The Rolling Stones at British Summer Time Hyde Park 3.7.2022 with Sam Fender, Courtney Barnett and The Dinner Party supporting
This is a big one. My third gig in London this weekend with gig buddy Dave. Really looking forward to it. I have seen the Stones once before, in Cardiff in 2018. That was before I had properly explored their back catalogue – I only knew what I had heard on the radio.
It was the first of a 2018 eight gigs in eight days extravaganza that was a miracle of logistics and good fortune that my gig buddy Dave engineered (he went on to a ninth gig in nine afterwards!)
That first gig was a real eye opener for me: seeing these legends at close quarters and appreciating the highly mobile and energetic Jagger. It was also here that I took one of my favourite ever gig photos – with the trusty pocket zoom I still use.
Moving on to the gigless grinding boredom of the 2020 Summer Lockdown and I found myself working through a list of the top 100 albums of all time (Rolling Stone Magazine’s take on it anyway). Several things emerged from this: a rapidly induced obsession with Bob Dylan; Revolver was by a fair margin my favourite Beatles album (not Sgt Pepper as I’d imagined); I really didn’t get the Bat Out of Hell thing, even when Meatloaf died; and the Rolling Stones old stuff was a goldmine I had failed to tap into. It started with Sticky Fingers and after playing that for several weeks I started to take remote recommendations from my mate Al, which led me to Let it Bleed, Some Girls and a timely remastered re-release of Goat Head Soup (in which we find Angie).
So now, still a relative novice, I am in a better place to appreciate The Stones live.
A beautiful sunny day in one of the most wonderful urban green spaces there can be, Hyde Park: the far eastern end of it, north east of the Serpentine. I’ve been to several of these British Summer Time (BST) concerts now: Taylor Swift 🤪; The Cure; Green Day; The Killers and Bob Dylan/ Neil Young. You need to be in a premium price front section if you can – easy said I know but back behind the front barriers of the general admission area, on the flat as it is, is pretty frustrating and faced with that again I would try for another venue to see someone. It is divisive and for some bands the usual enthusiasm of ‘down the front’ is distant with an unhealthy infiltration of less interested corporates and media darlings stage front. Support bands can get a particularly raw deal with a patchy crowd in front of them while the buzz is in the garden drinky area to the side.
….and there I was, sat in the garden bar area along with the rest of them for the first few support acts: The Dinner Party and Courtney Barnett, who was worth a better look. I was saving my aging legs, honest, while a miraculous supply of beers kept arriving via friends John (The Dove) and Jeanette 😁. (Here with them, gig buddy Dave and our wives Ann and Sally, wary of repeating the recent Killers gig waywardness.)
You can see the bands on the stage side big screen but I just had to go into the arena for Sam Fender. This the third time I’ve seen him, once here with Neil Young/Dylan and recently his great Glastonbury set, with songs from his excellent new Seventeen Going Under album – belter. A singer songwriter with some edge and a proper band to play live with. Everyone’s noticing him now after a stuttering few years since his first album, Covid hiatus and some other gig cancellations followed. So much to come.
Even Sam Fender was a bit under supported given the magnitude of today’s headliners. The arena stage front paddock quickly fills as the Stones start time approaches. It is still so bright; a lovely warm glowing bright, but any lighting is a bit lost until much later. It’s exciting. Old rockers peer eagerly stagewards.
No sooner is Jagger on than he is off down the walkway, his walkway into the crowd. His body seems to absorb the music and move like a cartoon to it, effortlessly. The trade mark rounded arm hand claps, the pouting lips and side to side head wobble. What a front man and he’s done this for decades – still looks as fit as hell.
He dedicates the gig to the recently departed drummer Charlie Watts, Charlie’s face having been up on the pre-show backdrop.
I’ve taken the precaution, Stones relative novice that I am, of creating a Spotify playlist of recent tour dates. It is a crowd pleasing set and that tactic still pays off. (Subsequent reviews five star.) The addition I hadn’t anticipated was Angie, from Goats Head Soup. Probably my favourite Stones song. Brilliant. All a bit emotional such is the hugeness of the moment.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want is the earworm that stays with me for days. It’s a good response to all manner of situations. Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone is a celebratory cover thrown in: I could almost detect a pause before the ‘self-mentioning’ chorus.
There is a Wood-Richards led pair of songs during which they progress up the walkway a bit, but this is Jagger’s territory. The Stones guitar engine room generally seems happy to stick to the task: playing rock’n’roll. The whole gig is playing what people have come for, and in a way they want to hear it. No fancy nonsense.
Paint it Black : more classic history. In front of 60,000 people out in the park, they manage to give it raw uncluttered sound of a small club. There is a sense that this is a band returning to celebrate in their home city, after all they’ve done. Sixty years. It is amazing. I’m lapping it up. It’s my 49th and best gig of the year: the performance; the set; the nostalgia; the weather; the company; the boys are back in town thing. Tops.
I gave up with my camera after a bit – enough for the memory jolter when I’m sat in a home one day. I will beat the Stones to it at this rate.
The run in from Paint it Black escalated beautifully. There was a polite break for a play at the encore game and while the more predictable Satisfaction was the last, Sympathy for the Devil a preferred gem. That’s where I am heading next: the Beggars Banquet album to continue my belated education.