Review: The Rolling Stones, The Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury

It's only rock 'n' roll, but Glastonbury liked it: Rolling Stones dip in to deepest back catalogue in rock for festival debut

Glastonbury 2013 has been, and will be, defined as the year that the Stones finally, finally made it to Worthy Farm. Everywhere you look on site a pair of the band's famous lips stares out from a T-shirt. Usually being worn by  someone barely old enough to remember Bridges to Babylon, let alone Beggars Banquet.

But they've finally agreed to show. Or, “after all these years, they finally got around to asking us,” says Mick, having barely broken sweat swerving around the stage for “Jumpin' Jack Flash.

The notion that this is a Glastonbury moment to compare to Jay-Z's momentous 2008 showing, or Radiohead's famous 1997 is helped by the vast, vast swathes of people at the Pyramid Stage. If you squint, you can just about make out a mesh of tents on the horizon.

The Stones have had 50 years to work out how to put on a show worthy of this stage and here they prove it to the many thousands too young (or too poor to buy a ticket) to one of their regular shows. ”Paint it Black“ follows ”Jumpin Jack Flash“ before Jagger and long-term backing singer Lisa Fischer team up to howl their way through ”Gimme Shelter“. It's not a bad start.

Mick's keen to point out that he and his boys are in the Glastonbury spirit and haven't just helicoptered in for two hours, ”We were here for Arctic Monkeys and I tried to go up the tower (an observation platform in the festival's Park area) but the queue was too long,“ he drawls before starting an edited version of Beggar's ”Factory Girl“ with location-appropriate lyrics: ”Waiting for a girl by my tipi/ waiting for a girl she took all my ecstasy.“

Keith is enjoying himself too, drawing one of the loudest cheers of the night when stepping up to sing Let It Bleed's ”You Got the Silver“ and a raucous ”Happy“. Meanwhile erstwhile guitarist Mick Taylor is introduced by Mick and ends up hanging around for most of the night, including for the evening's one flat point - a 10-minute-long solo run in ”Cocaine Eyes“ which gives approximately 20 per cent of the crowd an excuse to run to the long-drop loos. But it's all good from there, like ecstatic versions ”Honky Tonk Women“ and ”Miss You“ before ”Start Me Up“ which extracts howls from the vast crowd as soon as Richards' plectrum hits the first two strings of his guitar. It's hit layered upon hit.

Before an encore of ”You Can't Always Get What You Want“ and a closing ”(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction“, ”Sympathy for the Devil“ and its field-filling ”woo woos“ steals the show. Of course, that's aided by a giant, animatronic phoenix sat atop the Pyramid stage throwing flames and waving its wings, as much as being the band's greatest work. At a rate of one show every 50 years, it's unlikely the Stones will be back at Glastonbury any time soon, so this one's a collector's item. As the four (plus Mick) leave the stage to a raft of fireworks, even a band who've seen everything from Altamont to Wembley Stadium look stunned at the size of the crowd they've pulled. Heck, even Charlie's smiling.

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