Rolling Stones pay homage to Beatles at all-star fest

Mick Jagger (centre) with (from left) Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, performing during the Desert Trip music festival last weekend.
Mick Jagger (centre) with (from left) Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, performing during the Desert Trip music festival last weekend.PHOTO: REUTERS

INDIO, CALIFORNIA • For many rock fans in the 1960s, the choice seemed binary: Is their band The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

But opening an all-star festival of classic rock, the Stones pulled a surprise - a homage to their supposed rivals.

Mick Jagger, who commanded the attention of a 75,000-strong crowd over two hours to inaugurate the Desert Trip festival last Friday night, told the audience the band wanted to do a "strange thing" - a cover of a song by "a big band".

The Stones then ripped into Come Together, bringing Keith Richards' hard-edged blues guitar as well as Jagger's harmonica to the opening track on The Beatles' penultimate album Abbey Road (1969).

The Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, The Who and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd are on the bill of Desert Trip, which takes place over two weekends with identical schedules near the resort of Palm Springs - with former Beatle McCartney playing last Saturday.

The Stones displayed phenomenal energy, but Jagger, 73, also showed good humour about his greying fans watching ageing rockers.

"We're not going to do any age jokes tonight," he said, "but welcome to the Palm Springs retirement home for genteel English musicians."

Jagger also joked that a "dinosaur park" was among the weekend attractions for the crowd of babyboomers, whose average age was decades higher than that of the fan base of Coachella, the annual pop festival held each April at the same venue.

Jagger's jokes aside, the Stones are still productive.

On Dec 2, they will release their first album in more than a decade, Blue & Lonesome, a collection of blues covers.

They played one track on the album at Desert Trip, their take on late guitarist Eddie Taylor's Ride 'Em On Down.

They focused on crowd-pleasing hits, culminating in (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, set to fireworks in the desert sky.

The choice of Come Together was especially striking as Richards last year hit the headlines by denouncing, in typically colourful language, The Beatles' output after 1966 when the Fab Four stopped touring and sought spiritual enrichment in India.

With such top talent at Desert Trip, folk rock icon Dylan had been pushed to the early part of the lineup, opening with Rainy Day Women #12 And 35 and closing with Masters Of War.

He did not say a word on stage.

After his set, Jagger said: "I would like to thank Bob Dylan for opening."

They were words unlikely to have been heard in years by Dylan.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2016, with the headline 'Rolling Stones pay homage to Beatles at all-star fest'. Print Edition | Subscribe