For many rock fans in the 1960s, the choice seemed binary: Is their band The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? But opening a mega-festival of rock legends, the Stones pulled a surprise—an homage to their supposed rivals.
Mick Jagger, who commanded the attention of a 75,000-strong crowd over two hours to inaugurate California’s Desert Trip festival, told the audience the band wanted to do a “strange thing”—a cover of a song by “a big band.”
The Stones then ripped into “Come Together,” bringing in Keith Richards’ defining hard-edged blues guitar as well as Jagger’s harmonica to the opening track off The Beatles’ penultimate album “Abbey Road.”
Desert Trip, taking place over back-to-back three-day weekends with identical schedules near the resort of Palm Springs, is bringing out six acts from the rock pantheon—with former Beatle Paul McCartney to play Saturday.
The Stones displayed phenomenal energy, with Jagger tirelessly working the crowd with his signature dance style of quick-flowing body jerking, but the 73-year-old also showed good humor over the sight of graying fans watching aging rockers.
“We’re not going to do any age jokes tonight,” Jagger said, “but welcome to the Palm Springs retirement home for genteel English musicians.”
Jagger also teased that a “dinosaur park” was among weekend attractions for the crowd, whose average age was decades higher than the fan base at most US festivals such as Coachella, held each April at the same venue.
Jagger’s jokes aside, the Stones have shown new productivity. The band on December 2 will release its first album in more than a decade, “Blue and Lonesome,” a collection of blues covers. The Stones played one track off the album for Desert Trip—“Ride ‘Em On Down,” late guitarist Eddie Taylor take on a blues standard.
But the Stones—backed by the deep, rich bass of Darryl Jones—focused on the crowd-pleasing hits, culminating in “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” set to a firework show in the desert sky.
The choice of 1969’s “Come Together” was especially striking as Richards last year made headlines by denouncing, in typically colorful language, The Beatles’ output after 1966 when the Fab Four stopped touring and sought spiritual enrichment in India.
Idiosyncratic Dylan –
“I would like to thank Bob Dylan for opening.” Such were the words uttered on stage by Jagger and unlikely to have been heard in years by Dylan.
But with such top talent at Desert Trip, the folk rock icon was pushed to the early part of the lineup.
If he minded, he did not say. True to form Dylan, whose relationships with crowds have run from indifferent to hostile, did not say a word on stage other than to sing.
Dylan, who in recent years has kept his stage and media presence to a minimum, stayed hidden in full view, with no live footage on the screens which instead showed black-and-white film reels of New York luncheonettes and other spaces of American life.
Yet even if he was unseen, Dylan was heard and powerfully so, with the guitar legend mostly taking to the piano to lead his band in a charging rock set.
He opened with “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35,” whose classic refrain line—“Everybody must get stoned”—speaks to many a festival goer, even if marijuana was less omnipresent at Desert Trip that at younger events.
Dylan, who steadfastly resists pressure to play only best-known hits in concert, reached darker as he progressed through the set.
His gravely voice taking on a new solemnity, Dylan closed with “Masters of War,” his intense 1963 song questioning the Cold War military buildup.
Desert Trip, which could be the most profitable festival in history, will also star Roger Waters, The Who and Neil Young.
The Stones—masterful businessmen besides musicians—are the top-grossing among the acts and seen as the most difficult to book for festivals, reports AFP, INDIO, United States.