Adding it all up I reckon it came to about 400 quid. Or rather that’s my lower estimate because I haven’t really added it up properly at all. I’ve just guessed. At least half of that went on the tickets which, with criminal fees and booking insurance and all the extra nonsense set me back £230. Then there was travel. For ‘the wife’ to get a taxi and train to work that morning and for me to get the train after work and then for both of us to get home. Then there was wine and food at a funky, weird cafe/restaurant tucked behind a warehouse in Hackney Wick. Then there was a dangerously over the odds paper bag at a pick and mix stall and more drinks, in this case Pimms and a solitary GnT. I think that’s it. You know what, it must have gone past 400. For a night out.
Other factors played their parts. There were the little personal niggles of stress about getting there in time and then getting home through the crowds, though they (inevitably) proved to be ill-founded. Then there was the fact that £230 apparently just about got you tickets inside the stadium. We were so high up it felt like we could have just scaled the exterior and snuck in through the roof undetected. Because we’re Spiderpeople. And finally I hadn’t really decided how much I like Florence and the Machine. All added up it’s a big price to pay but when you have the honour of seeing the greatest rock and roll band in the world from a substantial distance away it all makes it worthwhile. In a way.
The Rolling Stones at the Olympic Stadium was never a sure deal. I procrastinated for a while but then people said stuff like “oooh it’s the Olympic Park, it’ll be great” or “oooh you like the Rolling Stones, it’ll be great” or, less helpfully, “are they still all alive? oooh that would be nice, you won’t regret it”. So I hit enter and before you know I was sucking on a cigarette and waiting for ‘the wife’ outside the hitherto alien landscape of Stratford International Station. Having never bothered to visit Stratford and The Olympic Park before I had thus foolishly allowed 6 years to pass and therefore will never get to see it in it’s sparkling prime. I suppose it looked alright enough but you could tell that London has shifted it’s priorities, moved on, and things were beginning to slide. Gently, almost imperceptibly, but slide nevertheless.
Our immediate priority was food and on a hot Friday late afternoon in anywhere in London that is easier said than done. The food outlets of Westfield were pretty unbecoming, but rammed anyway. Annoyingly so in the case of Jamie’s Italian which had a standing queue of quite a few. There is no time short enough in which I’d like to see his chain and his face disappear altogether. Everywhere I look I see what he has done to food and restaurants and it makes me sad. Also angry. Mainly angry. Moving on we went to that weird little place and ate humbly (we’re talking baguette and sausage roll humble) and looked out across a canal at the rest of the Hackney Wick that that Olympic funding was unable to save from looking like a tramp’s bumhole. With graffiti. Gentrification is a funny thing and it always has a perimeter.
We had to flounder down a line to get in because, thanks to Islamist idiots, you can’t get into any public venue without having a full rectal search, and then after that we soaked up the atmosphere a bit. Fully saturated near seconds later we headed up to our crow’s nest seats (one saving grace being we had no neighbours to our immediate right and therefore no-one to apologetically clamber over every time either of us wanted a wee (both). Or another drink (more me). Or a cigarette (entirely me). Florence was pretty good; a ginger, swishing nymph in a satin dress, leaping around as if she was being harangued by hornets and wailing. She does wail a lot, to fair or better effect.
And then they arrived and they were fine. They were good in places and sloppy in others and borderline plain ropey elsewhere. But, on a couple of occasions, it all shone through and you could believe the hype (including my own) and they sat briefly on the edge of magnificence. I assume it must be very hot on the edge of magnificence because they didn’t stay there for too long. Certainly not long enough anyway. I can’t remember who it was that said you shouldn’t meet your heroes. I haven’t met any of The Rolling Stones and I know I never will, so that dilutes it all a bit, though I can tell you that they still put on a show. It’s just they came across a bit faded. But in a nice way, like The Wild Bunch – past their best but still a damn good outfit. And even a gang of young bucks wouldn’t want a shoot out with them. The Arctic Monkeys would have shit their ironic, Yorkshire pants.
Nostalgia isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as you’re prepared to admit that the ageing process works in a linear fashion for all involved. I hadn’t taken that into account and as a result was left just regular whelmed in very many senses. But we did it, we saw the best of the best one last time (or for ‘the wife’ the first and possibly only time). There won’t be another similar extension of cash and goodwill, regardless of their mortal coil situation. They were OK/good/almost great but even at OK they kicked lumps out of almost anyone else I wouldn’t mind seeing. Jagger may very well be the best front man the universe has and Keith Richards is certainly the best thing that’s ever happened to rock and roll full stop. (which is now a third full stop) Their detractors and gremlins might throw up a few questions marks but that’s only because they’re jealous. A big thing to be jealous about, that. The eternal disappointment of not being in The Rolling Stones. If I was a musician it would cripple me.
I reckon £430 all in. And despite the odd grumble all very well worth it.
G B Hewitt. 28.05.2018