The Rolling Stones, ‘The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band,’ are back at Hyde Park and showing exactly why, six decades after they first formed, they’re still the cream of the crop.
The Rolling Stones – Hyde Park. 3 July 2022
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Robert Sutton
There’s nothing quite like a Rolling Stones show. The levels of cross-generational excitement and spectacle would be something that would put the most lavish of Roman colosseums at the height of their Empire to shame.
Very few bands have such an enduring back catalogue, the two-hour set captivating the sold-out crowd that stretched before them to become a sea of dancing and singing bodies, all lost in the moment. Amongst the celebratory mood were moments of quiet introspection, the presence of late drumming legend Charlie Watts an ever-present force and his legacy acknowledged in not just every song but in the touching video montage that was played before the Stones hit the stage.
Having recovered from the bout of Covid-19 that had hit him recently, the sight of Mick Jagger bounding onstage at the beginning of opener Get Off Of My Cloud was a satisfying and reassuring thing. Through this and 19th Nervous Breakdown, the band seemed to be having the time of their lives, the constant smiling and interaction speaking of a solid bond formed through a lifetime together.
Looking at the faces of both Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood on the gargantuan video screens that dominated the sides and rear of the stage, every guitar lick and slide was brought to vivid colour as they soaked up every minute. Without a doubt, they could do all this in their sleep, but there was never a moment when you felt they were going through the motions. This devotion to both their craft and their audience has kept them at the top of their tree for so long.
With a heartfelt dedication shown to Charlie Watts, it was straight into Tumbling Dice, the blasts of deep brass and the bluesy rock of the solo by Wood a triumphant salute to the legend the drummer helped create.
Following that, Out Of Time was quintessentially ’60s cool, and the tour debut of Angie was a thing of delicate beauty, Richards donning an acoustic and Jagger changing his shirt for another racked up on the side of the stage. Another early highlight was an aching and soul-filled You Can’t Always Get What You Want, the artfully rough-edged guitar break perfectly juxtaposed with the heavenly swell of the choir-like vocals.
The apt Bob Dylan cover Like A Rolling Stone saw Jagger break out the harmonica, and You Got Me Rocking shimmied and shook with a seismic bounce, the band grinning at the sheer unbridled joy of it all. Honky Tonk Woman saw the screens lit up with fiery New Orleans graphics. The images emphasised the slightly exotic, darker and dangerous edge the Stones have always emanated to great effect and success.
With a nod of appreciation to Adele, who he had seen the night before, “She was great…but I’ve got even more sparkly dresses than she has,” and an introduction to all the musicians onstage, Jagger handed the mike to Richards as the guitarist took over on vocals. The Countryfied blues of a shimmering You Got The Silver and the primal Happy showed more shades from their palette before Jagger returned for a swaggering Miss You, bass player Daryl Jones getting a prolonged and well-earned share of the spotlight.
The best, though, was still yet to come as an incredible, extended Midnight Rambler gloried in its barroom boogie, the whipcrack groove with the swing of Steve Jordan’s drums driving it along with style and power. Having constantly been running up and down the long runway stretched into the audience, the sight of the seventy-eight-year-old vocalist gyrating and dancing like he did when he was twenty was inspiring, jacket swung above his head and then casually tossed aside. Always a highlight of their set, the theatre of the song carried just as much weight as when it was freshly minted, some fifty-three years ago, Richards and Wood digging deep and hard into the riffs.
The galloping drums of Paint It Black saw the screens drained of colour, the black and white images striking in their stark beauty before the strut of Start Me Up got even the most tired of limbs in the crowd moving.
Another staple from Let it Bleed, Gimme Shelter still sounds like the apocalypse, the vocal dualling of Jagger and backing singer Sasha Allen something of such transcendental soul and electricity that at its peak, it could have razed most of the City. With the two circling each other on the satellite stage, firing out the seismic vocals at its core, the shivers that ran through the audience weren’t the result of the evening chill but of the sheer intensity of the performances, the rest of the band providing the mighty muscle that heightens its potency.
It was just down to a full-blooded Jumpin’ Jack Flash to close the set, the “crossfire hurricane” sealing the triumph before the inevitable encore demanded by the sound of sixty-five thousand voices raised as one.
Returning to the stage, Sympathy For The Devil still inspires with its dangerous edge, the dark charm of the central character in the drama no less intense in the passing of years as the screens once more burst into stunning life.
Closing the night, the final song, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, encapsulates all that’s great about the Stones, its dirty rock ‘n’ roll core stirring the primal centres of brain and body, never letting go. The loss of Charlie Watts hit them hard, their friend gone, but look up tonight, and you can feel him looking down, smiling and tapping out those rhythms as he sees his bandmates still tearing things up.
Are the Rolling Stones still ‘The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band’?
Without any doubt, the answer is an emphatic “Yes!”.