The Rolling Stones at BST Hyde Park review: A joyous, euphoric carnival of rock‘n’roll majesty
The previews of the first Stones tour I ever bore witness to were not kind: the sneery consensus being that it was absurd for men of their age to still be playing rock‘n’roll music. That tour was 27 years ago. The album they were promoting – 1994’s Voodoo Lounge – is now as far in the rear view mirror as Jumpin’ Jack Flash was back then. Yet still they roll unstoppably on.
A lot has changed. The first time Mick and Keith played Hyde Park, in 1969, it was just two days after Brian Jones had become the first of the gang to die: his passing marked by Jagger’s reading of Shelley’s Adonais, followed by the release of several hundred white butterflies into the crowd. On Saturday night, it was the dearly departed Charlie Watts’ turn to be eulogised in more modern fashion. Prior to his bandmates’ arrival onstage, the giant screens displayed a montage of his smiling face through the ages.
Then, though, it was very much the Rolling Stones taking care of business as usual. As he strode out to the front of the stage and fired up Street Fighting Man, Keith Richards still wore the evil grin of the cat who invented the concept of getting the cream. A similarly ecstatic-looking Ronnie Wood followed, before Jagger darted past the pair of them, post heart surgery, post bout of Covid, dancing like… well, frankly it’s now getting a bit boring noting how astonishing it is for a man of his age – 79 next month – to put in such a high-energy performance for over two hours. But it does remain utterly astonishing.
From there on in, this was a joyous, euphoric carnival of rock‘n’roll majesty. 2020’s lockdown-inspired Living in a Ghost Town aside, every song played, bar the Keith-sung Slipping Away (from 1989’s Steel Wheels), was over 40 years old. But no one – not the band, certainly not the audience – would have had it any other way. Relative obscurities were dusted off in the shape of the flower powered She’s A Rainbow, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?’s filthy, freeform blues and a string-laden Out Of Time: the latter given the new lease of life you would expect a song to get once it has soundtracked Brad Pitt swaggering through a Tarantino movie in white denim and sunglasses.
That trio aside, it was icons only. Brown Sugar has been quietly retired – Google its working title to get an idea as to why – but You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Honky Tonk Women, Miss You, Paint It Black, Start Me Up and Gimme Shelter were all present and way beyond correct. Midnight Rambler was strung out to 10 minutes of dramatic pauses and entwining guitar riffs, and even then felt too short.
An encore of Sympathy For The Devil and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction took Hyde Park even higher. Many in the departing masses wondered aloud whether this would be the last time we would get to see the Rolling Stones. Unlikely, I would say. On this evidence, I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandchildren’s grandchildren get the chance too.