So, a little scene setting…
…An outdoor concert in Hyde Park in the summer with The Stranglers and The Damned on the same bill…
Count me in!
But of course, that’s only half the story…
And talking of halves, my better one and her progeny were in as keen enthusiasts of headline act Green Day. Sweet!
Then a last-minute addition to the bill Stiff Little Fingers. Fab!
As the days drew us closer to the event, information started to trickle down about who would be playing on which stage at what time etc. A little further research revealed that we would not be able to take our own food or drinks, which for me put a little damper on things (being locked in as a captive audience and being at the mercy of the vendors of whatever over-priced (slop) refreshments may or may not be on offer). Then there were the emails from the promoters about upgrading our tickets to various levels of VIP tickets at extortionate amounts. Urgh! The shine began to wear off a little for me. (However, this was only to be temporary!) I began to feel a little less enthused at the prospect of being a captive participant at an event where the entertainment I was really looking forward to seeing were playing short sets, if I could get anywhere near them, while the rest of it had me less than enthused…
Flash forwards in time to the day itself:
After a Saturday morning of catching up with chores for me and removals and deliveries for DiBDaB, we made our way by train and tube to Bond Street and took a slow stroll to Hyde Park on a fine Summers Day. We ate our lunch on the grass then proceeded to enter through the peasant’s entrance.
So far so good, smiley happy people including the gate staff and security. More friendly faces all around as we made our way toward the front of the main stage in time for Stiff Little Fingers, only to be met by an obstruction in the form of a barrier, this far and no farther it seemed. The masses had settled for this while the people at the front in the fenced off area stretched their legs for a decent view. Then a chance conversation with a friendly marshal brought to our attention that anyone could get down to the front if they got there before all the passes were handed out. So, that’s what we did. Which afforded us a good vantage point from which to view SLF and The Damned. The day got a little better.
Stiff Little Fingers took to the main stage kicking off with the mighty Suspect Device and somehow managed to shoe-horn; Just Fade Away, At The Edge, Nobodies Heroes, Roots Radicals and Rockers, Barbed Wire Love, Strummerville, Tin Soldiers and Alternative Ulster – or thereabouts in to a half hour (methinks Jake Burns might know a thing or two about sugar tongs and time travel). So, the long and short of it was that they were bloody superb and warmed up the crowd – young and old alike – very well.
A short break and then Croydon’s finest took to the stage – The Damned in fine fettle; what with the Captain all upright and on his own two feet, the freshly shorn DV all vampiric, dapper and cool, Stu ready to inspect tickets in his BR garb, Pinch the picture of cool with slicked hair and shades and the descriptively defiant Monty brilliantly being Monty! A quick how do and down to business with a stonking set opener in the form of Love Song. A quick mention to the Young Ones and it’s Nasty great energy. Staying with the N’s next for Neat Neat Neat which was nice!
Then a sideways tangent as an extra mic is brought on stage and they’re joined by the trumpet player (Chris Coull?) for Grimly Fiendish, superb. And he stays on for fine rendition of Eloise, which has the crowd pleased.
Into overdrive for performance and crowd participation next as we’re treated to the slice of brilliance that is Ignite – oh whoah oh oh!…
Back on with the trumpet for Alone Again Or – Fab! (Another great choice as far as I’m concerned although that’s two covers in what is a short set but along with GF these songs do of course represent three hit singles, personally when I saw the trumpet was present I was really hoping for Twisted Nerve but that’s just being extra picky etc Etc EiTC)
The stage craft was immaculate as Captain played a blinder and insulted one and all in his usual jovial manner. Dave glided from side to side covering the whole stage while holding the crowd in the palm of his hand. Pinch and Stu were rock solid and cool. While Monty did what Monty does.
On which subject, New Rose next, stonkingly delivered by all concerned with Monty’s mighty moves impressing one and all!
Time for one more – Smash It Up. Smashing indeed!
