Greenbelt '06: The Music Reviews

Tuesday 29th August 2006

Our comprehensive review of the music at Cheltenham's arts festival GREENBELT concludes. A total of 17 reviewers filed 70 reviews. Read and be amazed.

Continued from page 3

PAUL FIELD - Christian Aid Performance Café - 2.45pm
As this gig took place in the Performance Cafe, I equipped myself appropriately with a mug of tea and a slice of chocolate tiffin cake from the excellent Christian Aid food stall. This was probably a wise move, as the tea and cake turned out to be the highlight of the event. Paul has written songs for Cliff Richard, Tammy Wynette, Avalon and Elkie Brooks, among others, but, whether it's because the best of his output is recorded by other people or because playing a solo acoustic gig is a lot harder than many people appreciate his performance was so low key and lacking in stage presence that the chatterers in the audience had a field day (no pun intended). Paul's songs are finely crafted, his voice warm and engaging but he seemed to sleep walk through this set.
Mark Goodge

Randy Stonehill
Randy Stonehill

RANDY STONEHILL - Centaur - 3pm
Randy landed a mid afternoon slot at a fairly full Centaur venue. It was introduced as his first Greenbelt performance for 23 years, which is staggering to me given his legendary status as one of the great innovators of Christian rock music and his critically acclaimed back catalogue of recordings. Anyway, Randy looked in great shape, with bundles of energy and good humour. It was difficult to believe that here was a man who released his first solo album in 1971. I was also surprised by the sweetness of his voice, compared to some of his recordings that I know. His set was like his new album, 'Touch Stone' - acoustic performances of some of his best loved songs. Randy began with a story about a phone call with Keith Green in 1975, when Keith called to insist he come over immediately to write some words to a tune he had. This intro'd the song "Your Love Broke Through", which Randy co-wrote with Keith Green and Todd Fishkind. He then played what he called "a new, different kind of worship song", which dealt with the idea that "God works through our problems". "Life is tough/God is good" had a great soulful groove, with its using-guitar-as-percussion accompaniment. I was particularly struck by the line "sin is like trying to make a pet out of a crocodile." Randy's next song included a chorus where an angel invites the singer to be "free just like us". This might suggest a problem, but the song was actually beautiful. As with all of his set, Randy's guitar playing was wondrously melodic but understated, leaving his voice and words lots of room to breathe and float - perhaps a bit like the angel. Randy told us that "Shut De Do'" was written whilst "walking down Hollywood Boulevard in 1982" and was his biggest worldwide hit. His performance included maximum good-time audience participation and humour. Next up was a slow blues, which might be called 'Spirit Walk'. This was intro'd by a very short sermon on Jeremiah 29:11, which is a verse I always prefer when it's put in its Hebrews-in-exile context. However, Randy's voice and guitar were, again, a delight. Randy finished with "The King Of Hearts" from what might be his most famous album, 'Welcome To Paradise'. He got the audience to join in the chorus repeats - but I don't think many could match Randy's beautifully controlled falsetto. So, overall, a wonderful half an hour from a man whose voice seems to me to have improved with age and whose relaxed mixture of warm humour, sharp melodies and absorbing words was one of the musical highlights of my Greenbelt.
John Hebden & Sue Smith

What a breath of fresh air! Opening their set with the Red Dwarf theme and closing with a Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy song - only a ska band can get away with that! The 10-piece kicked off with a host of worship songs, many of which were there own interpretation of well known classics. All were well arranged, well thought out and generally well performed. Throughout all this was a bevy of joyful fans at the front dancing (or should I say skanking) in true ska fashion. After the cover songs came their original compositions and some more rockier/punkier songs. On the whole SOS were fantastic. I, like many of the audience, am looking forward with anticipation to when their debut CD is released. After the demise of ska in the US and the likes of Blunt Skulls being very quiet over here, it's great to see a hard working Christian ska outfit still playing loud and proud.
Greg Sammons

