A decent souvenir of the day the Stones returned to Hyde Park, 44 years after the legendary 1969 gig
This is the 18th (official) Rolling Stones live album. Even for a band now entering their sixth decade of existence, that number seems excessive, particularly when you consider the wildly varying quality of the 17 that came before it. For the Stones, however, these releases have long been a way to document their endurance as a band – plus, of course, they’re always a lucrative merchandising opportunity.
‘Hyde Park Live’ – an iTunes exclusive only available until August 19 – does the job, without being a classic. Certainly, if you have a Rolling Stones live album itch in need of scratching, the likes of ‘Brussels Affair (Live 1973)’ or ‘Get Your Leeds Lungs Out!’, recorded in 1971, are better investments, while the greatest-hits nature of the setlist means there’s very little in the way of curiosities: only the screechingly camp disco-funk of ‘Emotional Rescue’ qualifies as anything close to a leftfield selection. Still, if you don’t feel a sudden, overwhelming urge to break into Jaggerobics when the pneumatic riff of ‘Start Me Up’ raises the curtain on proceedings, there’s probably something wrong with you.
The Stones’ return to Hyde Park – almost 44 years to the day since their legendary 1969 gig just two days after Brian Jones’ death – also provides a palpable sense of occasion. Nowhere is this greater than when they’re joined for ‘Midnight Rambler’ by former guitarist Mick Taylor, who made his live debut with the band on that day. “We just found him in the pub and put him onstage in front of 200,000 people,” grins Jagger, somewhat underplaying his role in shaping the sound of the band’s early-’70s imperial phase. Taylor’s presence with the Stones these days is interesting, not least because Keith Richards’ role now feels mostly ceremonial – whether it’s down to arthritis (as has been suggested) or some lingering after-effect of his 2006 brain surgery, Richards’ playing isn’t quite as effortless as it once sounded, with the onus now on Ronnie Wood to do most of the heavy lifting. Jagger, of course, still sounds irrepressible: when he starts ad-libbing on ‘Miss You’ about “having a low-down nasty time just like we used to” you still believe he’s capable of it, as icky as it sounds to hear a septuagenarian sing about such things.
While a couple of songs – most notably ‘Satisfaction’, a three-note guitar riff spun out for eight-and-a-half minutes – suffer from an acute case of stadium bloat, it’s all done in such a jubilant fashion that it hardly matters. There are many reasons for this band’s remarkable perseverance, but the principal one is that, after 50 years and counting, the Stones still know how to give the masses exactly what they want.