“I’m not going to make any age jokes,” said Mick Jagger in front of a sold-out audience of 75,000 people Friday in Indio, Calif. “But welcome to the retirement home for genteel English musicians.”
If there was ever a more apropos quip to describe Desert Trip — a two-weekend festival featuring rock legends like Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and The Who — it was that (along with the song that followed, “You’re Not the Only One”). Produced by Goldenvoice, Desert Trip occupies the same polo grounds as the annual Coachella Music Festival but with an, ahem, much older clientele. Margaritas and mules flowed for the mostly upper-class attendees in straw and bermuda hats — some of whom traveled from as far away as Europe to attend the concert that cost upwards of $1,600 for a standing spot in front of the stage.
A chatty Jagger showed particular appreciation for the fans who packed the gargantuan ampitheatre that stretched at least four football fields away from the epic stage. “We have been playing music for you 50 years or more,” Jagger said. “That’s pretty amazing you still come out to see us.”
So they rocked it mightily in return, playing faves like “Start Me Up,” “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll,” and “Gimme Shelter” while an ageless Jagger paraded up and down the stage. He and his beloved cohorts crooned an epic 20 songs in all, including a cover of the Beatles song “Come Together” and a roboot of “Ride ‘Em On Down” from their upcoming blues album that’ll drop in December. Their age only became a factor after the 11th song, when a cigarette-smoking Keith Richards indicated it was his time for him to sing-speak a few selections.
“It’s nice to be here,” said a smiling Richards, 72, flicking his butt on stage. “It’s nice to be anywhere.” His rendition of “Slipping Away” and “Little T & A” was wobbly but nonetheless entertaining (though maybe for the wrong reasons).
Dylan, in contrast, wasn’t quite so giddy and lippy as the night’s opening act. Spending most of his set sitting in front of the piano and wearing a white fedora hat, Dylan performed older ditties “Things Have Changed” and “Tangled Up in Blue” while black and white images of ‘60s America flashed in the background. (Though the film was mesmerizing to watch, it would have been preferable to see close-ups of Dylan – which is how most of us saw most of the Stones.) Singing along with Dylan is a struggle – he’s not the most enunciative dude to take the stage – but you couldn’t miss “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35″ (with its recurring “Everybody must get stoned” lyrics) and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”
For concertgoers who show up at the grounds early, a massive photography exhibit is there to help pay tribute to the good ol’ days. Most of the black and whites were shot in the ’60s and ’70s and ‘80s and feature exceptional moments in rock history, like Roger Waters and Joni Mitchell, Roger Daltry on his Sussex estate, and Jagger looking dumbfounded while standing amid a pool of shoes on a 1978 concert stage. Apparently, fans thought it would be a better idea to hurl their kicks at the Stones instead of flowers or even bras. Great stuff.
The concert continues today with Paul McCartney and Neil Young, followed by Roger Waters and The Who on Sunday. The lineup repeats next weekend.