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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
 
HYDE PARK CALLING. The Who, Razorlight, the Zutons, Ocean Colour Scene, Rose Hill Drive. Hyde Park, London, July 2nd 2006
It’s festival time in London. Did I mention that before? It started with the Foo Fighters in Hyde Park, and then about a week of the O2 Wireless Festival, with acts as diverse as the Strokes and James Blunt. There’s Hyde Park Calling, headlining on consecutive days Roger Waters and the Who, several nights of the Tower of London festival, with amongst others Dr John and Jeff Beck and over ten in the courtyard at Somerset House, where the highlight is probably Robert Plant and Strange Sensation. Ken Livingstone is having his own free festival in Finsbury Park, there’s the Lovebox weekender in Victoria Park, and Ben and Jerry’s Sundae, and Get Loaded in the Park on Clapham Common. You can also enjoy sedate concert series at genteel historic homes such as Kenwood House (Art Garfunkel) and Marble Hill (Jools Holland), four nights of ‘Summer Swing’ at Kew Gardens (mostly the ubiquitous Jools Holland again), and, as we shall see later, numerous unheralded musical days out in the park in London’s boroughs and villages. Altogether you might think we were over provided for on the music front, and wonder how some of these events manage to make any money. But remember there’s no Glastonbury this year, and the good folk of London seem to have taken sitting in the sunshine supping lager or savouring Sancerre and listening to music as one of their favourite pastimes. Beats soccer hands down.
And as you’ve probably noticed the sponsors are out in force too, no more so than at London Calling, main sponsor the Hard Rock Café: “The Ambassadors of Rock tour spreads both the music and the "Love All, Serve All" creed to music fans everywhere” – whatever that may mean.
Apparently it’s a round the world merchandising opportunity, though none of the other gigs seem to have quite materialised (maybe something to do with the fact that the chain has been put up for sale by its British owners Rank Group for a cool £500 million), with a charity link to the Nordoff-Robbins Foundation, which provides music therapy to children. It looks like a huge Hard Rock marquee where you can eat burgers all afternoon, drink cocktails in 13 ounce souvenir Ambassador of Rock frosted glasses (mmm, the Crown and ginger sure sounds good) and watch the bands on a massive screen. Elsewhere co-sponsors Brothers Pear Cider (a Glastonbury speciality) seem to be outselling Carling in the booze stakes, and it’s hardly surprising that in 30 degrees of sunshine heat or more, and with no shade, rubber legs syndrome sets in all around us at about seven o’clock. I notice some distant colleagues on a converted double decker bus selling Pimms by the gallon, and suspect these must be the coves ensuring that there’s never fewer than two Smirnoff branded beach balls bouncing over the heads of the tightly packed audience at the front of the stage. We’ve taken a slightly safer spot, dead centre stage and about a third of the way from the back, where it’s rugs, chairs and general bonhomie with a very mixed and sociable bunch, including a sleeping couple who, it turns out, nodded off the previous evening half way through Roger Water’s Dark Side of the Moon – they wake up three seconds into the Who’s opening song ‘Can’t explain’.
Johnny Borrel, Razorlight
Let no one kid themselves, and no disrespect to the other bands, we’re all here to see the Who, especially after their electric performance in the same place at last year’s Live Aid gig. We arrive in time for loud American retro rockers Rose Hill Drive, who play like loud American retro rockers. They’re followed by a rather sad Ocean Colour Scene, not too well rehearsed, or so it seemed, and struggling to break free from the nineties (“weren’t they the warm up band for Oasis?” asked someone at the tasteful open air urinals) – everyone got very excited and sang along when they played their 1996 hit single ‘Day we caught the train’, and that was about it. Then came the much vaunted Scally Scousers the Zutons. Singer and guitarist David McCabe suffered from a faulty lead or connection, and also seemed to have difficulty keeping up with his own lyrics – overall they failed to impress as much as I’d hoped and the Photographer snarled in her fishing chair at their last song, a sort of faux Santana meets Zappa at Woodstock thing – decidedly inferior, and somewhat patronising. The hugely self confident would be kings of stadium rock Razorlight followed, starting with their current single ‘In the morning’, an interesting Talking Heads meets Tom Petty effort. This London band have shot to prominence in a relatively short period of time and quite possibly have the talent to match the hype, the quickly shirtless front man Johnny Borrell certainly has the attitude, with the squealing girls and boys around us not being able to agree if he was most like Mick Jagger (girls) or Iggy Pop (boys). Actually he wasn’t like either of them.
Pete Tonwsend, The Who
My friend Mark was reminiscing the other day about waiting over three hours at Knebworth for the Rolling Stones to take the stage (apparently they were struggling to ‘revive’ Keith); it’s a sign of how times have changed in this world of corporate rock that the Who stride onto the stage a mighty four minutes behind schedule. That, I’m very glad to say, is about as corporate as the Who got. They played a blinder – demonstrating the enduring qualities of many of Townsend’s songs – something I’ve checked over the intervening days by listening to Who’s Next, Tommy and in particular the vastly underrated Quadrophenia. The band by the way, in addition to those two grumpy old men of rock Townsend and Roger Daltrey, were Welsh bass prodigy Pino Palladino, the fantastic Zak Starkey on drums, Townsend’s brother Simon on rhythm guitar, and long time collaborator and keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick. The whole thing rocked from start to finish – with the two front men displaying an energy and aggression that belied their years – there were no compromises here, it was, as the poster said (and as I recall writing on my pencil case at school), “maximum rhythm and blues”.
There’s a nice gentle slope down the stage, so even the diminutive photographer has a good view – but one of the things that makes the set so special, apart from the astonishingly good sound, is the digital film show that accompanies each song, displayed on huge screens to the left and right of the stage, and for the Who, behind the band too. I can’t tell you how clever and well thought out some of these screen sequences were, and as an added bonus we also get shots of the band playing – it’s about as in your face as it can be. And that only serves to raise that question that everyone always asks – “how does Townsend play the guitar like that” – because it’s no clearer how the windmill arms thing works when you can see it going on in front of you about forty feet high. Highlights? ‘Who are you?’ (played apparently in the time it takes a steam train to get from London to Brighton), ‘Behind blue eyes’, an acoustic ‘Drowned’ (“here’s an old sea shanty from Quadrophenia”), ‘Baba O'Riley’ (simply awesome), ‘Love reign o'er me’ (ok, I have to concede Daltrey can sing), ‘My generation’ (sung without irony), ‘Won't get fooled again’ and the encore mini Tommy, featuring ‘Pinball wizard’,
Amazing journey’, ‘See me, feel me’ and ‘Listening to you’.
And that was it – “Goodnight London”. Well it took several hours before I could even consider going to bed after that as the adrenalin was pumping. And to add to my delight an announcement as we were leaving took me to this website where you can buy an official ‘bootleg’ CD or DVD of the gig, recorded from the soundboard, proceeds to charity. So you don’t have to take my word for it, go out and buy it yourself. - Nick Morgan (all photographs by Kate)



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