When a band has entered its fifth decade and its name is virtually synonymous with rock 'n' roll, it needs no introduction. The Rolling Stones are the Stones. And "Forty Licks," released this year to mark the band's 40th anniversary, is simply a collection of their hits. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Let's Spend the Night Together," "Start Me Up" -- they're all classics. Oh yeah, there are also four new tracks. Any questions?

Thursday's press event at the Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo to kick off the Japan leg of the "Forty Licks" world tour was, therefore, despite its rather stuffy venue, appropriately "loose" and the audience unsurprisingly reverential. An hour late? No problem, that's just "the Rolling Stones' style," as one of the more visibly enthusiastic (and curiously barefoot) rock journos asserted. (A further delay actually received applause by virtue of its messenger -- a self-identified band rep).

Even the serious tone of the brief intro providing the rough details of the album and the tour -- the former has proven the best-received since 1989's "Steel Wheels"; the latter sold out 50 of its first 59 shows -- was undercut by the sound of the Stones laughing in the corridor. And for a moment, it seemed possible that those wiry, shaggy-haired boys spotted earlier around the peripheries were not simply Mick and Keith look-alikes, hired to help recall the band's more glamorous youth, but somehow their true selves, unchanged from the mid-'60s, ready to walk in and relieve themselves on the giant "Forty Licks" placard erected for the event.