London’s Hyde Park has been home to summer concerts since the late Sixties, and this year The Rolling Stones – straight from a North American tour and their first headlining show at Glastonbury – returned to the venue for two shows, 44 years on from their first appearance there.
It was The Rolling Stones’ second appearance at Hyde Park in 2013. However they, this time, took to the stage in the evening leaving the afternoon to less iconic artists on the Great Oak Stage and the Bandstand, amongst others.
One of the first acts of the day on the Bandstand were Wild Smiles, a rock trio that unusually did away with the bass guitar, instead opting for 2 six-strings. Their set was good, and frontman Chris did his best to get the small crowd going but to no avail as the early afternoon sun and thirty degree temperatures had taken their toll.
In the Wild-West themed Unwind Theatre, country-blues performer Valerie June was found performing with a banjo or guitar in hand. Many of her songs featured the former instrument, one that many would associate with the American deep South where she moulded her style giving her a gritty sound that, at times, grated the ears. Her voice, however, did not grate; it was great.
Meanwhile the first act on the Great Oak Stage was Vintage Trouble, who have previously toured with The Who. Hailing from California, they came armed with an incredible set list, and at least twice the stage presence of everyone else. Frontman Ty Taylor enthused his modest-sized crowd, conducting them and dancing around the stage despite the searing heat.
As the evening approached, the excitement and tension built with the growing crowd. Sunbathing festival-goers stood up and bunched forward, abandoning their blankets as Jake Bugg took to the stage. Bugg is considered the superstar of 2013 but despite his excellent studio-recorded output, his performance was disappointing. Although well executed, his presence was not felt and he, surprisingly, lacked engagement with the audience.
The patient crowd waited forty minutes after Bugg’s set for the headliners, with the buzz growing ever larger. Then, The Rolling Stones appeared, opening with ‘Start Me Up’ to raucous applause. After an exhilarating start the energy only continued to grow within the congregation, and the ageing rockers, throughout their 19-song set. Frontman Mick Jagger used the transitional periods between tracks to undergo a swift outfit changes, at a point choosing to don a white dress in homage to their first performance on the same ground nearly half a century previously. During the opening riff of every song, the crowd reacted like it was the best song ever, most notably with ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, ‘Miss You’ and ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’; and the band were also joined on the latter (and the bluesy ‘Midnight Rambler’) by former Stone Mick Taylor. As they performed the newly recorded ‘Doom And Gloom’, the Rolling Stones showed that they can still write great music as well as perform it: Jagger in particular showing the fitness of a man a third of his age.
With many of the crowd well aware of the ‘Stones 70-year-old ages came the knowledge that they might not have the opportunity to see them again, a fact that made the festival even more special. Ultimately, BST Hyde Park is a great festival experience – particularly if you’re not fond of camping!