he previewed the first Stones tour I’d ever witnessed as unkind: the mocking concurrence that it was absurd for men their age to still play rock’n’roll. That trip was 27 years ago. The album they were promoting – 1994’s Voodoo Lounge – is now in the rearview mirror like Jumpin’ Jack Flash back then. However, they continue to thrive.
Many things have changed. Mick and Keith first played Hyde Park, in 1969, just two days after Brian Jones became the first in the gang to die: his departure was marked by Jagger reading Shelley’s Adonais, then is the release of several hundred white butterflies. into the crowd. On Saturday night, it was the turn of dear departed Charlie Watts to be given a more modern eulogy. Before his bandmates took to the stage, the giant screen showed his smiling face through the ages.
After that, however, the Rolling Stones remained in the business as usual. As he strode to the front of the stage and set fire to the Street Fighting Man, Keith Richards still wore the evil grin of the cat who invented the concept of getting ice cream. A similarly eccentric-looking Ronnie Wood follows, before Jagger rushes past their couple, after heart surgery, after a duel with Covid, dancing like… well, to be honest it’s a bit boring now when noticing how amazing a man his age is. – 79 next month – to achieve such high energy efficiency in more than two hours. But it’s still absolutely amazing.
From then on, it’s been a fun, euphoric festival of rock’n’roll grandeur. Skip Living in a Ghost Town, inspired by the 2020 course, every song played, including Keith-sung’s Slipping Away (from 1989’s Steel Wheel), is over 40 years old. But no one – not the band, certainly not the audience – could have done it any other way. Relative obscurity has been brushed off in the form of a flower provided by She’s A Rainbow, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking? Dirty, free-flowing blues and a tense sequence Out Of Time: the latter lends itself to the new life you’d expect a song to have once it’s channeled the sound of Brad Pitt through a movie Tarantino in a white denim suit and sunglasses.
That trio aside, it’s just symbolic. Brown Sugar has quietly retired – Google’s job title to find out why – but You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Honky Tonk Women, Miss You, Paint It Black, Start Me Up and Gimme Shelter are present and further away is correct. Midnight Rambler went through a dramatic 10 minute pause and wrapped up the guitar chords, and even then felt too short.
A movie by Sympathy For The Devil and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction took Hyde Park even higher. Many of those departing wondered if this would be the last time we would see the Rolling Stones. I would say not sure. Given this evidence, I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandparents’ grandchildren had a chance too.