There is something completely surreal about an orchestra consisting of nothing but ukulele players strumming happily through the disco cheese oldie "Yes Sir I Can Boogie" and by its closure it's easy to see why the Ukulele Orchestra have become festival favourites amongst those with off-the-wall tastes. Their Greenbelt debut was well attended and they didn't disappoint. Fun and entertainment clearly play a huge part of the orchestra's performances as demonstrated at one point when five of the seven members were all attempting to play the same ukulele which prompted great mirth among the audience. During their performance they paid homage to the performer that put the ukulele on the map by giving their rendition of "Leaning On A Lamppost" by the ukulele's one genuine star, the pre-war north of England comedian George Formby. They introduced this particular number by saying that they had been asked not to perform it because they always did and their rendition wasn't as good as the original. To this they reportedly replied 'We don't do requests,' and so duly played the song. Their rendition was fantastic. They harmonized beautifully and built the song up wonderfully. Their performance was hilarious and the two songs that particularly stood out for me were "Shaft", in which the question "what is the most important part of a mine?" was answered, and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which will give you a whole new perspective on grunge. I don't know if there are any believers in The Ukulele Orchestra but they ministered through the vehicle of laughter that's for sure.
Sarah Lawrence

HARBOUR LIGHTS - Stage 2 - 3.20pm
This Derby-based band contain City Of Gold songsmiths Phil Baggaley and Ian Blythe plus a 16 year old female lead singer and were part of the ICC showcase and were described as urban folk. I had high hopes! There was a quiet start and the female lead vocals began with a promising, unique sound. Harbour Lights were easy and pleasant to listen too, with chugging rhythms and a heart warming feel. The songs were well crafted and nicely thought out. The talk of boats sailing and mystical mornings somewhat confused me after awhile though. But they do take you beyond your typical songs of love and loss and their deft, musicianly sound was a welcome change. Not usually my kind of thing but Harbour Lights offered a talented fresh sound to Stage 2 on a Sunday afternoon and judging from the numbers in the audience who went in search of their 'Leaving Safe Anchorage' album, they hit the button with many.
Rachel Nixon

ELECTRALYTE - Stage 2 - 4.10pm
Think of all the British rock bands you can that are on Christian labels, mix them all up and you've basically got Electralyte. A bit of Yfriday here and lot of Supervision there - Electralyte are well at home on Elevation Records. I'll leave it up to you as to whether it's a good or bad thing that most the UK's signed acts sound alike. That's not to say that they don't have original moments and are not talented. Songs such as "Hope" demonstrated just how good they can be; the song following it had some good funk vibes going on also. As the band moved into their quieter, more melodic moments they kept a near capacity crowd captivated and wore their Salvation Army connection on their sleeves. They may not have been everyone present's cup of tea but they certainly kept their core audience entertained.
Greg Sammons

ERIN STARNES - Christian Aid Performance Café - 4.45pm
Erin brought with her from Devon her guitar, her band and a group of loyal fans. She played a beautiful set of songs mostly taken from her debut album 'Songs From The End Of My Bed'. She started with the enchanting "Thousand Words" which she had written for a wedding. It spoke eloquently of how a life without love comes to nothing and highlighted Erin's lovely voice, which was beautifully clear allowing every word to be heard. Erin's lyrics throughout the set were beautiful and powerful, no more so than in "How Could It Be?" where she expressed the wonder of being loved by 'the maker of the heavens.' This piece not only demonstrated Erin's excellent songwriting but also showed her keyboard player Derek's ability. He played a mesmerising solo within this fantastic number. "Could It Be Me", which was about a boy, featured Adam on the accordion, which he played magnificently, and showed that the band was capable of layering the music to great effect. A fabulous bassist, Ant Parker (yes, the legendary one-time frontman of Why?), also accompanied Erin. It was a fine set, only spoilt by too many album plugs.
Sarah Lawrence

