Not Fade Away…The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury and why age is not a barrier to good rock performance.

5 Jul

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This last weekend, in a (very huge) field in Somerset, the Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts raised the bar once again on exciting things to do in a field. I’m echoing several other bloggers here, when I say that too much has probably been made of the event’s corporate nature, which in comparison to something such as V Festival, for example, isn’t really the case. Glastonbury has got huge, and has to operate as a viable business to survive. It’s a gargantuan undertaking; the erection of marquees, tents, stages, stalls, even buildings, to make up a temporary small town. That’s before we come to the almost countless performance artists and other contributors at work there. However well organised Glastonbury is, there is always someone, somewhere, moaning about how it doesn’t compare to smaller events (which should be obvious) and how it can’t compete with the memory of the counter-cultural happenings of the sixties. Well, no, it probably can’t; times have changed, and we didn’t really have a festival like Glastonbury back then anyway, if we’re to be completely honest. It’s origins lie in that culturally seismic era, but here we are today with a rather different beast; and it’s great. A huge English garden party in acres of farm land, with music and performance, with a subtle edge of suspect but ambient mysticism. Look, it’s summer. What could be better than live music, fun and games in a field with that great British sense of surreal humour and a background touch of the Arthurian?? Don’t knock it, it’s a great summer tradition..

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Anyhow, with my mind still on the 1960s, I can’t go without mentioning this year’s Saturday headliners, The Rolling Stones. The Stones, are probably (with the possible exception of The Beatles) the most famous rock band in the world (active or not). While there have been bands of musicians for millennia, there was nothing even resembling a ‘rock band’ before the 1950s, not even the so called ‘big bands’ or folk groups, and therefore no real precedent for any musician or performer of that genre actually maturing. The Stones are just one of literally thousands over the last fifty years or so, and yet still they shine (being as they are one of the most recognisable and famous bands). However, this fact didn’t stop many people slagging down the group for the crime of looking and actually being older. Never mind that Jagger sounded as good as ever, and that, wow, those men can really play, no…the idea that these bad boys of 1960s and ‘70s rock have grown older has led them to be treated with derision from certain quarters. Well, I think it’s time to put this ageist nonsense to rest. If the band couldn’t cut it, then their musical inadequacies should be what we’re judging, not whether or not Keith Richards has developed a paunch (and let’s be honest, he’s hardly fat is he).

I won’t be so optimistic as to say ‘here’s to the next fifty years’, but on the strength of this showing, here’s to quite a few more to come!

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