Rolling Stones storm Croke Park and rock 70,000 with stunning show
Archbishop Thomas Croke and Michael Cusack must have been spinning in their graves but that didn't bother the rubber-lipped Mick Jagger and his ageing band of British rockers, the Rolling Stones, when they stormed Croke Park with the opening chords of 'Sympathy for the Devil'.
Wearing a long black and silver coat, Jagger and the band hit the stage on the stroke of 8.30pm and had the audience on their feet from the get-go. Without a word Jagger then launched into 'Tumbling Dice' before mangling céad míle fáilte in his best Cockney accent.
With all their famous swagger the Rolling Stones embarked on a routine of hits with verve and vigour.
One onlooker said they should dedicate their bodies to medical science as Jagger and Ronnie Wood, wearing an embroidered jacket with an Irish football shirt underneath, raced around the stage and into the audience.
Stones guitarist Keith Richards once declared: "If you are going to get wasted, then get wasted elegantly."
A message that seemed to chime with the crowd who began streaming into the historic GAA stadium well after the gates opened at 5pm yesterday.
It was all very leisurely and civilised, in stark contrast to the bad boy image of the band when the majority of their audience were growing up.
So it might not have been a sell-out, but can anyone name a 76-year-old (Charlie Watts), two 74-year-olds (Jagger and Richards) and a mere 70-year-old Wood, who could still carry it off and create mayhem in the process?
The iconic band were launching the second leg of their international tour in Dublin in front of a mainly middle-aged, middle-class audience paying between €70 to €181 for the ambience, classic rock 'n' roll and the bragging rights to say they attended probably the last ever Irish gig by the Rolling Stones.
You might, perhaps unkindly, describe them as the squeezed middle - squeezed into red-tongued t-shirts last ironed after the last Stones tour all those years ago.
But who cares?
During their hedonistic first trip to Ireland 53 years ago in January 1965, who would have predicted that the original purveyors of 'sex and drugs and rock and roll' would last to the end of the decade, never mind still be rocking all over the world in the second decade of the 21st century.
A fair cross-section of the audiences who stormed the Adelphi cinema in Dublin and the Savoy in Cork have probably gone to their eternal reward while the 'strolling bones' are still riffing on 'Tumbling Dice', 'Brown Sugar' and 'Wild Horses' and the one that set the stage alight - 'Satisfaction'. After being on the fringes of their Hyde Park concert in London, I first really saw them on a sweltering day in Slane Castle on July 4, 1982. My only other encounter with the band came when I raced around an art exhibition in Dublin with Ronnie Wood in 2007.
"I haven't seen these paintings in years," he said in front of his portrait of the legendary jockey Lester Piggott.
I told him Brendan Behan had once said Piggott had "a face like a well-tended grave". When he looked at me quizzically, I realised the elfin-looking Wood had the same deeply furrowed features himself. He laughed and we moved on.
Back in Croker, darkness fell not on just the edge of town, it fell on one of the most flamboyant bands the world has seen. It was a night, maybe even the last night on the sacred soil, to remember their very special brand of the blues.