ANDY THORNTON - Winged Ox - 5pm
Having long admired the thoughtful songwriting craft of Andy's occasional albums, I felt a trip to the Winged Ox was in order. Perched on a stool, clutching his acoustic and with beer in hand Andy had clearly come to enjoy himself. After a forceful "Shake The Moon Down" he began an intro with typically laconic wit, "This is how it goes. I sing a song. I talk. I sing a song." The next number, "He Does Not Deserve You", was a bitter/sweet concoction. Andy's tragic loss of his wife through cancer was briefly mentioned before he launched into a throbbing rock rhythm. Andy is no mean guitarist, as a dazzling display of tonics on his instrument showed and a line, "You make the stars and the atoms spin," is a particularly memorable image. The songsmith then talked about getting reconciled to getting older, adding that the line "I wish I was a girl of 21" in the next song relates to that subject, not cross dressing. After that he went into "Sunflower Girl", dedicated to his late wife which managed to be tender and beautiful but never maudlin. Then came "Under My Skin", inspired by the new lady in Andy's life who he hopes to marry next year. It's a gem with another great line, "She's got the birds singin' under my skin." That was followed by an older song from 1994's 'Victims & Criminals' album. He explained that "Stone Cold Winter" was inspired by an ex-missionary who ran a café for kids in a rundown area of Glasgow. As Andy said, "80 per cent of the time the kids would take the piss out of her, and 20 per cent of the time she was the most important person in their lives." He was out of time and left the stage, yet egged on by the clapping and cheering of the smallish but enthusiastic audience returned to do another oldie, written, he said, when a friend was asked to speak at the Presbyterian Youth Gathering. "It's about abuse of power in the name of religion," Andy explained. A hard hitting close to a mellow yet challenging set.
Tony Cummings

Stage 2 hosted the 2006 Humanic (14-18 year olds) Battle Of The Bands, which was judged by "promoters and A&R guys from several major record labels, representatives from national radio and a key player from Fender Guitars." This is how the bands appeared on stage:
Ark Of The Covariance (A.O.T.C.)
This band from Wales has been around for three to four years but the mixed age may reflect the lack of stage presence from some members. The friends from church cite Blindside as an influence. The singer's pink fluffy hat drew attention as they started the set but was still unable to make up for lack of stage dynamics. Vocally, I sometimes found it hard to follow the song but a strong drummer and bass created a feel of Radiohead meets Queen Of The Stoneage. A good strong set of which the song "Freefall" stood out.
The Decadence
From the Surrey area, this band has its roots deep in British punk music. This three-piece band has been playing together for around eight months and they are great fans of UK SUBS and The Clash. These guys (and girl) are true punk. With lyrics like "Gonna Be Fight" and the raw aggression you could close your eyes and easily be at a Sham 69 concert. Fun to watch and listen to, they were even able to stir the crowd into a limited pogo. They may currently have limited appeal but with the resurgence of the late '70s sound may well soon be in demand.
Point Blank
These young metal fans from West Yorkshire, who name their influences as Metallica and the Spice Girls, grew up together and have been playing as a band for eight months. The leather clad rockers started with few introductions and the low lighting gave some feel to the set. The singer's low gravely voice made it very hard to determine the lyrics and although the musical abilities partially made up for the sound I was still a little disappointed with the lack of stage presence. This will come with time - keep working hard.

Take Off Your Shirt
Take Off Your Shirt

Take Off Yours Shirts (T.O.Y.S.)
This band of school friends from North London have been playing together for about a year and describe their music as "funky rock", citing the Red Hot Chillipeppers as a main musical influence. Almost on stage before the compere, this band were rearing to perform. And perform they did. Stage presence and confidence oozed from the band who played with enthusiasm and flair. Well crafted songs and easy to understand lyrics lifted this band above the others and out in the front of the battle. Any mistakes were worked through effortlessly.


