JAN MOIR: Rock ‘n’ roll hobbits with 231 years of life etched on their faces…nothing will stop the Stones from rolling on and on and on
Covid. Train strikes. Taxes. Death. Will nothing stop the Stones from rolling on and on and on, to infinity and beyond? It seems not.
On a cloudy summer night in London, the self-styled greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world turned up, plugged in and switched on the 60,000 fans who had gathered in the gloaming of Hyde Park to hear their heroes one more time.
The show began with a one-minute video tribute to Charlie Watts, the band’s much-loved drummer who died last year. Then with little fanfare or pause, it was straight down to business. Dressed in a floral jacket and a rhinestone shirt, Mick Jagger led the band through a brisk, shimmying hustle of hits such as Street Fighting Man, 19th Nervous Breakdown and Tumbling Dice – and that was just the opening three numbers.
A little light rain fell as they dedicated the entire show to Watts, ‘the drummer from Wembley’ they met in 1962 – a lifetime ago.
On a cloudy summer night in London, the self-styled greatest rock ’n’ roll band in the world turned up, plugged in and switched on the 60,000 fans who had gathered in the gloaming of Hyde Park to hear their heroes one more time
Of course, all eyes were on Mick as all minds wrestled with the eternal mystery at the heart of the Stones enigma – how does he do it? For nearly two hours the energetic, flirty 78-year-old showed his undimmed skills as a frontman. He wriggled and blew kisses to fans as he danced along on his restless, spidery legs. Sometimes he sounded a little breathless between songs, but even now he still manages to inject a real sense of urgency into the down and dirty proceedings.
This is the Sixty tour, a 14-date swing through European stadiums to celebrate the band’s six decades together, and with Steve Jordan replacing Watts on drums. After thousands of shows, millions of records and hundreds of songs it seems remarkable that there is no shortage of fans who want to come and see the Stones play live. Many of tonight’s audience look like they are here on a nostalgia trip; not just to hear the music, but to reconnect to their younger selves; to embrace this living touchstone to the uncomplicated joy of their own youth.
Early in the set the Stones surprised fans with Out Of Time, a song from 1966 which they have rarely, if ever, played live. Even though it is practically an heirloom, it sounded freshly minted, glorious.
She’s A Rainbow, another gem from the vaults on which Mick played acoustic guitar, was greeted with rapture. Later he played the harmonica and maracas, he came on in a pink silk shirt to sing Honky Tonk Women. He is unstoppable.
‘It’s great to be back in London,’ he shouted at one point, as he thanked fans for coming despite the transport difficulties. Throughout the evening, the spotlights skipped from Stone to Stone. Keith Richards, 78, and Ronnie Wood, 75, alongside Jagger, are the only bona fide band veterans left, and sometimes when they stood together on stage they looked like rock ’n’ roll hobbits; shaggy of hair and long of tooth, with the graven lines of life etched on their weathered faces.
NOSTALGIA TRIP: Bandmates Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards during the Rolling Stones’ concert in Hyde Park last night
No wonder. They have been through a lot! Mick has had heart valve replacement surgery and recently recovered from Covid, Keith fell out of a coconut tree and needed brain surgery, Ronnie has had two bouts with cancer. But here they are, rock ’n’ roll’s greatest survivors. It seems like a miracle that they are here at all let alone performing so well; Mick loving every minute, Keith in a striped headscarf, nodding over his strings, Ronnie looking out over the crowds with something approaching joy.
You might imagine that they would be worn down by the oppression of just living, but there was almost a zest for life in the air as they cranked out the hits in what was a much better performance than their oddly lacklustre O2 show ten years ago; bluesier, grittier, more fun. This compulsion to carry on touring when they could be mulching their tomatoes or doing jigsaws or just relaxing in the opulence of their gilded, multi-mansioned lives is mind boggling.
Do they do it just because they can – or because they can’t stop? Perhaps they fear their lives would stall without these bracing jolts of live performance, public acclaim and the demand, over and over, for another encore. You can’t always get what you want, as Mick sings. But every now and again, you get just what you need.
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