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Rolling Stones set stage alight in Glastonbury debut

A combination photo shows Rolling Stones members (L-R): Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards performing at a concert d
A combination photo shows Rolling Stones members (L-R): Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards performing at a concert d

By Belinda Goldsmith and Isla Binnie

PILTON, England (Reuters) - The Rolling Stones lived up to their reputation as one of the greatest rock'n'roll bands when they played to more than 100,000 revelers on Saturday during their first performance at Glastonbury, the world's best-known music festival.

Despite an average age of 69, the four band members strutted, strummed and shrieked their way through a set lasting over two hours that began with "Jumping' Jack Flash" and ended with fireworks exploding off the stage during "Satisfaction".

The crowd cheered and sang along as the band that celebrated 50 years in the music business last year rocked through a playlist of old and new hits while security staff tried to block entry to the overcrowded field.

"It's great to be here doing this festival. After all these years they have finally gotten around to asking us," said rubber-lipped frontman Mick Jagger, who turns 70 next month.

Glastonbury began as a hippie retreat in 1970 and has become known for its megastars over the years with Beyonce, U2, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie among the headline acts. The Rolling Stones were the most notable absence from the lineup.

Festival founder Michael Eavis, who holds the festival on his 900-acre (365-hectare) farm in southwest England, has publicly delighted in finally persuading the band to play at the three-day event that drew 150,000-plus music fans by Saturday.

From the outset, the Rolling Stones showed there was no generation gap, as they got the crowd cheering to "Honky Tonk Woman" and then singing along to "Miss You".

Five songs into their set, Jagger introduced a new number, "Glastonbury Girl", that he said he wrote for a girl he met at the festival on Friday night when he joined the audience to watch the headline act Arctic Monkeys.

"HIGHLIGHT OF 43 YEARS OF GLASTONBURY"

As they played "Sympathy for the Devil", a metallic phoenix rose from the top of the stage, wings flapping and eyes flashing, amid shooting flames.

"I want to thank you for coming to our shows for 50 years," yelled Jagger, who bounded across the stage after introducing his band mates, drummer Charlie Watts and guitarists Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards.

"If this is the first time you have ever seen the band, do come again," joked Jagger, who earlier in the day said he would keep performing as long as his fans wanted him.

That could be a while, judging by the response of festival-goers who said the Rolling Stones more than met their expectations.

The average age of Glastonbury festival-goers has risen to 36 over the years but even younger fans were full of praise for the veteran rockers who have released more than two dozen studio albums and 100 singles over the past five decades.

"I thought it was epic. I thought they smashed it. I expected a dropped note here, a cracked voice there," said Mark Smalley, 27, an events manager from Plymouth on the south coast.

Speaking immediately after the band came off stage, Eavis told the BBC that the Rolling Stones were "the highlight of 43 years of Glastonbury".

The Rolling Stones ended the second of three days of music at the festival where the lineup also included Billy Bragg, Elvis Costello, psychedelic rockers Primal Scream and Laura Mvula as well as smaller acts on 58 stages across the sprawling site.

British folk rockers Mumford & Sons will close the 2013 festival on Sunday night.

(Editing by Kevin Liffey and Eric Walsh)

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