Mick Jagger teases the crowd of 100,000 people stretched in front of him at Glastonbury.
“After all these years,” the Rolling Stones singer says, “they’ve finally got around to asking us.”
In fact, organizer Michael Eavis has been trying to book the Stones, now on their “50 and Counting” tour, for much of the U.K. festival’s 43-year history.
It’s great to have the band still going. Jagger, who turns 70 this month, crowns the concert with a stunning version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” There are exceptional takes on “Start Me Up,” “Paint It, Black,” “Midnight Rambler” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”
For all this, the group isn’t as sharp as it was at the O2 last year, especially in the middle section of the set, which includes offbeat numbers such as “2,000 Light Years from Home.”
Rumored guests fail to materialize, such as Lady Gaga and even former Stones bassist Bill Wyman who is also at the festival, though guitarist Mick Taylor is back.
The Stones’ faces appear to be melting like wax as they start to look like the puppet pensioners in the U.K. advert for loans company Wonga.com Ltd. or the cartoon band Gorillaz.
Jagger, constantly changing outfits, bounces around like a jumping Jack Flash. Keith Richards is a retired pirate who bashes his guitar and looks baffled at the sounds that emerge.
Ron Wood, cigarette in mouth, is a cleaner who has wandered onto the stage and stays for a laugh when nobody chucks him off. Charlie Watts resembles a director of an S&P 500 company who just so happens to be able to play drums better than anyone.
A choral version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is magnificent, though the title is apt.
Those watching TV at home only get an hour of a 150-minute minute performance and miss many of the best bits. At Glasto, many folks can’t see much because waving flags in front. The sound isn’t great for those at the back of the crush.
Glasto has grown into the world’s biggest greenfield rock event. Wealthy professionals such as bankers are now paying more than 1,000 pounds ($1,500) a head on luxury accommodation and food. The 205-pound basic tickets sold out in minutes last October, long before the Stones were confirmed as headliners.
Still, Jagger’s men inevitably divert attention from the 2,000 acts performing over 50 stages. Hurts and Chase & Status see many fans desert them for the Saturday headline show billed as a moment of rock history. Public Enemy retaliates on a nearby stage by blasting out a caustic “Don’t Believe the Hype.”
Of the other acts playing, Laura Mvula, Professor Green, Elvis Costello, Strypes and Portishead are exceptional.
Special mentions to the Arctic Monkeys (singer Alex Turner is now a confident showman, with a new haircut and material) and the three sisters in California’s Haim, whose first album arrives in September.
The Haims perform all over the place, including a show with Primal Scream. Bobby Gillespie can’t sing and has a silly fuchsia suit, though his supporting musicians are first rate.
The Rolling Stones play in Hyde Park, London, on July 6 and 13 for the last dates of the current tour.
Muse highlights include Manuela Hoelterhoff on arts, Elin McCoy on wine, Catherine Hickley on German art and Greg Evans on U.S. television.
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)