped trigger the show’s surprise finale by passing his microphone to President Obama so that he could croon a few lines of “Sweet Home Chicago.”

Guitarist Keith Richards wasn’t in tow, but with the Rolling Stones celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, we might see the duo on stage in the near future. “Well, we’re talking about it,” Jagger said of a possible upcoming Stones tour. Until then, don’t miss Jagger’s moves when “In Performance at the White House” airs Monday on WETA at 9 p.m.

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Are you the first person to wear bright red cross-trainers to a formal White House function?

Probably . . . I think performers can sort of wear what they want. And they did! Did you like B.B.’s flowery jacket? That was nice.

Nearly every artist who’s performed for this administration has said they were nervous before going on stage. But you didn’t seem nervous at all.

I don’t want to sound blasé . . . but every gig is a gig, right? If you’re rehearsed, you don’t get nervous. That’s my thing. I only get nervous when I don’t know what I’m doing.

But how do you walk into a setting as formal as the East Room and light the place up?

It didn’t feel formal when you had those musicians up on stage, y’know what I mean? When you first walk in you go, “Oooh, yeah. This is a bit odd.” But it’s a stage. And I think all of the performers felt the same way… It didn’t feel stiff. Did it to you?

No, but some White House performances in the past . . .

I spoke to one of the organizing people and they said they have felt a bit stuffy in the past. And this didn’t.

Did you ever think you’d be handing a microphone to the president of the United States?

No, that wasn’t on the list of things I expected to do. It was just a moment. And I was the only one with a spare mike!

Did the president and first lady have any thoughts for you after the show?

I saw them before. I saw him at the rehearsal and the first lady was very kind to wear L’Wren Scott, [the fashion line of Jagger’s girlfriend, L’Wren Scott], so that was a very nice added extra.

Between songs, you took special care to speak about the importance of the American blues artists who influenced you. How come?

Well, I thought it was, y’know, a show for the blues. So I thought I would just put in my two cents — my memories from my point of view. So that was a sort of personal reminiscence . . . And with B.B. being there, I was remembering all these people and how great they’d been to us. So I thought it was a good place to say it.

Many have credited the Rolling Stones with introducing America to its own music while others have said rock-and-roll has unfairly profited from the blues. Where do you sit with all that in 2012?

It’s a whole sort of can of worms, isn’t it really? . . . When we first came to the United States, the blues had been largely forgotten — not forgotten — but it was not the music of contemporary black America, right? It was, perhaps, ignored to some extent. The good part of it is we talked about it a lot. And people listened.

You sounded good up there alongside Jeff Beck, but did Keith not get an invite?

I don’t know anything about the invites or who was playing with who. I was just asked to do the gig and I accepted. I didn’t even really know who was coming. There were a lot of people who were asked. I was expecting to be playing with James Cotton, which I was really looking forward to, but he wasn’t [available]. And we didn’t really know that B.B. was going to come — that was a bit last minute. But I think there were a lot of very interesting people [on the bill].

I saw you tweeting up a storm during the rehearsals and after the show. You were particularly excited about this gig, huh?

It was great because there was Buddy [Guy] and B.B. and I always love seeing them play. And being given a chance to be on stage with them and being able to interact with them is always a thrill. Some other players, like Gary Clark [Jr.] . . . and Keb Mo, I had never seen live before, to be honest. I thought they were really good.

How did that thrill compare to playing for the first couple?

I want to energize the room. If they’re energized, fantastic. I loved it. They seemed to be very enthusiastic and it was a really great show. I hope they enjoyed it and I’m very honored to have played the White House.

I was surprised everyone made it through the evening without making a “Moves Like Jagger” joke.

I know! I was gonna do it but then I did my blues appreciation speech instead.

What do you think of that song?

I hear it all the time. It’s a very long-lived song, isn’t it? That and Adele. Still playing. I get into the car, and there it is, still. And then I go to the club and there it is . . .

Aside from the younger artists you got to meet over the weekend in D.C., who else is making music that excites you right now?

I like the Black Keys’ last album . . . I forgot the title of it. A Spanish name.

“El Camino.”

“El Camino.” I like that album. It was a good, kind of bluesy, yet somehow... “pop” is the wrong word. It’s a good combination of sounds and songs. I really enjoy that album.

Do you still hear the Stones’ legacy in today’s music?

Yeah! I think there’s some of the Stones’ legacy in that album. Maybe that’s why I like it.

Chris Richards became the Post's pop music critic in 2009. He has covered D.I.Y. house shows, White House concerts, go-go and Gaga.
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