A Updated

The Stones always have been, and still are, one of the top live bands on the planet, and tonight they showed why.

London: Hyde Park – 3rd July 2022

It has certainly been an interesting eight days. For someone who hadn’t been to a concert in over two years (and also avoided anything even remotely related to London) due to Covid anxieties, it was quite amazing to be heading to the capital for the second Sunday in a row and be attending my third gig overall in five weeks. I am not sure that I would have believed that possible had you told me I’d be doing this back in January. For all my fears, how could I possibly turn down the last ever UK show by one of my three favourite bands, a chance to see another group I adore for the first time, and now the opportunity to attend a Rolling Stones concert… one of the most legendary acts in music history? I still have a long way to go, but this trio of musical treats have certainly helped.

I was thinking a few days before the gig how things can look so different with the passing of time. I have been fortunate enough to see The Stones before. It was on their ‘Voodoo Lounge’ tour on Saturday 15th July, 1995 at Wembley Stadium. If the me of today had turned up at that show (in good ol’ ‘Back To The Future’ type moment) and told the nineteen-year-old me that in twenty-seven years I would be attending another Rolling Stones concert in London, this time as a music writer, I would have told myself that I clearly need to lay off the booze in the years that were to follow. The fact that The Stones are still going is nothing short of miraculous. The latest tour is to mark their sixty… yes, read that again… their SIXTY years as a band! I doubt I am being controversial when I say that very few bands have or ever will reach such a milestone… not as consistently together and active band, that’s for sure, and probably not in a far more general sense when allowing for hiatus periods and break-ups. It truly is a staggering achievement!

The concert tonight was another gig in the series of American Express BST shows that have been taking place in London’s Hyde Park. It was the second appearance for The Stones as they had already played the previous Saturday. For the benefit of those who have yet to read (or may not read) my Eagles review from last weekend, the centre of Hyde Park has been taken over by a huge enclosure that contains pretty much everything you could want for a music-filled day. There are multiple bars, numerous food stalls, several large merch stands, a decent amount of toilet facilities and two main stages (plus a couple of smaller ones) scattered around. In addition to the main general admission area, there were also gold and diamond circle areas, an American Express Summer Park, the VIP Terrace and limited access Hyde Away guest area. It is a tremendous endeavour and one that I have to tip my hat to the organisers. It all combines to make the day a proper event and not just a music show.
I must be honest early on and state that the majority of the line-up for this second BST concert was almost completely unknown to me, bar the headliners, obviously, and the penultimate act, Sam Fender; even then, I’d heard of him name-wise but none of his music. With that in mind, I decided to catch one of the openers, then grab some food and drink before finding a spot in front of the massive Great Oak Stage for Fender and The Stones. Therefore, I must again apologise to some of the earlier acts that I sadly wasn’t able to cover every performance. Much like last week, there is a very quick turnaround from stage to stage before the end of the penultimate act when there was finally a decent break.

One thing that was immediately apparent within an hour of entering the enclosure was how much busier it was compared to last Sunday; a second reason why I eventually took up a place near the Great Oak Stage and stayed there. Last week, you could walk around relatively easily, even when the Eagles were close to appearing on stage. This time, long before even Fender was on, the walkways around the venue were so much busier. In places, the considerable gap between one side with its food stand and the other with a bar was literally full, and you had to shuffle step by step through the middle with people coming both ways. What took ten mins to do last week, took closer to twenty this time. That is not meant as a criticism in any way, merely a point of interest that I observed between these two BST gigs. Knowing the massive popularity of Adele with the general public, who played on the Friday and Saturday night, I can only wonder how busy it must have been for those two shows!
I arrived much the same time as I did last week, and it was great not to have to worry too much about rail and tube strikes. In fact, given this is a temporary thing that will be closed down in the coming weeks, it was actually quite relaxing to have the familiarity of knowing where everything was in terms of entry, facilities and where to/not to go. I had a quick wander round, just to see if there was anything new this weekend, and then pondered whether to go for the t-shirt. Having seen the already large queues at several merch stands, I very nearly decided against it, then in the middle of the enclosure was a set of merch booths with virtually no one there. Most had five-six queues of twenty plus people each, this had five intermittent selling sections with just three or four customers. There endeth the lesson of looking around properly! As was the case last week, how could you attend a Stones show and not buy a t-shirt. Given how the price of everything has shot up, t-shirts for both shows were £30-35, which may seem a lot, but it was already the standard price in the year or two prior to Covid. For such musical names, I was expecting the cost to be at least £10 or more higher, so again, kudos to the bands, their management and the event for not pricing fans out of a great memento from the shows.

