Maybe my 81-year-old mother is right. He's young yet, she says with a dismissive wave of her hand, whenever the subject of Mick Jagger's age (62) and inexhaustible energy supply is broached. It's all about perspective.
For all the jokes about wheelchairs, rest homes, and nicknames like Rolling Bones (although the band's skinny guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood did resemble decadently dressed-up Halloween skeletons), fans of the Rolling Stones know that, like the song ''Start Me Up" says, they'll never stop. Sunday night's sizzling two-hour performance -- the second of the band's latest two-night stand here -- threw the question back at skeptics who harp on the age/relevancy issue (not that there were many among the sold-out Garden faithful): Why should they? Just look at them. Better yet, just listen to them.
Creative relevancy may be another matter -- the band's much-ballyhooed latest, ''A Bigger Bang" album is decent and even occasionally delicious, but is by no means a Stones classic. But in terms of performance, the Stones' vitality remains undimmed, their signature chemistry and DNA as a rock life force undiluted. And if songs like ''Gimme Shelter," ''Brown Sugar," and ''Honky Tonk Women" ever do become irrelevant, rock 'n' roll will be in a very sad place, indeed.
The moment he bounded out in full Mick strut -- a gyrating, pinwheeling, Tasmanian Devil -- into the crunchy center of the blaring Richards and Wood riff onslaught, ''Jumpin' Jack Flash," Jagger as curiosity piece gave way to Jagger as master showman. From there it was straight into 1967's ''Let's Spend the Night Together" and then ''Rough Justice" from 38 years later -- a throwaway, but a fun, raggedly familiar joyride nonetheless, with Wood supplying slippery slide guitar.
There's less red rooster and more pep-rally booster to Sir Mick's moves these days -- a concession to the bigger theatrics required of an enormous stage -- but you still get what you need at a Stones show: electricity personified, and a trenchant reading of ''You Can't Always Get What You Want." Although overall, the band played it hit-heavy safe, the scuffed, semi-rare gem ''Rocks Off" was an orgiastic stew of nasty licks (with Richards deploying low-slung flourishes on guitar) and brassy kicks from the four-piece horn section (the Stones were born to be a soul band with horns). ''Memory Motel," with tasty vamping from Mick, and Keith's nicotine-stained refrain, shimmered.
''Boston, you're becoming a habit -- and you know what I'm like," a smiling Richards said by way of introducing his spare saloon ballad, ''This Place Is Empty," and alluding to his chemically enhanced past. The number made for one of the evening's few lulling moments, but Keith's hot-wired ''Happy" quickly made up ground. As it had Friday night, the stage broke in two and became a moving float that brought the band to the middle of the Garden for a clutch of classics, including ''Get Off of My Cloud." The Eastern-tinged ''Paint It Black," its kinetic rhythm articulated by every crisp cymbal crash and beat by drummer Charlie Watts, was an ancient jewel, dusted off and polished as if to summon the spectral presence of Brian Jones.
The band closed with a snorting, exhorting ''(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" that sent the sonic shrapnel flying and confetti streamers showering from the rafters over the audience. Maybe Mick couldn't get it for himself, but some four decades after he first tried, he gave it to us again.
Why should we have been surprised? He's young yet.