Should The Rolling Stones headline Glastonbury Festival 2011?

The Rolling Stones are still just a rumour for Glastonbury Festival 2011, but two of our journalists argue whether they should be headlining Worthy Farm this summer.

YES says Chris Swindells

Should The Rolling Stones paint Glastonbury black in 2011? Should we get Andy Gray attending weekly WI meetings and Louie ‘Pineapple’ Spence giving up on his fame-driven endeavours? You don’t need me to answer these – they are all rhetorical questions, any sane person already knows the answers, which surely makes a mockery of this blog?

Jagger has yet to tell his band of merry middle-aged men that this is the year, but if rumour mills, instigators and bookmakers are to be believed it’s on the proverbial cards. So why should we be so excited?

Rolling Stones are the darkside of the Beatles’ moon, the grizzled godfathers of guitar rock and blues – they were defining satanic sympathies in music before Ozzy could spell the word occult.

200 million albums don’t sell themselves and all those right-on music critics who think a four piece with an average age of 66 can’t kick it live should remember their last world jaunt took $558,255,524. It was probably the only live tour in the last decade to enlist the calibre of Metallica, Pearl Jam, Beck, and The Smashing Pumpkins as support acts. It’s ample reason to argue a Rolling Stones show at Worthy Farm this June would make for the live event of the year.

Forget Stevie singing birthday best-wishes or Blur’s fine comeback appearance there isn’t an act under this sun that can show how to give a closing performance like the Stones. 49 years of history and 29 studio albums that have delivered hits through each and every decade from the sixties onwards puts them on a cloud floating out into the intergalactic, far above and beyond the others.

Those who argue the band won’t take the modest pay-cheque neglect the fact that Glastonbury isn’t about the money. Not in the hippy, socialist-sense but for any worthy headline artist the prestige and attention that comes with a headline slot fills radio and TV across the country like no other festival or concert performance can. It’s a milestone in any artists’ career and, with every hope it won’t be their last, if it is to be how they leave us – what a swan song!

Glastonbury with its myriad of stages, entertainments and late night ‘dystopian pleasure cities’ can still boast a history of game-changing headline performances that haven’t been lost in the mix. From Radiohead’s critically acclaimed 1997 performance to Jay Z opening to a wonderwall of fans and cheers in 2008, it’s a festival stage that can create career-defining highlights.

The time has come for Sir Mick to arise and do the Jagger swagger across the Pyramid stage for the first, and most likely final time. As for the critics and nay-sayers you’ll have to make do with the Other stage and just remind yourself – you can’t always get what you want.

NO argues Alex Fahey

A legal wrangle has revealed that there's disagreement in the Rolling Stones camp and this time there's not a mention of alimony, drugs or Mick Jagger's tiny…err…dressing room.

The details of the law-suit would normally be overlooked by the general public – try picking a side between music behemoth Live Nation and the tour producer for the Rolling Stones (A Bigger Bang was the highest-grossing tour ever) – but what has emerged from the courts is that the Rolling Stones’ 2011 schedule paves way for an appearance at Glastonbury.

Such a revelation has got more than John Pasche's tongue waggling but can a band that's pushing 50 really make an impact at Britain's largest festival? If their last booking was a marker I’d suggest that perhaps Glastonbury is not the best place for them to Shine A Light.

After three decades of shying away from the British festival circuit, Mick Jagger and Co made a money-spinning exception and set sail for a headline slot at the Isle of Wight Festival in 2007. That fateful Sunday, lesser known songs; 'You Got Me Rocking', 'Wanna Hold You', 'Rough Justice' and 'Slipping Away' were all featured in a pre-encore set of just fifteen songs. To my count that leaves a lull every third song, perhaps not an acceptable set list when the band chose to omit the likes of 'Wild Horses', 'Mother's Little Helper', 'Give Me Shelter' and 'Paint it, Black'.

To compare, Stevie Wonder, (although in the Stones defence, not on the tail end of a two year tour) provided his 2010 audience with a fantastic hit-laden set with possibly only 1987's 'My Eye's Don't Cry' preventing every one being a sing-a-long.  Springsteen, a performer befitting of the Stones vintage is a similar big-name comparison and the Boss’s appearance in 2009 although overrunning by nine minutes was able to call on a mammoth 26 songs, almost double that of the Stones’ 2007 run through.

In the past few years Glastonbury, arguably from Jay Z’s infamous slot onwards, has experienced a renewed energy with big hitting headline choices proving it is still the greatest festival in the world. With that in mind it’s now becoming tougher for bands to stand out and for the Rolling Stones to do so I would suggest they forget all the lessons learned from decades of stadium tours, enforce a strict best of… set list and get back to basics.

Their show at the IOW festival featured a stage which extended into the crowd mid-performance, a dalliance I doubt the Glastonbury bosses will be able to provide and a trick I would hope the Stones would on this occasion, avoid.  Muse’s headline set certainly wasn’t hampered by their failure to recreate their touring space show and instead they relied on the grandeur of their music to wow the thousands in attendance.

If all does fall into place, I would happily welcome one of Britain’s most successful groups to Pilton only if they are able to swallow their egos and deliver less of the pomposity, more of the hits and hopefully A Bigger Fine that gets Michael Eavis reminiscing wistfully about how cheap Springsteen was…

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