Like a rock’n’roll Jurassic Park – but without any of the star attractions running violently amok – Desert Trip’s first outing last weekend had a dazzling array of music’s finest surviving legends on the bill, including The Who, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. But what would it be like as internet-based visual clickbait? Look no further.
Dubbed ‘Oldchella’, Desert trip gathered a bill of such gargantuan rock legends to the Empire Polo Club in Idio, California, that it probably had its own gravitational pull.
Friday night saw The Rolling Stones top the bill over Bob Dylan, with Mick Jagger greeting the crowd with a promise that “tonight we’re not going to do any age jokes or anything, OK? Welcome to the Palm Springs retirement home for gentle English musicians”.
Headlining the opening night of the mini-festival, held at the same site as Coachella, The Stones previewed their forthcoming blues covers album ‘Blue & Lonesome’ with a run through Eddie Taylor’s 1955 tune ‘Ride ‘Em On Down’.
It wasn’t the only cover song of the night either. The Stones also paid tribute to Saturday headliner Paul McCartney with a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’.
Jagger made knowing reference to their age-old rivalry with the Fabs, introducing their version, “We’re gonna do a cover song of a sort of unknown beat group. I think you might remember [them], we’re gonna try a cover of one of their tunes.”
It was a night of rare treats, as The Stones also dusted off ‘Mixed Emotions’, a song they haven’t played in public since 1990, before piling into their mammoth catalogue of hits, including ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’.
The crowd certainly lived up to the ‘Oldchella’ tag, disguising themselves as mariachi revolutionary Stones fans and stripping off and passing around joints like Woodstock never finished.
Having failed to die before they got old, The Who were fitting Sunday night co-headliners, knocking twenty-three stone cold classics out of the polo park.
“We were 1967’s version of Adele or Lady Gaga or Rihanna or Bieber,” guitarist pete Townshend told the crowd before launching into their look-ma-I’m-up-a-hill hit ‘I Can See For Miles’.
Over two hours, The Who unleashed wave upon wave of timeless classic, from early monsters like ‘My Generation’ and ‘I Can’t Explain’ to 70s behemoths like ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and ‘Love, Reign O’er Me’.
Still as powerful as they were in their prime, Townshend and Roger Daltry closed with a medley of tunes from ‘Tommy’ and showstoppers ‘Baba O’Reilly’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’.
On Saturday, Paul McCartney and Neil Young took the whole ‘co-headliner’ concept to its logical conclusion and performed together for a handful of Beatles and John Lennon songs.
The duet was the highlight of a stunning set of Macca classics dominated by Beatles material including ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Let It Be’, ‘Hey Jude’, ‘Blackbird’, his first performance of ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ since 1993 and several Greatest Hits anthologies more.
But the Neil Young collaboration stole the show, their take on ‘A Day In The Life’ merging into Lennon’s ‘Give Peace A Chance’ and McCartney’s first ever performance of ‘The White Album”s exhibitionist shagging ditty ‘Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?’.
The crowd, as festival crowds do, did it on each others’ shoulders. Blow bubbles, that is. Obviously.
For sheer spectacle, though, no-one could match Roger Waters, playing large chunks of Pink Floyd’s albums ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, ‘Wish You Were Here’, ‘Animals’ and ‘The Wall’ before a retina-searing visual barrage projected onto two giant stage-side renditions of Battersea Power Station.
Pink Floyd’s trademark flying pig made an appearance, now a political porkie with slogans such as ‘DIVIDED WE FALL’ and ‘F*** TRUMP AND HIS WALL’ emblazoned across its belly.
The pig was only part of Waters’ anti-Trump diatribe. During ‘Pigs (Three Different Ones)’ the screens filled with mocking caricatures of Trump as a sheep, holding a dildo as a rifle, in a KKK hood and making a Nazi salute, as well as images of him with sagging breasts and a micro-penis. Not a fan, then.
And just in case anyone missed the inference…
“It’s rare somebody like me gets a platform like this, so I’m going to use it,” Waters explained, also paying tribute to the people of Palestine and honouring the BDS Movement. “I encourage the government in Israel to end the occupation,” he said.
Enthused punters will get the chance to do it all again this coming weekend too, when Desert Trip is repeated in reverse day order.
Keep up to date with all the latest news from Desert Trip’s second weekend on NME.com.