Wearing his trademark black hat, Young started his set alone behind the piano, opening with “After the Gold Rush,” accompanying himself on harmonica.
He then strapped on an acoustic guitar to play “Heart of Gold” and “Comes a Time” before Promise of the Real joined Young onstage.
There were subtle and overt political overtones to the performance. Women dressed as farmers, in plaid shirts and overalls, pretended to throw seeds and tend small plants onstage before Young came out. Later, men in hazmat suits acted as though they were spraying the grounds. Young wore a T-shirt that read “Water is life.”
The band’s nonstop set included “Harvest Moon,” ‘‘Powderfinger,” and “Welfare Mothers,” which Young joked was “Donald Trump’s new campaign song.”
A highlight was “Down By the River,” which became an extended 10-minute jam, with Young shredding his well-worn Les Paul.
“Tomorrow night come back,” Young told the crowd. “Roger (Waters) is going to build a wall and we’ll make Mexico great again!”
The performers’ average age is 72, and there may be a lot of gray hair in the audience, but millennials are in the mix as well.
Nineteen-year-old McKenna Haner said she was “raised on the Beatles” so she came to the festival to see McCartney.
“I’m a Beatles fanatic,” she said.
Haner and her friend Seven Pappanastos, 17, said they were acutely aware they were among the youngest in the crowd. They didn’t mind, but said the older concertgoers are “very aggressive.”
“They act like, ‘We’re older. We deserve this,’“ she said.
Pappanastos said attending the show came with a cost – beyond the $199 single-day ticket price.
“I got invited to three parties this weekend,” he said. “All their parents are out of town here.”
The Desert Trip festival is being held at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, home to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival each spring. But where Coachella is aimed at millennials, Desert Trip targets more affluent baby boomers who grew up with the festival’s featured rockers.
“You guys are going to have a rocking, wild weekend in Palm Springs,” Mick Jagger said, adding coyly, “We’re looking forward to seeing the dinosaur park.”
(There actually is a dinosaur exhibit in nearby Cabazon, California.)
The Stones brought literal and figurative fireworks to the stage for their two-hour set. Jagger was his inimitably energetic self, skipping and shuffling across the stage and chatting warmly with the crowd.
The hit-packed performance included “Wild Horses,” ‘‘Miss You,” ‘‘Gimme Shelter,” ‘‘Midnight Rambler” and “Sympathy for the Devil.” They even covered the Beatles’ “Come Together.” When the band closed with “Satisfaction,” pyrotechnics lit up the desert sky.
Bob Dylan kicked off the festival just after sundown with an 80-minute performance. Wearing a black suit with a white hat, the 75-year-old rocker took the stage without fanfare and sat behind the piano. He did not address the audience or say anything between songs.
Backed by a five-piece band, he performed selections from throughout his catalog, including “Tangled Up in Blue,” ‘‘Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Make You Feel My Love.” Dylan occasionally crept out from behind the piano to sing at a microphone center stage, pulling a harmonica from his pocket to play. He closed with “Masters of War” and silently left the stage.
The festival repeats next weekend.