Live in Hyde Park – Elvis Costello, Ray Davies and the Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones, Hyde Park, 13/07/13
View: Tier 1, three rows from the stage
When the Stones have played two gigs in the same town on the 50 And Counting tour the second gig has been musically more interesting and better received. And so it proved at Hyde Park 2. There were rare moments of delicacy on Ruby Tuesday, some cranked-up guitars from Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood on Street Fighting Man (with lyrical London references) and a UK debut for Emotional Rescue, rehabilitated from 70’s novelty to a slinky dance groove courtesy of Darryl Jones bass. Another first: Charlie Watts speaks! (he said hello). Musical highspot was the presence on Midnight Rambler of guitarist Mick Taylor, the only guest that most hardcore Stones fans need. A mesmerising duet between Taylor’s Les Paul Sunburst and Jagger’s mouthharp was conducted head-to-head, the two protagonists were so close they almost merged. Two contrasting images: Jagger skipping the length of the walkway to end encore Satisfaction and two hours of music without even being out of breath, whilst Richards and Watts exited the stage arms round each others shoulders for mutual support as if they were off to the Day Centre. So the last gig on this tour but last live show ever? Not while the Stones can satisy 65,000 fans, both casual punters and grizzled veterans.
Elvis Costello and Ray Davies, Hyde Park, 12/07/13
View: Loitering towards the front, Stage right
The last free gig in Hyde Park was in 1976, so a triple bill of Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello and Ray Davies on a beautiful July evening for no money was an unexpected treat, created by headliner Elton John cancelling with appendicitis. After a well-received acoustic set from Nick Lowe and an unmemorable turn from Gabrielle Applin Elvis Costello provided an object lesson in how to storm a festival: play your hits, play them loud, play them fast. The set was drawn mainly from his first three LPs, plus a beautifully sung rendition of the ghastly She (Aznavour rather than Parsons). A final flourish of Pump It Up, (What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love & Understanding and Shipbuilding brought the set to a climax which was then marginally defused by a brooding I Want You.
Ray Davies had a hard act to follow but his back catalogue rose to the challenge. He effectively balanced the well-known stuff such as Dead End Street. You Really Got Me and Waterloo Sunset with songs of more selective appeal like I’m Not Like Everybody Else, I Need You and a cleverly abridged Celluloid Heroes. Ray’s young band were significantly strengthened by Pretender James Walbourne on lead guitar and backing vocals who added greatly to See My Friends. The singalong qualities of Sunny Afternoon were ruthlessly exploited by Ray, an expert in engaging audience participation. Some momentum was lost by Ray’s frequent disappearances and by the occasional dodgy song selection such as 20th Century Man – Ray is clearly fond of the prescience of its lyrics but the tune is a turkey. By the time Lola made its inevitable encore appearance a Union Jacket wearing Davies had been officially recognised as a national treasure. As the £15 tea towels in the Merch tent said, God Save The Kinks!