Just 10 minutes into The Rolling Stones’ last night of their two-year tour at The O2 on Sunday, a member of the audience was escorted out by concerned paramedics. Perhaps it was the sheer excitement of being in the same building as the legendary rockers that brought on what appeared to be a mild heart attack, but the make-up of this particular audience may also have had something to do with it.
Suffice to say that, at 22, I felt about 40 years too young to be in attendance. I wasn’t wearing the Stones T-shirt lovingly purchased at their ’68 Vancouver gig, nor could I hold up a sign saying ‘This is my 100th Stones concert’. A delightful man behind me regaled his friends with a full breakdown of every Stones performance he had ever witnessed, read or dreamed about, and noted gloomily that there had been no bands since ‘worth seeing live’.
I would strenuously disagree with this latter remark, but I must admit that seeing The Stones live was a pretty awesome experience. Although there is something disconcerting about a 64 year old gyrating to that degree, Mick Jagger is the supreme performer, working the crowd energetically throughout, and the Stones, together longer than most of their marriages have lasted, are still phenomenal musicians.
The energy during Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women and Paint It Black was electric, and hardly any theatrical tricks were necessary to liven up a superlative display – a light show and moving stage merely complemented the performance. At the back of all our minds was the thought that this might well be the last Stones performance ever, adding pathos to the proceedings.
However, it was a somewhat peculiar atmosphere for a rock concert. In my section of the audience, there were people who left to go to the loo at frequent intervals, only stood up for the really good songs, and even one woman who shoved my excitedly clapping companion further into her seat with a severe instruction to ‘Sit back’. This woman was also the only person in the entire 20,000-seater arena not to stand, clap or cheer for (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – surely a criminal offence.
The (evidently middle-class and primarily British) audience was most at ease when following simple instructions on how to enjoy themselves. They whooped happily during Sympathy For The Devil and Miss You, as directed by Jagger, but faltered when he returned to the pesky task of singing. The whoops rose and fell in an embarrassed crescendo and diminuendo, depending on whether or not the king of rebels was conducting them.
Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the evening for many members of the audience was the confiscation of all bottle tops by O2 officials on entry to the arena. The thousands of sensible types who had brought along a bottle of Evian to sip during what would no doubt be a hot and tiring night were flummoxed by this turn of events, sadly gulping down their water before finding their seats. That officials really imagined this particular group of people were set to bottle the act seems unlikely, but I suppose, like the Stones, these are the original youthful rebels, ready to cause havoc and stick it to The Man. Rock on.