A joyous procession through some of the most celebrated and iconic moments in the history of rock music confirms how Mick Jagger and co do large scale, euphoric musical events like few others
The Rolling Stones celebrated the remarkable milestone of their 60th anniversary with two shows at Hyde Park that confirmed they are still very much a formidable live proposition with few peers. Walking through the crowd in the build up to the second of these shows, we’re met with an overwhelming preponderance of lips and tongues on t-shirts and the long queues to buy more at the various merch stalls shows they’re still a band with which people want to visibly associate themselves.
Before they appear, on stage support comes in the form of Courtney Barnett and Sam Fender. Barnett drawls her way through a well-suited mix of classic rock and detached, casual indie guitar sounds before Fender takes to the stage with band to continue his recent meteoric rise. Playing from his debut Hypersonic Missiles and last year’s Seventeen Going Under, his songs possess a simplicity, honesty and melodic appeal that is hard to resist. Lyrically he may address the difficult themes of relationship troubles, self doubt and challenging life circumstances but the songs soar and the title track of his second album in particular seems to have already achieved anthem status.
The Rolling Stones take to the stage amid a montage of images of late drummer Charlie Watts before launching into Get Off Of My Cloud. Mick Jagger is naturally the immediate focal point, whether jumping on the spot, nimbly skipping and shimmying his way across the stage or gesticulating animatedly. 19th Nervous Breakdown soon follows, reflecting the patiently constructed setlist. Tumbling Dice sees Jagger make his first foray towards the crowd down the extended stage runway while Out Of Time sees the first major audience singalong. The guitar duelling of Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood contributes to the sense of swaggering energy and the rest of the band, including an assured Steve Jordan on drums, help execute the songs with confidence.
They somewhat unexpectedly cover Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan (“a song a winner of Nobel Prize for literature wrote for us,” Jagger explains) before reverting back to their own catalogue for an uproarious version of Honky Tonk Woman, Richards and Wood crudely cutting their way through its riffs. There may be the occasional minor imperfection here and there but they only add to the sense of raw vitality that runs through the performance.
Richards handles vocals on a bluesy, gnarly You Got The Silver and the good-time boogie of Happy, offering something of a mid-set breather (for both the crowd and Jagger). When he returns he introduces the band, memorably referring to Wood as “the Warhol of Westminster, the Botticelli of Belgravia” before they play extended versions of Miss You and The Midnight Rambler, both offering opportunities for them to jam, flex their musical muscles and further engage the crowd.
Jagger reveals he went to see Adele last night, adding how “she’s an amazing singer but I’ve got more sparkly dresses than her”, a view backed up with various outfit changes as the show progresses. At one point he dons a red and blue cape which has a passing resemblance to Superman, possibly apt given his insatiable appetite for rock ’n’ roll revelry despite his advancing years.
The final third of the set consists of a cavalcade of classics, a joyous procession through some of the most celebrated and iconic moments in rock music. Paint It Black kicks it off, still holding a heavy, psychedelic gravitas that invokes unsettling, dark spirits, something that the monochrome visuals only accentuate. The lithe, elastic riffs of Start Me Up appear at the opposite end of the spectrum and a ragged Gimme Shelter follows, as images of wartorn Ukraine flash up on the screens. A thrilling Jumpin’ Jack Flash follows, as does the unruly hedonism of Sympathy For The Devil. They close with (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, one final adrenaline hit that sees the famous riff and chorus ring out like a siren call, the positive weight of musical history being palpable. As the crowd attempts to navigate an exit from Hyde Park there’s little doubt that we’ve seen something special from a band that deliver large scale, euphoric musical events like few others.