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Music

The Rolling Stones roll back six decades of form live at Hyde Park, London

The Rolling Stones - BST Hyde Park
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After seamlessly circumnavigating the train strikes and arriving at Marble Arch much earlier than expected, the true fans were already emerging from the woodwork of the underground and swarming the lawns and pub gardens of Hyde Park. Everywhere I looked, I could see the big red lips logo on T-shirts, hats, tattoos and even facemasks – such is the modern world. 

After meeting a couple of friends for a drink or two, it was about time to get warmed up with Phoebe Bridgers and The War on Drugs. Both acts were phenomenal and perfect for a stage of such grandeur. We bid adieu to Adam Granduciel and Co. with an enrapturing display of ‘In Reverse’ and, finally, The Stones’ big moment was dawning. 

Just before the 8pm kick-off, the screens displayed an emotional montage with photos of The Rolling Stones’ founding drummer, Charlie Watts, who sadly passed away last August, aged 80. After an appreciative roar for the lost icon, the Stones finally entered the stage to the tune of another roar. 

Having been stood a little further back for the warm-up acts, we decided to make a dash forward into the thick of the shimmering mob. The atmosphere was already electric, but as the band launched into the opener, ‘Street Fighting Man’, the ground was shaking with the energy of the crowd and Steve Jordan’s thunderous kick-drum. 

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After playing the early classic, ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’, Mick Jagger addressed the audience, thanking us for being here. Again, he was met with a roar – I think I said, “No, thank you, Mick!” For his short and sweet opening speech, Jagger took a moment to pay his respects to Watts. “It’s lovely to be here,” he said. “In 1962, we met a drummer from Wembley called Charlie Watts. And sadly, this is our first time in London without him. So, we would like to dedicate this show to Charlie.”

Jagger then re-energised himself with a jig for ‘Tumbling Dice’ which was followed by classics like ‘Out of Time’, ‘Can’t You Hear me Knocking’, ‘Miss You’, and the brilliant 2020 single, ‘Living in a Ghost Town’. 

Veteran six-string virtuoso Keith Richards offered lead vocals for ‘Slipping Away’ and ‘Connection’; all the while, Jagger was keeping the audience on fire with some of his classic moves. Even the iconic chicken dance popped its head out here and there. The performance throughout was backed with immersive animated visuals to keep the eyes busy while the ears were taken to cloud nine. 

Later, Jagger addressed the audience once more to acknowledge the difficulties caused by the ongoing train strikes. “Are you feeling alright? It’s great to be back home in London. I know that getting here has not been easy. I want to really thank the effort you have made for all to get here,” Jagger opened. 

He continued: “And I want to welcome everyone who has come from out of town, like the Midlands, I know people come from the North of England, and people come from overseas.”

The hits came thick and fast in the run-up to the encore, with the audience reflecting Jagger’s lyrics with equally infectious optimism. The performance of the 1969 belter, ‘Gimme Shelter’, was a particular highlight; the band’s impeccable form of the evening was taken to new heights with the vocal accompaniment of The Voice US semi-finalist Sasha Allen. Singing the female vocal sections originally mastered by Merry Clayton, Allen joined Jagger on the walkway out into the middle of the madding crowd as they sang their hearts out with all due attitude and affectionate eye contact. 

After a seismic delivery of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, which heard the crowd dominating the airwaves for the chorus refrain, the Stones took a light bow and headed off stage for the encore. Re-emerging for a final hoorah, they ended what had been a perfect evening with ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ and ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’. 

Finally, the band took their final bows, with Ronnie Wood, Jagger and Richards each coming forward to give the crowd a salute of appreciation one last time – until next weekend. 

As the crowd dispersed, the lingering ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ “woo woo” chanters faded into the night like drunken owls with their sweaty merch and satisfied smiles. It’s not every day you get to see such a legendary band at the most befitting venue. If ever I ventured the notion that numbers can restrain us, this has truly been put to bed. Jagger turns 79 next month, and his moves are more fluid and alluring than mine in my twenties – age is but a number. 

This 60th anniversary celebrates an ancient legacy of rock ‘n’ roll royalty but is by no means conclusive in nature. This is a band that just keeps rolling.