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Stones Roll On

It was 1962 when some scruffy English lads formed a band called the Rolling Stones and quickly began driving out the last vestiges of polite rock 'n' roll in a torrent of driving blues riffs and dark, angry lyrics.

As they launch their 40th anniversary U.S. tour - beginning Tuesday in Boston - the Stones are out to prove that age is no obstacle. So what if newly-knighted Mick Jagger is 59, and the two other original Stones, Keith Richards and drummer Charlie Watts, are 58 and 61, respectively?

The 25-city, 40-show "Licks" tour is the first major one since 1975 not built around the launch of a new studio album. (In October, the band will release the 2-CD "Forty Licks," a compilation of favorite tunes from the four decades that will also include four new songs.)

It will stop in large outdoor stadiums, medium-sized indoor arenas, and smaller, intimate theaters. For each venue, the band promises not only a different kind of stage show, but a wider selection of music.

Tour director Michael Cohl says the Stones have rehearsed about 130 songs. Moreover, says Cohl, they have reached into their archives for material that has rarely, if ever, been played live.

Depending on the venue, ticket-holders could be treated to either a dose of classic hits like "Satisfaction," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," and "Start Me Up," or to less familiar blend of "thematic" material ranging from rhythm and blues to soul.

Boston is the test ground for this concept.

At the 19,000-seat FleetCenter, Cohl says the setlist will be "peppered with greatest hits," but as much as 50 percent of the show could be what he calls "diamonds in the rough."

On Thursday, the Stones move to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the new 68,000-seat home of the New England Patriots, where Cohl promises eye-popping special effects on the band's most elaborate stage ever. For this and other stadium shows, he says the song selection will include "one or two new ones, two or three diamonds in the rough, and 19 or 20 that appeal to the masses."

Sunday's show will be on a stripped-down stage at Boston's 2,800-seat Orpheum Theater, where Cohl says the setlist could include just about anything the Stones feel like playing.

Tickets at some venues are selling for up to $350.

Historically, the Stones out-gross all other acts on the years they tour, and the $121.2 million they earned in 1994 remains a music industry record.

By Bob Salsberg