This four-piece band from Tunbridge Wells are all church friends and have been playing as a band for about 18 months. Influences include Oasis and Delirious?. The band had a lot of ground to make up but at first appeared unfocused. However, though not as dynamic on stage, somethingABOUTnothing connected with the audience and kept them moving while their uncomplicated guitar and solid bass riffs produced a familiar sound that was easy to identify with. This band have bags of talent but may need to develop a style of their own to progress further.
And the winner is...
A good afternoon with most music genres covered, at the end of the battle only two bands really stood out. But naming the winner left the judges at loggerheads. To audience cries of dismay Take Off Your Shirts were awarded second place, the drum and guitar solos may have been a little over-indulgent for a short set. So somethingABOUTnothing were named the winners of the Fender guitar and amplifier. Keep an eye on these two bands; if they keep at it, they will both go far.
Mick Farrar

WEAPONS OF SOUND - Main Stage - 6pm
What a load of rubbish! No, I'm not insulting this group, but as everyone should know, this mad cap collective play junk funk! With instruments varying from shopping trolleys, plastic barrels, gas pipes, washing machine wheels and even the kitchen sink their delicious rhythmic extravaganzas have made them a worldwide attraction (the programme helpfully telling us that since 1993 they have performed over 2,000 gigs. Suited in black boiler suits the group worked up the audience with their exciting performance of tunes such as the Isleys/Beatles oldie "Twist And Shout" and the original "Put Me In A Groove". With experience playing at Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds these flamboyant garbage bashers certainly knew how to work the crowd! Audience participation was a must! Musically very different from the rest of the festival, this was a '90s dance junk funk experience that had the largish crowd boogying hard. I can honestly say Weapons Of Sound were, for me, the most exhilarating and fun performance of the whole festival.
Daniel Cunningham

NIZLOPI - Main Stage - 7.05pm
"Said I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee/Drives me round in his JCB/
I'm Luke, I'm five, and my dad's Bruce Lee/Drives me round in his JCB!" No, I'm not, but if you know anything you'll realise I'm quoting the straight in at number one hit from the duo that Jamie Cullum called "the biggest duo in the world today", the world's only purveyors of folk hip-hop Nizlopi. The double bass and human beat box gave a unique, fun start. There was almost musical conversations between the guitar and bass throughout their set and the crowd seemed to be enjoying this zany bunch. Only one of the duo spoke mainly but there was a blah blah drum to add to the interest. There were reggae, funk, rap and hip-hop influences aplenty mixed into their acoustic sound and the audience participated. The beatbox marked all of the songs. The JCB song was much appreciated by the crowd and wasn't, in truth, much different from previous songs but its familiarity seemed to spark the audience. Happy, fun, friendly and funny. Unsurprisingly though, a lot of the crowd began to leave after this song. An interesting slant to the gig was a poet who spieled about life. However, I couldn't help but lose it! He stated life is a journey with beginning, middle and end - not the most profound of insights.
Rachel Nixon

BELL JAR - Christian Aid Performance Café - 7.30pm
With Bell Jar's set at last year's Greenbelt being one of the festival's highlights, I couldn't resist a visit to the Performance Café to see whether Paul Northup and cohorts could work their magic again. They did. Their lilting part folk, part pop, part rock mix was a delight to the ear, Paul showed he had lost none of his songwriting craft that made Eden Burning such a groundbreaking band in the '90s and the only mystery was how Bell Jar can remain so tight with so few gigs and recordings. Even when a mistake was made and a new song was started in the wrong key (something about his cab not being turned on, apparently) it didn't seem to matter as the song - a wistful opus on the theme of getting back to the path you've originally followed - was an absolute gem. There were some old favourites - "Feet Don't Touch The Ground" from 2001's hugely underrated 'On The Outside Looking In' album still sounds great while another new song about having children, "It's a 'Dad, what?' kind of song," quipped Paul, was yet another delight. "The Thing You Love The Most" is still one of the best songs Northup has ever penned and a fitting closer. Over the years Greenbelt has established its fair share of permanent fixtures to its music bill. Considering all the behind-the-scenes toil such artists contribute to the huge Greenbelt monolith such jobs-for-the-boys indulgences are understandable, however frustrating they must be for acts of the calibre of [dweeb] and SOL still awaiting an invite to play the longest running Christian arts fest. But as far as I'm concerned Bell Jar richly deserve their frequent appearances on the Greenbelt programme. They were nothing short of marvellous. Let's hope that next year there's a new Bell Jar album.
Tony Cummings

