Wooly jumpers and pints of real ale at the ready we ventured forth into Radio 2 festival land for a pleasant surprise...
Priory of Brion
Compere Andrew Webster introduces Priory of Brion with reference to Robert Plant’s past life in Zepplin. How could he not? Here’s what happens when a man decides he’s tired of being a legend, and it’s time to just play some good hard rock and roll.
PoB may be only a year old, but the ties that bind the band stretch back a long way. Kevyn ‘Carlyle Egypt’ Hammond used to play with Plant and John Bonham in the ‘Band of Joy’ before Zepplin ever played a note. That’s a long time ago!
Plant seems genuinely emotional about his new project. After giving joking instructions before he comes on stage that he’ll only allow ‘flattering photos – no double chins!’ he mounts the boards looking far younger than his years – challenging anyone to portray him as in any way over the hill and far away.
‘These songs are my babies and my friends,’ he (almost) chokes, ‘they’re ones I couldn’t sing for a long time…’
The Kidderminster posse strike poses and chords that are certainly worthy of their lineage, and a few thousand folk fans are treated to a performance by (arguably) one of the true greats. Plant, for me, takes his place amongst the musical legends of yesteryear who have managed to maintain their dignity, presence and validity.
Without a doubt you can still hear Zepplin peaking from behind the skirts of all of the songs this afternoon. But each track is a cover version that lets Plant put his own mark on some of the sounds that obviously shaped and formed his early stylistic development. It’s a little like listening to Oasis doing a set made up exclusively of Beatles’ songs…
Love’s ‘Bummer in the Summer’, Tim Hardin’s ‘If I were a Carpenter’ (to be found somewhere back on one of Plant’s solo recordings) and ‘Bluebird’ by Buffalo Springfield are just a few of the tracks that PoB treat us to. Their rendition of Morrison’s (Van, not Jim…) ‘Gloria’ may have been some people’s highlight as it gave everyone the chance for a nice sing-a-long.
Contrary to the notes in the programme, Glenn Tilbrook’s first solo album isn’t due out until next year. As he was careful to remind us. Twice.
The bloke from Squeeze wasn’t going to disappoint his old fans. Opening with Pulling Muscles, and throwing in Labelled With Love and Up the Junction, he called up memories for everyone here over the age of 25 or so. Memories of a time when Gifford, Tilbrook and Holland had the world at their songwriting feet.
This may not be folk, but it plays on the folk tradition of story telling through music. Each of Squeeze’s tracks has a theme, a plot – almost chapters between the verses.
Amongst the old Squeeze favourites we find cover versions and new Tilbrook material. ‘I’m Smokey Robinson’, apologises Tilbrook, ‘so that makes you my Miracles. You all know this next song – it’s the one where you open…’ It was never going to work first time, but the crowd managed to get it on the second attempt at ‘Tracks of My Tears.’ The highlight must have been the audience participation slot that brought twenty wannabies up on stage for a remake of the BBC’s ‘Perfect Day’ line-by-liner. With a couple of exceptions this was a one-take mix that really worked.
Leaving the stage in a hurry, a sweaty Glenn was obviously on a mission somewhere – my guess was that it involved a splashdown in something long and cool. The crowd wanted him back, but stage management was tight, and there just wasn’t room in the schedule for any encores today.
I leave you with one question. Does Tilbrook sound like Jools Holland, or does Jules sound like Glenn Tilbrook? Listen to them talking and shut your eyes and then you tell me…
With a classical musical education that included one of the more difficult incarnations of the bagpipe as well as a solid grounding in traditional violin and piano, Martyn Bennet’s sudden discovery of the Glasgow rave scene brought about one of those happy cross-fertilisations that have been producing ‘genetically modified’ crops since time immemorial. Call it evolution or call it playing with creation’s basic building blocks – ‘and no good will come of it!’ – if it tastes better and has a longer shelf life then it’s got my vote.
Music writers love bands like Hardland. It gives them a chance to stretch their journalistic muscles and contive brand new crossover hybrid musical genres that will help them to pigeonhole the ‘new’ sound by likening it to it’s forebears in some convoluted concatenation of stylistic simplifications.
I can’t blame them of course. The temptation is great, and funnily enough, from time to time, they do hit the old nail on the head.
Suffice it to say that Bennett has managed to develop a type of Frankenstein’s monster that not only rips the heads from small children and dances on their bones, but also manages to do so with a hardcore clubland flourish.
The compere gave out a warning before the set started. ‘Some of you may remember Martyn from last year. Things might get a little, erm – excited – soon, so you might want to think about moving back a little bit.’ Whilst many of the beardy types took the advice, there were three times as many who risked whatever perils might confront them by surging to the front of the stage. For the first and only time during the whole festival we found security guards between the crowd and the stage.
Like a beacon shining out across a grey and overcast ocean, Martyn Bennett’s Hardland gave us the belief that in a world of the mundane there are still a few islands of hope rising above the waves.
Tony Benn (vocals/pipe) and Roy Bailey (guitar/vocals)
Tony Benn – pipe and plastic mug of tea in full effect – saunters on stage and settles himself down for all the world like Ronnie Corbett about to tell one of those stories that starts off with some comment about his producer…
In fact, what Tony is here for is, in fact, just that. A bit of story-telling. The big difference is that his tales are even older than Mr Corbett’s jokes. We do eventually find ourselves transported into the relatively contemporary world of 1970’s political turmoil, but only by way of a trail that starts out some five centuries back. The point that Tony and Roy just keep hammering home, is that ultimately there is nothing much new in politics. The poll tax, for instance, was a disaster first time around – so no surprise when it went off in Thatcher’s face like the proverbial excrement and air conditioner interface.
Tony opens his act with a quick public announcement. Appreciating today’s delicate political sensibilities he proclaims that full refunds will be available to any members of New Labour who might like to take this last chance to leave the site. Exits, Tony announces playfully, are to be found to the far right of the stage, just look for the path marked third way.
As Roy Bailey later remarked however, ‘you’ll all want to tell people about this one later on – “there was this bit that Tony said about…erm…and then Roy sang this song that went…oh…blast – I wish I’d bought that cassette!” – yeah, that’s the one, down the front.’
He was right, it is difficult to convey the genuine spirit and emotional investment that a great orator like Tony Benn can deliver without actually gathering people up and taking them there in person. Years of practice in the political arena have polished and homed what is obviously a natural talent. Of course Tony will soon be giving up parliament. As he pointed out, he ‘wants to take up politics full time!’