History was made at Worthy Farm this evening when the Rolling Stones took to the stage for the Saturday headline slot at Glastonbury Festival. How strange that the first major rock ‘n roll band in the world – without whom there probably would be no Arctic Monkeys, Vaccines, Savages, Tame Impala, and other acts playing this year’s festival – had never topped the bill. “After all these years they finally got round to asking us,” said Mick Jagger as the performance kicked off.
Before the set started properly, the crowd heard scratchy recordings of crackly old blues records, Michael Eavis’s voice and farmyard animal noises. Soon we were swept away by a greatest hits set beginning with ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)’ and ‘Paint It Black’. Mick Jagger, who would undergo several outfit changes, started in an ornate green jacket.
By ‘Gimme Shelter’ the band had really found their groove. Jagger wiggled and squiggled, firing sonic electricity between him and guest vocalist Lisa Fischer, a session singer from New York, not Adele or Florence Welch, as had been rumoured earlier. Still, she did Merry Clayton proud. By ‘Wild Horses’ the crowd were in no doubt about the strength and power of Jagger’s voice. Or his wry sense of humour. He introduced ‘Glastonbury Girl’ as a song he’d written “the night before”. “Haven’t slept since Wednesday afternoon/Waitin’ for that Glastonbury girl/She took all my ecstasy now she’s off at Primal Scream,” he sang to a delighted crowd. It was in fact a version of ‘Factory Girl’ from ‘Beggars Banquet’ (1968).
‘Doom And Gloom’, the lead single released in 2012 for the band’s 50th anniversary, rocketed with vim and energy, and proved to naysayers that they can still write brilliant songs. Fears of whether a band past their prime could succeed in the prestigious slot had dissolved by this point.
For ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’, Mick Jagger brought on Mick Taylor, who played guitar in the Stones from 1969 – 1974. The tempo lowered a notch with a jazzy, sensuous version of the ‘Sticky Fingers’ classic, aided by Bobby Keys’ sax solo, before ‘Honky Tonk Woman’.
Through the set, Jagger talked to the crowd. ‘How are you feelin’? Are you feelin’ alright?” he asked and encouraged the audience to woop, yell and sing with him. “You’ve been out in the sun all day so in that case, let’s get happy,” Keith Richards said, introducing the much-loved ‘Exile On Main St’ track. He also took lead vocals for a soulful rendition of ‘You Got The Silver’.
Jagger quickly got the party started again with ‘Miss You’ during which Keys erupted into another euphoric sax solo. The energy remained high for ‘Midnight Rambler’ studded with Jagger’s harmonica and an astonishingly cool guitar solo from Taylor. Jagger took off his jacket to reveal a scarlet red shirt making it easier for him to dance, jerk and clap his three lieutenants before exhorting everyone to say “ow!” repeatedly. A hectic breakdown made way for a bluesy slow-down and rich resolve before an even filthier guitar fantasia took over. Cue the removal of another layer of clothing.
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“We’re not going to do the whole of ‘Satanic Majesties’ but here you go,” he said before launching into ‘2,000 Light Years From Home’. The lights and screens transformed into psychedelic baubles, bubbles and whorls of crimson, orange and green with Jagger waving his arms vertically over the crowd as if casting a spell.
For ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, Jagger donned a fierce black cloak that appeared to be made out of crows. During the song, an enormous bird which looked like a cross between a pelican and a phoenix appeared on the top of the stage and mechanically flapped its wings before plumes of smoke flew into the sky. ‘Start Me Up’, ‘Tumbling Dice’ and ‘Brown Sugar’ kept the ante up as Jagger continued to thank the audience for “coming to see us all the years we’ve been doing this, 50 or something.” Or something.
The first song in the encore was ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ elevated by two celestial-sounding choirs before an atomic ‘Satisfaction’ tied things up with red ticker tape showered on the crowd and fireworks.
The Rolling Stones were “destined” to play Glastonbury, Keith Richards said this week. Tonight the crowd assembled to witness their destiny. I don’t think we were the only ones satisfied.