29th June 2013
Louder Than War boss John Robb reviews the Rolling Stones at Glastonbury, a set a certain Mr. Michael Eavis has already called “the high spot of 43 years of the festival”.
The stage is set.
There is some kind of giant lizard bird hovering in mid air like some kind of ancient creature from the past stalking the stage breathing fire and brimstone, flapping its leathery wings like a freak outta hell and made out of an indestructible wood – but thats enough of keef Richards! In fact it’s some weird phoenix style prop on the pyramid stage that looks more like a giant wooden mallard.
The Rolling Stones are on stage in full finery and nothing can diminish the world’s number one heritage act and their jukebox of hits. Mick Jagger spent the night before with his tribe of kids following us from gig to gig soaking up the atmosphere and it feels like he has reworked the set list to fit in with what he saw.
There is a trippy haze to tonight’s show with even a version of 2000 Light Years From Home from the overlooked Satanic Majesties album which was roundly panned at the time but sounds like a golden curio from the Stones seemingly eternal 50 year sojourn as the world’s best rock n roll band. Where most of their career was blues boogie their attempt to play the darkside of the trips card to the Beatles Sgt Peppers still sounds great to these ears and the songs drawling melancholy swirls around the endlessly packed field complete with a brown acid light show.
The rest of the set is one hit after another, fantastic songs that the world has danced to for ever.
Meanwhile Glastonbury seems to be plagued by money spiders. They are everywhere and we joke that they have escaped from Mick Jagger’s sumptuous backstage quarters and are running amok around the site.
The Rolling Stones gig at Glastonbury has already been hailed as the greatest gig in the festivals history by Michael Eavis, and he could be sort of right. It’s certainly the biggest crowd in the festival’s history and has sent the tired old Stones brand soaring with a set that reminds you of their pop prowess combined with their roots blues knowledge.
Kicking off with Jumping Jack Flash the band play a 20 song set that is a guided tour to their varied musical history. The decadence and sulphuric danger of the band is encapsulated by Keef Richards, whose swagger may have been slowed by age but still retains the cordite whiff of piratical danger and chemical ‘devil may care’ that made him a hero for decades. It’s hard to tell just what he does with the guitar these days but he sure looks good doing it and that’s important enough.
The Stones in 2013 is very much the Mick Jagger show as the 69 year old is on fire in a way that we have not seen for decades. This is not to the detriment to Keef, who has certainly earned his spurs but Jagger is now reclaiming the greatest frontman in rock n roll crown from the young pretenders who stole it while he was losing interest. Back in the eighties he seemed to be bored if still athletic, these days he’s got the funk and the fire back in him as well as the astonishing athleticism of an Olympic sprint champ as the world’s fittest 69 year old man used every inch of the stage to strut and make those moves that would look hammy in lesser hands but seem supercool when acted out by this sinewy figure.
There is a thin line between hammy and cool but Mick makes it work with an insane amount of energy and a sinewy, rubbery body funk. The old devil is in great voice and even changes the lyrics to Factory Girl to Glastonbury Girl as a homage to the mythical festival girl in cut off jeans with the ecstasy pills.
The musicality of the band is foremost with the twin guitar attack sounding slipshod, perfect and Charlie Watts is still the eternal metronome. Mick Taylor is the surprise guest tonight and is easily the most technically accomplished player in the band, revisiting many of the songs he played on in his short time in the band after replacing the doomed Brian Jones.
There are so many stand out songs that it’s pointless to list them but they do a killer version of Honky Tonk Woman, the song with the best bump and grind groove in rock ‘n’ roll and Brown Sugar has all the dark lust and horny juice of the original. Paint It Black, with its sitar, is a perfect Glastonbury trip, whilst Wild Horses is plaintive and beautiful and Start Me Up is grindingly quintessential Stones and Miss You is an extended funked up disco jam. Keef gets his two vocals with You Take Silver and a triumphant Happy grinning like chemicrazy pirate.
They encore with You Can’t ever Get What You Want complete with a woman choir and a sow burning climax & they end with an extended Satisfaction that sounds triumphant and the simple riff bent in and out of shape and the sight of Keith Richard running down the catwalk into the shape with his face looking more exaggerated than the Spitting Image puppet of him from years ago.
Few bands could make such ancient songs still sound like party anthems and few bands can make the term heritage rock sound like an accomplishment, but tonight the Rolling Stones astonishingly opened up a new chapter in their story, they arrive tonight after a touch and go year when the old brand looked like it was in danger of finally wearing out it’s welcome but after tonight’s gig it’s all here for the taking again…
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
Paint It Black
Factory (Glastonbury) Girl
Doom and Gloom
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
Honky Tonk Women
You Got the Silver
2,000 Light Years from Home
Sympathy for the Devil
Start Me Up
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction