With the thought of this post ahead of me, I have the feeling that it may be one of the more difficult articles to write. Simply because, what hasn’t been said about The Rolling Stones over the past 50 years really isn’t worth saying!
Yes, they have a huge store of the greatest songs in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll; yes, they are one of the greatest live acts on stage; yes, their history is well-known and easily searchable (if you are one of the few who don’t already know it); and yes, they have been doing it for 50 years and they still ROCK! Grrr….!
Being the second Fiftieth Anniversary tour I’ve seen this year (see my review of The Pretty Things) it seems incredible that a band which, at the time, you’d doubt they’d survive the 60’s, let alone the 70’s and beyond. It makes you wonder if such an illustrious, productive and long-lived legacy will ever be achieved in popular music again!
The stage in Hyde Park was surrounded by two giant artificial oak trees, draping the enormous screens which were behind and to the sides of the stage – as Mick later put it, it looked “like a cross between Wimbledon and a pantomime forest!“. Before the band appeared there was a montage of film from the free gig in Hyde Park (forty-four years and a day before this event) accompanied by Let’s Spend The Night Together among other tracks from the 60’s, which was a shame because it’s one of my favourites and I would have loved to have heard it played live.
They began the set with Start Me Up followed by It’s Only Rock n Roll (But I Like It). After that the great songs kept coming, including their new one Doom and Gloom (which references the current popular fascination with zombies!). There were also a couple I didn’t know like All Down The Line, which was voted for by the fans on their facebook page.
Having got there early and camped near to the front (and surviving the relentless heat of the sun for hours on end) proved well worth it. I was not going to pay all that money and settle for watching them on a giant screen halfway down the enclosure. As chance would have it (and without knowing it at the time) we were also very close to the runway which divided the audience, so when Mick came prancing down the track we had a great close up view of him in action (as well as Keith and Ronnie when they ventured down there later in the set).
Keith and Ronnie played their instruments with well practised nonchalance. Charlie played the drums as though he’d rather be somewhere else (as usual) and when Mick introduced him to the audience he reluctantly came forward with complete indifference before returning to his drum kit. I think it was at this point that Keith and Ronnie were having a quick fag at the back of the stage like two naughty school boys. In fact Ronnie was rarely without a cigarette between his fingers for the whole of the set. Although Mick’s voice is not as strong as it used to be, this was not at all surprising – it’s more surprising that he’s still fully mobile and performing at all!
It was also good to see Mick Taylor joining them for a couple of songs – he first performed with the Stones at the Hyde Park concert in ’69 as a replacement for Brian Jones, who’d died just a few days previously.
The set list for the gig was as follows:-
Start Me Up
It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)
All Down The Line (By Request)
Beast Of Burden
Doom And Gloom
Bitch (with Gary Clark Jr)
Paint It Black
Honky Tonk Women
You Got The Silver (with Keith Richards on lead vocals)
Before They Make Me Run (with Keith Richards on lead vocals)
Midnight Rambler (with Mick Taylor)
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
Sympathy For The Devil
You Can’t Always Get What You Want (with the Voice Choir and members of the London Youth Choir)
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (with Mick Taylor)
The highlight of the main set was probably Sympathy For The Devil (the crowd was hooting for it long before it arrived!), and it was accompanied by Hyde Park burning on the screens and red smoke filling the air. It was also with huge sense of personal relief that they ended with Satisfaction, the set would have felt sorely incomplete if they hadn’t included it somewhere.
Over all it was a really good gig which was well worth seeing. It didn’t have the urgency that The Pretty Things displayed – although being right up close to them in a small pub might have made a difference. Having now seen the Glastonbury gig (I recorded it the previous weekend) I believe the Hyde Park concert was a much better overall performance by the band.
Although I remember little of the support acts, except for the fantastic Gary Clark Jr. who performed a blistering heavy blues/rock set (and The Vaccines might be worth investigating further) it was a great historic event and I am pleased to say that I’ve finally seen The Rolling Stones live – because, for all we know, ‘This could be the last time, This could be the last time, Maybe the last time, I don’t know…’