BODIXA - Christian Aid Performance Café - 8.15pm
A friend recommended I catch this group after a remarkable performance at last year's GB and having enjoyed their new release 'The Way Back Home' and their earlier 'Pray For Rain' EP I was looking forward to their set. They did brilliantly considering they were missing their bass player and Anna Ibbotson's striking blonde hair and haunting voice holding the band's set together I was soon enjoying their particular take on wistful Cardigans-style pop. The second song "Pray For Rain" showed just how well Anna's lead and the bvs of Emily Stevens lock together. At times Anna's tone and phrasing reminded me of Leigh Nash and I almost expected them to break into "Kiss Me" each time they intro'd a song. A new number had a memorable line, "If you were a memory I'd keep you somewhere safe", and with the drummer and Emily leaving the stage it was effectively a solo from Anna as she sang accompanied solely by David Redfearn's guitar. The lead track, "Goodbye Winter", from their EP sounded as effervescent and summery as on the CD though by now some of the accompaniments were beginning to sound seriously thin without the bass. Still, their "next single" was another beautiful mid-tempo lilter. All in all, an enjoyable performance and hopefully next time the band will have their full complement.

LZ7 - Stage 2 - 9.45pm
With their album 'Ruckus' doing the rounds at the moment LZ7 were sure to be a rocking gig, especially with Linz West doing his amazing imitation if a perpetual motion machine. Starting with "Start Something'' the group kicked off with a huge amount of energy which got the crowd jumping. Mixed with the bassline of Bedingfield's "Gotta Get Through This" their next track "Come Around" kept the crowd buzzing. What amazed me about this gig is how the DJ managed to mix different tracks from Beyonce to Limp Bizkit into the collective's original grooves. Between the songs Lindz took the opportunity to talk about his prison work and why we should care for those in the third world, showing us how we're called to care. Towards the end of the set Linz split the crowd in two and had a dance off which proved to be amazing! With LZ7 you know you're going to get some street credible rap and grime and also a bold evangelistic message. An extraordinary performance and a euphoric crowd!
Daniel Cunningham

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Reader Comments

Posted by Kerry in manchester @ 15:37 on Nov 27 2008

wow you did good and have you listened to LZ7 they are respectful xx

Kerry xx

Posted by Luke in Kent @ 19:32 on May 13 2007

hi imluke the drummer of somethingABOUTnothing. just wanted to say thank you to anyone who left any nice reviews of our set and i hope everyone enjoyed it. the crowd may of been surprised by our win but to be were we. all credit to every band that played that afternoon and i hope to see more of them soon.

take care and god bless

Posted by Tim in Kent @ 16:05 on Sep 27 2006

How come The Cadets managed to slip in and out of Greenbelt almost unnoticed? Fresh from their previous night's victory - coming first out of 50 bands at London Rock Garden's Battle of the bands - they entranced a modest lunchtime audience at Stage 2. Main Stage next year?

Posted by Revd Paul Timmis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire @ 15:18 on Sep 19 2006

Liam, I guess we're not going to agree on this one. Scripture often doesn't make clear pronouncements in the way that people sometimes think/claim. It always has to be interpreted. I simply don't think that the Bible says anything about what we now understand to be loving same-sex relationships and so there's absolutely no "sacrifice of principles" here for me.

Reply by Dan in Lincolnshire @ 20:26 on Sep 20 2006

There’s no "sacrifice of principles" for me either. John Bell put it very nicely but he still needed nearly an hour to explain very carefully the language and context of certain scriptures. Would be very difficult to condense this to 600 characters, so I won’t try. I accept you don't wish to kick people out, but when you suggest that diversity has been stretched too far I'm not sure how diversity can be restricted fairly and biblically.

