By Sue Zeidler
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Rolling Stones rocked a packed house in Los Angeles on Friday on the opening night of their North American "50 and Counting" tour, but only after websites slashed ticket prices and the band released additional cheap seats at the last minute.
The 17-date tour is the veteran British rockers' biggest in six years and follows a handful of dates in London, Paris and New York at the end of 2012 marking 50 years since they burst on to the music scene at London's Marquee Club in 1962.
"We first played LA in 1965. Thank you for coming to see us. We really appreciate it," frontman Mick Jagger said late on Friday during the show at Staples Center.
The 69-year-old strutted and gyrated in his trademark style through a string of classic Stones hits including "Gimme Shelter," "Paint it Black" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash."
Celebrities like Jack Nicholson and Melanie Griffith attended the show, which also featured guest performances by singer Gwen Stefani on "Wild Horses" and Keith Urban on "Respectable."
Days before the show, hundreds of seats were still available and secondary sellers scrambled to unload tickets by slashing prices from the original $250 to $600 price range which had irked many of even the most die-hard Stones fans.
The band also released additional seats at a modest $85 on its official website this week, the only price point that quickly sold out for the May 3 concert.
Buyers who opted to buy the $85 seats online were instructed to line up at the arena just before the show, and were told they would be notified of their locations which could range anywhere for prime seating to further back in the venue.
"It's very thrilling. It's like gambling and the Stones all rolled into one," said Los Angeles realtor Kelley Miller, who had bought a pair of $85 seats along with some friends, and stood in line to find out where they would be sitting.
Miller and her friends said they were happy to be seated anywhere at that price.
Among the highlights of the evening were the show's opening number "Satisfaction", performed by the UCLA Marching Band and the Stones' rendition of "You Can't Always Get What You Want," accompanied by the Cal State Long Beach Cole Conservatory choir.
The Rolling Stones last went on tour from 2005 to 2007, playing 144 shows globally and grossing more than $550 million, one of the world's most lucrative tours.
Guitarist Mick Taylor, who played with the Stones from 1969 to 1974, sat in on Friday to join Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood and drummer Charlie Watts during "Midnight Rambler."
Later this summer, The Rolling Stones will play London's Hyde Park, and for the first time in their career, the Glastonbury music festival in England, both of which sold out.
The band played a more reasonably priced $20 "surprise" gig in Los Angeles the previous weekend at the 320 person capacity Echoplex club.
But even fans who coughed up the $600 asking price for the Friday night show seemed to find satisfaction.
"I wasn't one of the lucky ones who waited. I paid face value, about $620," said Los Angeles-based financial adviser Jim Cain. "But I don't have buyer's remorse," he added, grinning.
(Reporting By Susan Zeidler; editing by Mike Collett-White)