Mick Jagger has definitely signed up with the “beat ‘em to the punch” school of gags about septuagenarian rock: He’ll take your “Oldchella” and raise you one, or two.
Last weekend, The Rolling Stones frontman’s most quotable Desert Trip quip went, “Tonight we’re not going to do any age jokes, but, welcome to the Palm Springs Retirement Home for Genteel English Musicians.” Making a reprise appearance at the fest Friday night (Oct. 14), Jagger upped his game: “I still refuse to do age gags, but, welcome to the Catch ‘Em Before They Croak Festival.”
He wasn’t done, throwing in another one for ’60s veterans. “Welcome to Desert Trip 2,” Jagger said. “They say if you remember Desert Trip 1, you weren’t really there.” Toward the end of the show, Jagger’s voice cracked just a little as he spoke between songs on the way to finding another water bottle, which prompted a crack about the throat-wrackingly dry and windy climate. He thanked everyone for joining the band in the California desert, even though it’s like making music in a hair dryer.”
Jagger was so about the bon mots that you waited in vain for a punch line when he saluted their putative opening act. “I want to thank Bob Dylan for an amazing set,” he said. “We have never shared the stage with a Nobel Prize winner before. Bob is like our own Walt Whitman.” No rim shot forthcoming.
Keith Richards also waxed earnest in offering Dylan congratulations, saying, “I can’t think of anybody that deserved it better,” taking his own defiant stand against the literary social media mobs that have declared Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon, or Philip Roth should have gotten one first.
How did Dylan himself react to the Nobel announcement that came the previous day? By not uttering a single word, of course, as fans know he hasn’t been much of a talker since his brief bout of preaching in 1980, and he’s shied away from even the most cursory audience greetings in recent years. But, even if it was just an optical illusion, Dylan looked ever-so-slightly cockier Friday night, going bare-chested under his suit jacket, and at one point smiled alongside lead guitarist Charlie Sexton with his mic stand tilted asymmetrically, as if he were Steven Tyler for a second. Maybe it took the Nobel to make Dylan really feel like a rock star.
How much would these Desert Trippers change their sets up from seven days ago, for the many repeat attendees in the crowd? In Dylan’s case, it was barely at all, but the Stones were more inclined to mix it up, with the first half or two-thirds of their show being substantially different. Gone this time was their previous cover of John Lennon’s “Come Together,” which apparently was a one-and-done, maybe done last weekend just to impress (or antagonize) Paul McCartney.
They tried out a different selection from their upcoming album of blues covers (“Just Your Fool”), and discovered that “Sweet Virginia” has applicable enough lyrics for an Indio revival (“Thank you for your wine, California/ Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruits/ Yes I got the desert in my toenail”… well, never mind the speed). In fact, seven of their first 11 numbers had not been played the previous week, ensuring that Desert Fest double-dippers got their money’s worth. The set did revert back to its usual form before they and a USC choir encored with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which the Stones are surely eager to reclaim from its recent association with Trump rallies.
Dylan has been keeping his setlists more static on tour in recent years, so it was not a huge surprise that Friday’s show was basically a repeat of the one he did seven days prior on the same grounds, except for having “Like a Rolling Stone” and Cy Coleman’s “Why Try to Change Me Now” switched out as the encore for the previous week’s “Masters of War.” The set he’s apparently locked himself into for this fall tour is substantially different from the previous tour he wrapped up in June, with the seven Great American Songbook standards he was doing earlier in the year now reduced to zero or one, (which was no doubt fine by this mostly boomer crowd, not all of whom are more into their parents’ music now than they were in the ’60s). The number of vintage, recognizable ’60s/’70s songs in Dylan’s set has also been upped from just three on the spring tour to a crowd-pleasing eight in this new jaunt.
Not that, with a bill casting this wide a net, every single person in the audience was likely to recognize “Tangled Up in Blue” as any more of a classic than his recent “Pay in Blood.” Out in the parking lot before the show, a group of 60-something concert-goers piled out of a minivan, and a man asked his fellow travelers who among them could actually name a Dylan song. “Puff the Magic Dragon,” piped up one woman. It just goes to show: You can be a Nobel laureate and still be Rodney Dangerfield.
Here is the Rolling Stones’ setlist:
“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
“Get Off of My Cloud”
“It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll”
“Just Your Fool”
“Live With Me”
“Paint It Black”
“Honky Tonk Women”
“You Got the Silver”
“Start Me Up”
“Sympathy for the Devil”
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
Here is Bob Dylan’s setlist:
“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”
“Don’t Think Twice. It’s All Right”
“Highway 61 Revisited”
“It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”
“High Water (For Charley Patton)”
“Simple Twist of Fate”
“Early Roman Kings”
“Tangled Up in Blue”
“Lonesome Day Blues”
“Make You Feel My Love”
“Pay in Blood”
“Soon After Midnight”
“Ballad of a Thin Man”
“Like a Rolling Stone”
“Why Try to Change Me Now”