And then they were gone with the big screens announcing that tickets for the 2018 UK Tour go on sale this Friday 7th July. Catch ‘em if you can folks!
Great to see them in this setting with a good crowd and all the trimmings – big screens etc…
We hung around for The Hives next. While I’d heard the name, they were somewhat of an unknown quantity for me. The stage was meticulously prepared and lines were checked. Then out they came in their impressive asymmetrical black and white outfits. Not really qualified to talk about their music which was very good – in a dual guitar driven rocky punky kind of way – but man what a show! Vocalist Per(?) was straight off the stage and into the crowd on the first number where he spent almost as much time as he did on stage (or so it seemed). The attitude and showmanship of the band was really in your face in a way that you couldn’t ignore, most effective! Crazy, dangerous, exciting and well worth catching live!
Then it was time for lunch and the anticipation of disappointment turned into pleasant surprise as we found there really were plenty of outlets to suit most dietary requirements.
Suitably fed and watered, we went and watched a bit of Rancid on the big screen which was worth a look before making our way to the other stage in time to catch the end of the set given by The Living End – very impressed – great musicians and super performers, shame we didn’t catch a little more.
We hung around this stage a little more and chatted to the like-minded souls gathered for the main event Then…
Waltzinblack signalled the arrival of The Stranglers, as we headed toward the front in time for the opening bars of 5 minutes super dooper!
And they kept the pace going with a perfect Grip before bringing it to steady cruise with Nice and Sleazy, menace O’ clock!
Relentless next and suddenly I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders…
…but then I looked up and saw that it was in fact Billy perched atop them enjoying an elevated view!
The crowd were the liveliest I’d seen all day for any act and this would hold true for the whole event!
But of course, then it was slow down – Golden Brown – flawlessly delivered with the crowd swaying along.
More menace in the shape of Peaches with worse places today being the United States of America.
The superb addition to this year’s set which is Bear Cage, long overdue until now but hopefully a stayer, as the crowd got right behind the chorus!
Then it was back up to speed for the home straight as they belted out a trio of classics and the crowd responded with gusto – Hanging Around, Something Better Change and Duchess.
All too soon it was bass bashing time which signalled the end, in the shape of closing number (a rousing) No More Heroes, one more mad mosh before our heroes exited stage left…
Or is it?
Well not quite!
It’d be rude of me not to say a thing or two about our hosts of the day – Green Day.
I made my way toward the front (and side-ish) and caught their full set and must say they were great!
It’s not a band I’m that familiar with and they weren’t high on my wish list of gigs to see. But credit where credit is due, they put on a cracking performance and had the audience in the palm of their hands. Taking Punk to the mainstream masses, in a kind of teeny bop Bay City Rollers for the modern age sort of way. I’m not intending to be negative or talk them down here, just making observations.
There were people of all ages from all walks of life really enjoying the show. And while that show was indubitably mainstream, it still came with a message, as front man Billie Joe Armstrong gave out plenty of sound bites in his interaction with the crowd – talking up the virtues of equality and freedom while putting down negative attitudes such as racism, sexism and homophobia. Putting down politics and even throwing in “F*ck Donald Trump”. Fair play that man!
Yes, it was poppy punk by numbers but it was catchy and brilliantly executed and the crowd participation was second to none as they brought people up on stage to sing and play guitar.
The bands energies did not waver for one second of the two hours or so of their set. Yes, it was mainstream but there was just a little bit of a feeling that they were rebelling from within, while delivering an energetic captivating set. Dare I say Superb?
Or is it?
So, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of being part of a captive audience at the mercy of mainstream commercialism but thankfully it really turned out fine. All the staff I encountered were friendly and enthusiastic. The food outlets were great and not overly expensive. The entertainment was top notch. The setting was great. The audio-visuals were superb in terms of the sound and video system.
Oh, and the weather was really good too!
Words and images: Matthew Elvis Brown.