Magazine article The Spectator

Festivals Greatest Show on Earth

Magazine article The Spectator

Festivals Greatest Show on Earth

Article excerpt

Yes, I'm sorry, the Stones at Glastonbury really were that good and if you weren't there I'm afraid you seriously need to consider killing yourself. You missed a piece of rock'n'roll history, one of the gigs that will likely be ranked henceforward among the greatest EVER. So again, sorry if you weren't there to enjoy it. Boy and I were.

And we did. A lot.

Perhaps it helped that so few of us were expecting much. I was hanging around the afternoon beforehand in the EE tent waiting for my phone to recharge, having one of those random Glasto conversations with strangers - an A&E nurse, a geeky kid - and we all agreed that the Stones were a band we planned to see more out of duty than pleasure.

'It could be our last chance, ' said the nurse. 'Oh, I dunno, they'll be doing this well into their eighties, ' I said. 'But one of them might die soon, ' said the kid. We then moved on to the vexed issue of viewing tactics: should we turn up early - and if so how early: during the preceding set by Primal Scream, maybe? - or should we try to wing it and risk getting a really rubbish spot?

If I hadn't had Boy with me, what I would probably have done is loaded up on chemicals, given up on the Stones and gone for the more reliably dancey basslines of Example and Chase & Status. But parental responsibility made me conscious that Boy's first major rock experience had to be perfect, so we got there an hour early, found a pretty decent slot level with the front of the mixing desk and waited, praying to God we wouldn't need a pee for the next four hours because once you're in the middle of a crowd of 100,000 that isn't an option.

It was worth it just for the atmosphere.

Everyone's prior cynicism had vanished and all any of us could think was: 'I don't believe it. Finally, after 40 years' wait the Stones play Glastonbury and I'm here, I'm actually here to witness it.'

Then suddenly it was happening. 'This is legend, Dad, ' said Boy, as Mick stripped down to his black shirt and the giant screens went black-and-white for 'Paint It Black'. All that snide stuff you keep reading in the papers about how old they are, all those raddled close-ups: let me tell you that as soon as those boys started playing, the age thing became a total irrelevance. …

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