Somehow, while I was doing a bunch of traveling over the past few weeks and remained out of the loop on a lot of music news, the Rolling Stones played what might go down as the gig of the year in their headlining appearance at Glastonbury.
But this is nothing new for the Stones, who have been the poster boys for rock ageism for the past forty years.
The idea of a band playing rock and roll into their mid-30's was considered preposterous during the 1960's. The Stones released all their best albums in the 70's and traveled the world on their most famously debauched tours.
The idea of a rock band touring well into their mid-40's was widely ridiculed during the late 80's. When the Stones made something of a comeback with the "Steel Wheels" album and tour, popular sentiment assumed they'd be a parody of themselves onstage while cynically hauling in truckloads of money. Instead, they experienced a career rebirth of sorts. Critics and fans were surprised by their energy and stage presence. Their new albums would remain redundant in this phase of their career, but it hardly mattered because the "Steel Wheels" tour solidified them as a major touring act for the next two decades (and counting).
All the subsequent milestones/excuses to go on tour have been met with skepticism (30th, 40th, 50th anniversary tours). Why not humour them and let them collect their last payday, after all, there are always people who never saw them before or will pay to see them for the 100th time. Except that last payday has never arrived, because they won't stop touring. They even seem to enjoy it!
What's more, a lot of people from my generation were brought up on the idea of Glastonbury being a place where indie bands broke through to a wider audience, where we, the fans who'd been supporting them for years, could feel vindicated when they became the stars we'd always hoped they'd be. But those days, where the likes of Pulp, Radiohead, and Orbital were breakthrough headliners, are long gone. Glastonbury is the place where the world's biggest bands choose to appear when they want to make a long awaited festival appearance, and it's been that way for many years now. A memorable show at Glastonbury becomes instantly legendary and carries more lasting impact than any tour, no matter how big. Blur's reunion gig from 2009 actually seems like small potatoes next to the likes of Jay-Z and U2. Rolling Stones '13 is a fairly logical extension of the last few years of increasingly fevered anticipation over headlining spots by increasingly legendary bands.
And yeah, I watched the Stones' Glastonbury set (or at least the last hour or so that was broadcast by the BBC) and it's crazy good, or, if you're basing the comparison on a different scale, about a billion times better than it had any right to be. Mick Jagger must be a space alien because it can't be possible that a human being could live Mick Jagger's life and still have the same physique at 70 that he did at 20 (and his voice isn't too far off either). And how many men of any age can still look cool wearing black feathered boas and gold lamé jackets?