The Rolling Stones completed their two-show siege of Fenway Park with another over-the-top display of staging and music last night. The sound was better, the lighting was more coordinated, and any glitches from day one were far less apparent. And day one was already pretty flawless by opening-night standards.
It's hard to critique last night's show if you hadn't seen it before. However, if you caught the Sunday opener, you couldn't fail to notice that it had an almost identical set list. The only change was substituting the song ''Bitch" for ''Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" about midway through the show.
It seems that the Stones are going to use a more rigid set list on this tour, after really mixing it up on their last world tour. That was especially true in Boston in 2002 when they moved from the FleetCenter to Gillette Stadium to the Orpheum in succession. Fans got used to a rotating set list -- and it was a bit of a shock to see things fall back into rigidity at Fenway. They even did the same four new songs from their forthcoming album, ''A Bigger Bang," yet it would have been nice to see them debut some others.
That said, the show was still phenomenal. It's shaping up to be easily the best stadium tour by the Stones since 1988's ''Steel Wheels." The Stones are already the Dorian Grays of rock 'n' roll -- most are in their 60s but they perform like musicians half their age -- and this new tour is their most animated spectacle yet. Singer Mick Jagger was all over the Fenway outfield last night, racing along catwalks on each side the stage, and up flights of stairs to an overhead perch for ''Sympathy for the Devil," as jets of fire shot up from the top of the 90-foot-high stage (which looked like a futuristic airport terminal with two balconies in back full of standing-room-only patrons) with such intensity that fans could feel the fire's heat well into the crowd.
The Stones were clearly on a mission to prove they could still rock. With celebrity guests Whoopi Goldberg, John Kerry, and Sox owner John Henry in the house, the Stones blistered through their first three songs (''Start Me Up," ''You Got Me Rocking," and ''Shattered") in tight-combo, clubland fashion. These featured just the core unit, allowing guitarists Keith Richards and Ron Wood to interact with swashbuckling glee. It wasn't until the fourth tune, ''Tumbling
The unquestioned highlights last night were the punky oldie, ''She's So Cold" (which the Stones have rarely performed) and the rip-roaring blast of tunes done on the B stage in the middle of the field: ''Miss You," the new rocker ''Oh No, Not You Again," the venerable ''(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" with Jagger prancing like a madman, and concert staple ''Honky Tonk Women." Fans around the B stage were dancing as though it were closing time at Avalon.
The Stones again excelled with their Ray Charles tribute on ''Night Time is the Right Time" (featuring a smoking duet between Jagger and backup singer Lisa Fischer while photos of the classy Charles were shown on the 60-foot-high video screen). They also soared on the climactic troika of ''Sympathy for the Devil," ''Jumpin' Jack Flash," and ''Brown Sugar" before the same encores of ''You Can't Always Get What You Want" and ''It's Only Rock 'N' Roll."
Bottom line: The Stones had definitely improved from the first night, as had opening act Black Eyed Peas, which delivered its party funk with more confidence and style.