Having checked out some of the acts I didn’t know, I had marked down The Flints as one of the early acts I wanted to catch. I planted myself in front of the Hard Rock Rising Stage about ten minutes before they came on. The three-piece band from Sydney, Australia, are quite hard to describe. They are tagged online as being Alternative Rock, but they span a much wider spectrum than that. One of their opening numbers was ‘Starship’, although I am not sure if that was an intro or the actual song. Regardless of title, the first main track quickly saw the two front-men (Greg Byrnes-Mikelsons and Matt Anslow – Bandcamp) swap roles between mic/guitar… mic/bass… and keyboards/synths. The guitar rang out nicely and the sound was a mixture of Indie, Funk and a bit of Jamiroquai. ‘That Kind Of Love’ saw another switcheroo and there was a decent solo in the middle. I am not sure who was who, but one of the vocalists had a touch of the Bee Gees about him, and by the time they played ‘Falling’, the trio had attracted a decent sized crowd. I had to jot down a note in my phone for ‘Serengeti’, as I doubt that I would have remembered the comment otherwise, but that track felt like a combination of Sexual Chocolate (of ‘Coming To America’ fame), Jamiroquai and Barry White. I’m not sure that anyone else would have followed me on this, and I am not entirely sure where I got it from myself, but that is what I thought of. After the short instrumental ‘Lost In Light’, there was a dancey Rock-ish track that was quite lively. To continue with the somewhat random comparisons, ‘1000 Million Light Years’ was a rather Indie-ish tune that made me think of Jarvis Cocker/Damon Albarn. Overall, The Flints were a band with an interesting blend of styles. I am not sure that they are something for listeners very much into their Rock and Metal, but they would appeal to fans with a much wider taste range. My only complaint was that they gave their name before almost every song, and while I appreciate people were coming and going, it got a touch annoying in the end. The constant rotation between the two front-men also became a bit of a blur, so my advice would be to maybe organise the set to limit that a little. Those two points aside, The Flints were an unexpectedly fun trip around a varied mixture of sounds.

At this stage, it was time for some food and drink, and also a chance to give the knees a bit of rest. I did hear one of the bands on the Great Oak Stage from where I was sitting, but to my ears, whoever it was didn’t appear to be overly Rock or Metal. With the stomach satisfied and the body given a break, I took myself off to the main stage and settled in for the long haul. As mentioned above, this was prior to Sam Fender, and things were already massively busy. For those unfamiliar with Fender, he is a singer/song-writer from Newcastle, something very obvious when he spoke between tracks with his engaging Geordie accent. In terms of style, I would say Fender delivers a chiming, Indie type sound that comes across as entertaining, chart-friendly Rock. Right from the off, there was a bit of Dad Dancing around me from some of the more mature attendees. His ten-song set kicked off with ‘Will We Talk?’ and ‘Getting Started’, and one of the things that I really enjoyed was the decent use of saxophone throughout his performance. Across the likes of ‘Mantra’, ‘The Borders’ and the comically titled ‘Howdon Aldi Death Queue’, Fender showcased a very decent voice and the tracks were given a bit of extra energy from his guitar playing, especially the latter. ‘Get You Down’, ‘Spit Of You’, ‘The Dying Light’ and ‘Saturday’ carried on in a similar way, and there was a certain E Street Band feel to some of it thanks to that saxophone. From the crowd reaction, ‘Seventeen Going Under’ seemed to be fairly well-known and it was the highlight of the set for me. The chorus was catchy and the singing decent, but it was the addition of the sax and trumpet that gave it that extra something. I enjoyed Fender’s performance, and I certainly wouldn’t object if he was on the bill at another show in the future. In a more general sense, he certainly has that chart-worthy accessible sound, but he may be a little Indie and commercial for some rockers and metalheads. For me, a pleasant surprise who nicely warmed things up for the main event.
Once again, today benefitted from some beautiful weather (which was a massive improvement on 1995 when it chucked it down for most of the day) and as 8pm approached, the sun was starting to set and there was a noticeable buzz among the crowd. I would later find out we were joined by royalty this evening with Princess Beatrice watching the show, as was Hollywood star Jason Mamoa, so it was all-star in so many ways.

