The Rolling Stones – Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013)

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There would be no poetry this time, some 44 years after the Rolling Stones last took the stage at London’s Hyde Park. Back then, in 1969, they were eulogizing Brian Jones, then just two days dead. Who knew what a new century would bring?

What it, in fact, brought was something more celebratory than revelatory, but that they had made it at all — considering how bleak things looked, despite Mick Jagger’s Greek-inspired man dress the first go ’round — seemed to be reason enough for the hundreds of thousands in attendance in the summer of 2013. There had been a few quiet years leading up to these 50th anniversary shows, after all. But the Stones knocked off the rust across a series of ridiculously priced, fin de siecle-style orgies of corporate rock in America, and then a raucous return to their homeland at Glastonbury.

By the time they got to London, the Stones machinery was running on all cylinders. Of course, since ’69, “Honky Tonk Women” has gone from the new song nobody had heard to just another in a mind-boggling string of familiar radio favorites — presented one after another on Eagle Rock’s concert film Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live, with only a brief stop to present the set’s lone new offering, “Doom and Gloom.” Keith Richards’ interlude also includes “You Got the Silver” from Let It Bleed, but otherwise, the hits (each as familiar, and in some ways rote, as the last) just keep coming.

From the orgiastic response, however, it’s clear: The Rolling Stones have become, in the intervening years, the very embodiment of that legendary introduction given to them by Sam Cutler at their initial appearance in this same space: The greatest rock ‘n’ roll back in the world! Or, at the very least, the highest grossing.

After all, the ’69 edition of Stones, in a move as sweet as it was anachronistic, released a cloud of white butterflies from a cardboard box. Fast forward to ’13, and Jagger has turned such gestures into high fashion — quite literally: During “Miss You,” he appears in a glittery jacketed covered with mechanically stitched versions of the same flying insects. That rickety old Hyde Park stage has been transformed into circus tent striped with continuously ejaculating explosions of fireworks and digital iconography. Richards has long since been reduced to sideshow caricature, rather than the pirate soul of things, even as Jagger’s moves become more and more polished and programmed — just like his business acumen. Hype Park was more like it.

So, yeah, times have changed, the Stones themselves have changed, but the music? It lives on, if only for the enjoyment of another generation who will never know just how dangerous this group used to be.

That is, until Mick Taylor steps out. He’s on stage for two songs, including the finale “Satisfaction” — but that’s long since become nothing more than a sing along, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” with far worse backing choir. Watch, though, as the Stones rattle and hack their way through a truly nasty-sounding “Midnight Rambler.” Suddenly, you get that familiar chill again. Taylor, whose role in creating this band’s legend is so consistently overlooked, gives them what he always gave them: a focused sense of risk.

Then, and maybe only then, did it feel like 1969 again.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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