ROLLING STONES Hyde Park preview – Evening Standard, 5 July 2013

Thanks, Glastonbury, that was a fun warm-up. Now The Rolling Stones have some real history to make, returning to play two gigs in Hyde Park for the first time since their 1969 show in front of what some participants (who were possibly on drugs at the time) claim was upwards of half a million people.

Even if you weren’t there you’ll know that it was a key moment in rock ’n’ roll history — a free outdoor festival pre-Woodstock and Glastonbury, Mick Jagger in a flouncy white dress, reading Shelley’s Adonaïs and releasing white butterflies two days after the death of guitarist Brian Jones.

At Glastonbury it was red confetti billowing towards the crowds, not butterflies. Instead of talk of death, it looks very much as if the Stones will go on for ever. The lines in their faces deepen but their fanbase gets ever younger. The memorable image from their set at Worthy Farm was a mechanical phoenix, shooting flames from the Pyramid Stage roof, that symbol of regeneration ready to rise again from its own ashes. The set was such a success that the band were even credited with causing one fan to go into labour. (She gave birth on site a few hours after the Stones had finished.)

Jagger was in fine, hip-swivelling form last weekend, his bluesy holler still sounding powerful while the singing voices of so many of his peers are fading. Keith Richards may look like he’s about to crumble into dust but he’s already talking about following last year’s 50th anniversary concerts with the 60th. “I don’t really see any reason why there shouldn’t be a 60th. Either that or we croak on the job,” the 69-year-old said recently. Like the antiquated bluesmen he idolises, he knows being rock royalty is a profession from which you don’t retire.

Jagger encouraged the idea that this is far from their final flourish at Glastonbury: “If this is the first time you’ve ever seen the band, do come again, all right?” He knows that playing the prestigious but tightly budgeted festival was worth the pay cut to reach a younger generation. Past headliners have gone away with approximately £200,000, and the Stones, reportedly the highest-earning band in the world, generally haul in around £5 million for their arena shows. As well as more than 100,000 fans, old and new, watching them in Somerset, the buzz around this debut Glastonbury appearance made their set the most-viewed element of the BBC’s coverage, with 2.6 million tuning in.

Before Glastonbury they were already working hard to reach the kids. There are 70 different children’s T-shirts and babygros on sale in the band’s online store, all featuring that lascivious tongue logo. Jagger, Richards and Ronnie Wood (or someone close to them) are all now using Twitter, Wood posting a photo of his wellies and Jagger his yurt prior to their festival set. Changing the lyrics to Factory Girl just for the occasion was a thoughtful touch too: “Waiting for a girl, helped her put up her tee-pee/Waiting for a girl, she took all my ecstasy/Now she’s off with Primal Scream/Waiting for a Glastonbury Girl.”

In the download world favoured by those who can barely remember CDs, the Stones are now perfectly primed. Last month the iTunes store created a new “destination” page from which to sell digital versions of their music, although two exclusive Complete Collection sets will need a bit more than pocket money: 1963-1971 costs £99.99 and the 322 songs on 1971-2013 will set you back £119.99.

While some of their rivals, such as The Beatles and Pink Floyd, have been resistant, the Stones have long made their albums available on streaming services such as Spotify. That’s a good place to be now that we’re in a listening culture where it doesn’t matter so much if music is new, as long as it’s new to you. It’s perfectly acceptable for the Rolling Stones to be a 14-year-old’s favourite new band in 2013. It helps that classic rock is generally growing in appeal among teenagers starved of great fresh guitar bands.

The vocal endorsement they’ve been getting from the next generation of musicians is further evidence of the Stones’ rejuvenation. “They get a lot of flak because they’re not 25 any more but I genuinely think they’re the greatest rock ’n’ roll band of all time,” said Justin Young of The Vaccines, who will play just before Mick and his men at Hyde Park tomorrow. Young bucks Jake Bugg and Tom Odell are on the bill for the Stones’ second date next weekend, while Jagger has recently duetted with Win Butler of Arcade Fire, Katy Perry, Florence Welch, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. “That was pretty much the best moment ever,” said 23-year-old Swift after taking Marianne Faithfull’s role on As Tears Go By in Chicago last month.

Tickets are sold out for Hyde Park. They weren’t cheap — £95 minimum — so we’re a long way from the free love-in of ’69, but really, it’s money well spent. If you have any interest in live music at all, you have to see the Stones live at least once.

Though, thankfully, new songs are thin on the ground, tomorrow’s show will be no cuddly nostalgia-fest. On this tour they’ve been stringing out Midnight Rambler to howling, epic proportions, while Can’t You Hear Me Knocking sounds as raw as it did when it first appeared on Sticky Fingers in 1971. They may not be the parent-scaring hoodlums of the Sixties but there’s still a danger to their sound. Brian Jones’s replacement, Mick Taylor, is back on guitar for a few numbers and, as concrete proof that they’re not mere crowdpleasers, they even let Keith sing a couple.

At Hyde Park (where the gigs tomorrow and on July 13 are part of the Barclaycard British Summertime series), we can expect the same classics they gave to Glastonbury — Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Sympathy for the Devil, Brown Sugar and so on ad infinitum — with a few surprises. They’ve been taking requests here and there, and will surely make reference to their emotional appearance here 44 years earlier.

While they’ve subsequently admitted that the first Stones in the Park gig was not their best, these days they’re consummate pros. What their return lacks in poetry and butterflies, it will more than make up for in barnstorming, unsurpassable rock ’n’ roll.