The Stones opened with a rather touching video tribute to the late Charlie Watts, the man behind the drums for nearly sixty years who sadly passed away last year. It was then time for the main event, and the Stones came out on stage to a rapturous applause. The sun was setting behind us and it bathed the stage in a glorious golden colour. Kicking off with ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’, Mick Jagger’s vocals, plus the guitars of Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards, were nicely balanced in the mix. The sound could have done with a little more volume, but that may well have been where I was standing. The crowd showed they were up for it with plenty of commitment to the “Hey You” chants. ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’ and the enjoyable ‘Tumbling Dice’ arrived next, and the latter had some lovely soulful additions thanks to the backing singers and two saxophones. Wood gave us some rather groovy moves during ‘Out Of Time’ and the audience responded to Jagger’s encouragement with a great reaction for the chorus. They took the temp down for ‘Angie’, then got everyone going again with the combination of ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ and their cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ The latter was a personal highlight of mine and it went down a bomb. Jagger had donned a bright red sash, and it was delightful to see Wood and Keef playing off each other. The crowd really gave it some when called upon for the chorus, and clear-in-the-mix organ lifted it even higher. The hits kept coming and ‘You Got Me Rocking’ saw Jagger strutting from one side to the other, and lots of the audience loudly singing the “Hey, Hey” chant; Wood’s solo was rather tasty as well. The backing singers came to the fore during ‘Honky Tonk Woman’, while Jagger bounced up and down (how does the man do it at nearly 75 years old?) as he teased ever-louder “Gimme, Gimme” calls from then masses.

I am not sure whether I was in the minority or the majority, but one thing I had hoped for tonight was a song from the man that has defied medical science… Keith Richards. I am pleased to say I got my wish. He was actually given two songs, the first being the Southern-infused ‘You Got The Silver’ where both Richards and Wood showed off their prowess on acoustic guitars. Staying on the mic but swapping the acoustic for an electric (Woods taking a seat so he could play a lap steel guitar), Richards then put his raspy vocals to good use for the livelier ‘Happy’. He certainly looked that, and I was more than happy myself because this was a moment of real joy. The sun had now set and the light show really started to deliver in bucket-loads. Jagger came out in a bright yellow jacket with a guitar of his own and fired into ‘Miss You’, which contained several call-and-refrain moments with the “Oooo” chants and a rather funky bass solo. Without messing around, they fired into ‘Midnight Rambler’ next and Richards gave us a real “Keef Rock ‘n’ Roll moment” by putting on what looked like shades, despite the fact it was fairly dark by this point. Another of my four highlights came next and I had been itching for this one. As a young kid, I used to watch a show called ‘Tour Of Duty’ and the theme song for that series was ‘Paint It Black’. It has been a sentimental favourite ever since, so when they ripped into that one, I was delighted. Everyone around me seemed fairly pleased as well, if the dancing and boogieing was anything to go by. My only criticism would be that it would have been nice if the guitars were a bit louder in the mix, but it’s a minor quibble. ‘Start Me Up’ went down even better with the crowd; there were lots of hands up and the bright lights saturated the stage in colour. ‘Gimme Shelter’ offered the backing singers another chance to be a bit more prominent as Richards noddled behind (both musically and physically) on his guitar.

One look at the watch told everyone that things were heading towards their riotous conclusion. Closing out the main set was the third of my highlights – ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’. Once again, part of my love for this track comes from its association with the Whoopi Goldberg film of the same name that I remember from when I was younger (I had the video). Yes, I did allow a small nod to the film by emulating the strutting, side to side dance of Goldberg and muttering “C’mon Mick, Fuck A Duck” at the right moment during the start of verse two. On stage, the band were as animated as they had been all night and the riff was as saucy as ever. For me, this was the song of the day and a few minutes of brilliance. They left the stage for a few moments, then came back on for the first of two encore songs. With the video screen showing bright embers from a virtual fire and the stage swamped in red, Jagger took centre stage in a bright green jacket for ‘Sympathy For The Devil’. At the start, he was accompanied by just percussion, keys and backing singers, but it built up nicely as it went along. The crowd made sure the “Oooo-Oooo” sections were fully covered, and Richards fired out the rather filthy riff when called up. There really was only one place to go at this point, and that was ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’. As far as I could see, everyone around me sang as loudly as they could. The lights flashed, even on the great oak part of the stage, and it was the sort of party-like finale you would expect. Jagger called upon the crowd a few times for some “Hey” chants, “I can’t get no…” yells and ‘Satisfaction’ shouts. It was a fitting end to a fantastic show. I took a moment to savour the bows and the legendary performers that were in front of me. Like the Eagles last week, it is impossible to know when the next chance to see this all-time classic band will come around, so I wanted to soak it all up.

Today was another excellent day. There may not have been as many acts I was itching to see as last week, but it was still something to remember. The Stones delivered an eighteen-song set that was filled with the tracks that most people would have wanted to hear. I would have loved them to have played ‘I Go Wild’, but that was highly unlikely to be up there with the sort of hits they fired out this evening. While the sound could have done with some subtle tweaks, at least where I was stood, tonight was again all I could have hoped for. I am not sure when I will next be tempted out of the house and to the capital, but this was more than worth it. The Stones always have been, and still are, one of the top live bands on the planet, and tonight they showed why.

Once again, I must close out by saying a massive thank you to Outside-Org who once again did everything they could to ensure it was another unforgettable day.

Dave Scott


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