Writing now I can’t believe such a highly anticipated weekend has been and gone, but we had an amazing time so I’m going to try and share a bit of our trip to London. After checking into our hotel on Friday afternoon we did the tourist thing for a while, taking the tube to Tottenham Court Road, walking to Leicester Square and then on through Trafalgar Square down to the Embankment. It was a beautiful afternoon for a gentle ramble and a lolly sat overlooking the Thames.
The Leicester Square stop was mainly to get tickets for a show, and as hubby and I have mostly quite different tastes we managed to agree on Spamalot, as we both enjoy a good laugh at Monty Python. It was a great choice – it was hilarious with lots of current jokes, and stars Joe Pasquale and Bonnie Langford were brilliant. Friday night was rounded off with dinner at a steakhouse and a trip to the pub on the way back to the hotel. Knowing we were going to be outside all day and night on Saturday we took it easy on the drink and went to bed at a sensible hour. So much for making the most of being foot loose and pre-schooler free!
We knew the gates were opening at noon, and that there would be plenty going on so we decided to make the most of it and be there from the start. Now you didn’t hear this from me (hubby is a touch sensitive about how much they cost) but we were lucky enough to have Kings View tickets which included grandstand seats and access to the hospitality area.
This was more than just a gig for hubby, who has been a bit sentimental about the whole thing. His late mum was a massive Stones fan and the one who got him into their music. Had it not been so hot we could have bagsied ourselves a spot right near the stage but I would have ended up burnt and with heat stroke so we resolved to enjoy the gig from our seats and leave the prime spots to people with more stamina and determination than us. Thank heavens we had the option as being the hottest day of the year so far there is no way I would have been able to have spent long there without somewhere to shelter.
Early on we took a walk around the show ground and enjoyed seeing the different areas they had set up. I was particularly happy when we found cosmetics company Benefit were running a Benefayre on the Village Green. We got to play traditional village fete type games to win samples of their goods, and it’s fair to say my competitive side came out! The music on the main Great Oak stage didn’t start until early afternoon so we were able to catch part of a set by Public Service Broadcasting on one of the other stages and had time to enjoy some of the amazing food (fruit de la mer, apple and lavender tart and lobster and salmon burgers were among the offerings)
First up on the main stage was American band Vintage Trouble. Their R&B meets rock n roll vibe was very cool, unlike the poor front man whose powder blue suit was soon looking several shades darker as he gave it his all in 30+ degree heat. They were followed by Manchester band The 1975. They’ve got an album out in the autumn and have the looks and swagger that are bound to attract a lot of female fans. Tom Odell was meant to be next on, but due to illness was replaced by Irish group Hudson Taylor. I think brothers Alfie and Harry will be hoping to replace Jedward as the most famous brothers to come out of Ireland very soon. They were already performing on one of the other stages but were clearly chuffed to be supporting the main act on the main stage.
The only other act of the day I had heard of was final support act Jake Bugg. I’ve heard Lightning Bolt plenty of times and his set was great. All of these acts were brilliant to watch and hear but after Jake Bugg had finished the crowd began to swell even further in anticipation of the main event.The instant a countdown clock appeared on the giant screens the crowd went crazy. Before the Stones appeared on stage there was a montage of video from their 1969 gig in Hyde Park, then the heroes of the hour appeared to what must have been a barrage of noise.
The pictures here only show a tiny portion of the crowd, which is estimated at 65,000 people, for their final show in the 50 and Counting tour. They kicked off with the well known Start Me Up, followed by It’s Only Rock and Roll, getting the entire crowd on its feet. Next up were some songs that I wasn’t familiar with, including Emotional Rescue which was one of my faves of the night. They weren’t afraid to use pyrotechnics, as they did during one of my other absolute favourites, Sympathy for the Devil. At the end rather than releasing butterflies as they did at the end of their ’69 gig cannons blasted out red confetti instead.
I can’t claim to be a massive Stones fan and had been a little concerned that bearing in mind the age of the band and the appearances they have been putting in lately wondered whether the set would live up to the hype. I shouldn’t have worried. Jagger was the consummate showman and barely put a foot (or a note) wrong during the show which lasted for almost 2 hours. They put younger bands to shame! From our viewpoint it was amazing whenever he (and at one point Keith Richards and Ronnie Woods) ventured onto the runway out into the crowd. It looked like they were walking over the crowd.
The set was a really great mix of and lesser known songs, and moved between belters like Honky Tonk Woman and songs like Ruby Tuesday, done in a slower and more ballad like way than I have ever heard it before. While Jagger changed his jacket and shirts there was very little in the way of gimmicks, although the video screens did provide some brilliant backdrops as well as showing the band. My fanhood has now been cemented and should they ever tour again (and despite the constant comments about their age on the evidence of this performance who’d put it past them?) we’d probably make an effort to go and see them again. It was a wonderful experience, and the whole thing really was much more than just a gig.