Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Rolling Stones @ Twickenham Stadium, London

24 August 2003

It’s a testament to the endurance and recent renaissance of this country’s love affair with rock n’ roll that 100,000 people parted with their hard earned cash to see four of its patron saints over two days in this most inspiring of venues.

The Rolling Stones have always courted controversy, consistently the subjects of outraged yet fascinated headline writers. They were forbidden, rough cut, the sort that famously one would not let one’s daughter marry. Stories of riots at live shows and the well documented and near suicidal substance abuse dominated the media. So the headline to precede this event was predictably bad. However, these days there are fewer misdemeanours to report. The first night of the two Twickenham gigs was cancelled due to Sir (!) Mick Jagger’s illness. Ronnie Wood’s assertion that the Stones will be the first to literally rock until they drop seemed prophetic.

So, it was with some apprehension that the remaining 50,000 fans of all ages and from all over the country descended on West London. We needn’t have worried. Once Starsailor had departed to warm applause from a rapidly filling stadium the excitement grew to fever pitch. One guy was so excited that he cart-wheeled repeatedly to the delight of the crowd and the consternation of some killjoy security guards, who threw him out. I only hope they let him back in to witness what followed.

The lights went down and a low growl of bass built up to the band bounding onto stage to the irrepressible Keith Richards riffing Brown Sugar. The sound was not great but who cared, with everyone joining in the chorus. By the time Wild Horses began the sound was sorted and the Stones had seduced the crowd. With Charlie Watts typically looking like he’d rather be sitting in front of the fire in his Devon home and Ronnie Wood hamming up every solo, it was Jagger and Richards who really astonished.

Both have been around one or two blocks in their time but they had more shared energy than most of the twenty year olds who normally run around this stadium. Classics were pouring forth. Richards, guitar slung low around his knees like a gun holster, was shooting out the immortal riff of Satisfaction as if it was brand new. There was even an interlude for him to sing two songs and mutter happily to the crowd.

Jagger, however, was whipping Twickenham into a frenzy. If the roar for Paint It Black was not enough the best front man in the business skipped from one side of the cavernous stadium to another, flailing his arms at front and back row alike, shouting “Are you Ready!” To which the answer was deafeningly obvious.

The highlights were too many to list, but an awesome rendition of Sympathy for the Devil, the mini show on the half way line and everyone dancing inanely to Start it Up and You Can’t Always Get What You Want stick in the memory.

The roar for the encore was as loud as Twickenham hears for an English Try and the Stones didn’t disappoint, with Jumping Jack Flash and deafening fireworks ending the consummate show. With most of the crowd leaving with beaming smiles and wearing 40 Licks t-shirts, this music loving nation must pray that none of them drop before bringing the Rolling Stones circus to town again.

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