The Rolling Stones deliver the hits...
Rolling Stones at Glastonbury 2013

A high, dry and baking Pamplona sun rose above Glastonbury for the Saturday. The anticipation of The Rolling Stones’ performance is a chattering virus that spreads across the site, and everyone from the Lebanese Meze to the All Day Breakfast man are pumping out variations of ‘Forty Licks’ from their food stand speakers.

A whole day of programming comes before said headline show, though, and Azealia Banks commences an afternoon at The Other Stage with a bouncing party set of hyper-sampling tracks from her mixtapes and more.

“‘1991’,” she tells the crowd, “is my favourite song I’ve written in my career so far.” And while the gargantuan smile on her face forcefully projects the sentiment, the crowd responds much better to ‘Jumanji’. The tropical Hudson Mohawke-produced beats of this one pound through the sound system, with the gentle steel drum breakdowns acting as respites.

With the daytime heat now at full tilt, Clash takes a trip to one of Glastonbury’s most tranquil corners, Green Futures. This meadow is an area whose inhabitants display effective and therapeutic ways to recycle, create green energy, awaken your spirits and basically realign the shit out of your chakra before you re-expose it to the evil hedonism of Shangri-La.

With the gentle murmurings of ambient music therapy sessions leaking from nearby tents, and enough varying types of massage to make a spine swoon, this is the ideal spot for your pre-rave snooze.

The early evening sees Detroit folk musician Rodriguez take to The Park Stage, and the adorable, honest and flawed hero of 2012 music documentary Searching For Sugar Man pulls an enormous crowd.

Unfortunately, after a buoyant start, he really begins to lose momentum, struggling with his guitar lines and taking 10-minute breaks between songs. He even begins asking the crowd for wine.

The Park Stage itself doesn’t help. As probably the biggest stage without screens, getting a view is tough, and the distant 4/4 beat of a nearby dance tent harasses what is already a quiet set. It won’t dampen the warm place in our heart for Rodriguez, but unfortunately this just wasn’t his night.

So, on to a band and structure that always success in creating a grotesquely beautiful, everlasting boom of musical pleasure: Primal Scream and the Pyramid Stage.

Bobby Gillespie is born for these moments. He riles the tens of thousands into a frenzy while constantly looking like he couldn’t really give a toss if they danced along or not. ‘Loaded’ marks the halfway point of the set, and Bobby invites the three sister members of L.A. outfit Haim to join him for the remaining tracks.

They provide the big backing vocals that tracks like ‘Rocks’ and ‘Come Together’ demand. Everything comes together to comprise an anthemic close, and with so much inspiration owed to the next act, Primal Scream’s set is a perfect precursor for Saturday’s legendary headline slot.

It’s a good hour before there is even a hint that The Rolling Stones might come on. That hint is the sudden appearance of John Pasche’s iconic ‘Tongue and Lip Design’ logo on all the surrounding screens, and the crowd is suddenly back on their feet.

Another 10 minutes of vibrating anticipation follow. The day has built to this. Well, four decades have built to this. Two titanic fixtures of British music heritage. Our immoveable object meeting our elderly but seemingly unstoppable force.

Bang! The drums of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ teasingly ring out for about 40 seconds before they disappear in an explosion of light and four men appear, so visually immortalised that they now seem like cartoon characters.

Jagger kicks the air like it’s the arse of everyone watching, and the opening chords of ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ soar into the nighttime air. It has begun.

With at least a two-hour set planned, we’re prepared to wait for a few of the classics; but by song three we’re faced with ‘Paint It Black’ and the apocalyptic anti-violence anthem ‘Gimme Shelter’.

Having been disappointed by The Stone Roses two weeks ago, it’s refreshing to see all four members of The Rolling Stones holding their own, with Jagger especially sounding remarkably in tune.

The ageing swinger rests his voice mid-set, allowing Richards to take on ‘You Got The Silver’ and ‘Happy’, and in no time we’re at the business end of this mammoth moment in history.

The demonic first-person narrative of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ begins, and a previously dormant phoenix sat atop the Pyramid stage suddenly bursts into life with a flap of its wings and great bursts of fire.

The set closes, and the molecules in the air finally began to fall after two hours of thunderous reverberation. During these months gone and months to come, The Rolling Stones will spend a lot of time repackaging their legend to help thousands reminisce.

However, in finally uniting themselves with Glastonbury, it feels like they’ve achieved something new and important in what could be their last hurrah. New grounds for old souls.

- - -

Words: Joe Zadeh

Photo: Alex Sainsbury

Find Friday’s highlights here 

Get the best of Clash on your iPhone - download the app here


Follow Clash: