Jagger, Richards and Wood's life-affirming BST performance pays tribute to the late Charlie Watts
In July 1969, The Rolling Stones took to the stage at Hyde Park for what would become one of the decade’s most legendary performances. Up to half a million visitors supposedly flocked to central London to see the rock & roll bad boys who, at the height of their maverick fame, hadn’t played live in two years.
This weekend, a mighty 53 years later, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards returned to the same stage with their original anticipation and respect intact. The band had played BST Hyde Park back in 2013, but their headline performance on Saturday felt almost like the echoes of history had just landed. Back then, The Stones began their set with a tribute to guitarist and founding member Brian Jones, who had died tragically just days before, with Jagger reciting lines from Shelley’s Adonais before releasing 300 white butterflies into the sky.
Now, as the sun begins to set on Hyde Park, it is the late Charlie Watts the band remembers, with a video montage of their drummer spanning sixty years taking up the stage. It’s an emotional punch that catches many off guard, but more than that, it seems to pull us into the hazy dream of the past, which makes the unmistakable opening chords of ‘Street Fighting Man’ feel not nostalgic but real and present.
The Great Oak Stage is shared today by Phoebe Bridgers and The War On Drugs, itself a pairing worthy of a sold-out stadium. Bridgers’ balance of chilling sparsity and cacophonic climaxes feels dynamic, while later The War On Drugs set the tone for soaring guitar mastery.
Both acts are clearly so chuffed to be supporting The Stones that it “almost goes without saying”, as Bridgers puts it. “Too many jams to count”, The War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel later wrote.
He’s not wrong. As ‘Street Fighting Man’ continues to build with its bluesy twang, 78-year-old Jagger is immediately jumping and gyrating with frankly unbelievable vigour, an energy he maintains, if not increases, as they drop in to the likes of ‘Tumbling Dice’, ‘She’s A Rainbow’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’ – the single the band released for their 1969 performance here and which they handed out to festival volunteers.
The breadth of their career is on full show, and even their 2020 pandemic-inspired ‘Living In A Ghost Town’ feels like it’s had longer to breath, earning its place amongst the big hitters. The new rhythm section, Darryl Jones on bass and Steve Jordan on drums, keep things tight while with cheeky smiles Richards and Wood take turns in getting loose with a solo or strutting down the runway.
For the most part though this runway is naturally Jagger’s, who somehow still has the breath to blow the harmonica with its hypnotic, Chicago blues honk on an elongated ‘Midnight Rambler’. For all its moodiness, the dark undertones of the song are effaced in the awe and festivity of it all, likewise on ‘Paint It Black’, and so it should be. The closing ‘I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)’ completes a life-affirming show barely weathered by time.
Catch The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park again on Sunday July 3, with tickets available here.