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Posted by Rich in West Midlands @ 23:05 on Sep 18 2006

Carrying on, Liam, on one hand you say "of course we need to welcome people in and show them love" but does that exclude people who's viewpoint doesn't agree with your own? I really hope that's not what you're implying. The one reason I love Greenbelt is it's inclusivity of people who's lifestyles differ greatly from mine (in some instances) and are made to feel welcome and accepted in the light of the Christian faith. Something I saw in action again at this year's festival.

Posted by Revd Paul Timmis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire @ 20:46 on Sep 15 2006

Liam, it's your final comment that says it all, I'm afraid. Did you listen to James Alison or John Bell at all over the weekend? If not, please download the MP3s. What you have just put in print is, to me, far more offensive than ANYTHING said from mainstage on Friday night. We're meant to break down barriers, not put them up. INCLUDE.

Reply by Andrew in York, United Kingdom @ 14:16 on Mar 28 2011

I fear that you have become slightly taken by the tide around you. If you're standing in a river with a strong opposing current, you have three choices: you can go with the flow (applying all the new doctrines society throws upon us); you can stand still (being on the fence over such matters as abortion and fornication etc), but the problem with standing still is you'll just get dragged along by the strong current anyway; or you can battle against it (opposing the customs of the world, like Paul says in Romans 12:2).

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Reply by Rich in West Midlands @ 23:01 on Sep 18 2006

Liam, in what way does including a person or group in to a community imply condoning an action? If the Christian community is ever to be seen as inclusive to those outside of the faith or the traditional Church "clique" then EVERYONE must be invited to the table, whether we agree with their standpoint or not. I thought the Bible (and especially Jesus) taught inclusivity not exclusivity?

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Reply by Liam (cont') in Glasgow @ 14:25 on Sep 18 2006

Dan also implies that I was suggesting that certain people be "Kicked out". However this was never suggested. I was mearly pointing out some of what went on. Of coarse we need to welcome people in and show them love, but we do not need to condone & turn a blind eye to actions which are clearly contradictiry to what the bible teaches us.

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Reply by Liam in Glasgow @ 14:20 on Sep 18 2006

I didn't listen to either of the artists, but if I get a chance I will download them. However I fail to see what is offensive. Dan (above) states "I don’t see how diversity can be taken too far unless it’s done under a sacrifice of principles which this isn’t", but how can condoning homosexuality not be a sacrifice of principals?

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Posted by Dan in Lincolnshire @ 16:41 on Sep 15 2006

To be honest, I saw no one drinking in the village outside organic beer tent. I'm sure it happened, but I honestly didn’t it, so can’t be that widespread. And if it is, what should we do? Kick out the atheists? Should take the opportunity to kick out the gays too. GB is beautiful in its diversity and I don’t see how diversity can be taken too far unless it’s done under a sacrifice of principles which this isn’t. GB doesn’t condone drunkenness and has been known to evict people. Also, the diversity has not been stretched. GB has ALWAYS fully welcomed anyone, and long may that continue.

Posted by Liam (cont') in Glasgow @ 15:23 on Sep 15 2006

Whilst I would agree that it is a good thing for Greenbelt to attract a diverse range of people, I would also say that it has in many ways allowed the diversity to be stretched so far that it has become almost new age rather than Christian. The advert in the Greenbelt magazine which promotes the 'Gay Christian Community' says it all I'm afraid

Posted by Liam in Glasgow @ 15:22 on Sep 15 2006

To say that you 'know nothing of the "bunch of youth clutching Tennants cans" (clever cans!)' is beyond belief. I was at Greenbelt for the fist time this year and was shocked at some of what was going on. I witnessed several drunk /intoxicated people who were suffering the effects of consuming too much alcohol and cannabis (which I witnessed on more than one occasion).

Reply by Ymladd in somerset @ 19:40 on Sep 20 2006

So liam you saw several people over an entire period of time allowing for the sheer numbers on site it is quite possible. But I was there for the entire weekend including standing in the mainstage pit on duty as steward and I saw none. BUt anyway Several out of thousands is good in this day and age.

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Posted by Revd Paul Timmis in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire @ 10:24 on Sep 15 2006

Sleeping on this, what I should also have said is that the church needs to engage itself in political debate and not exist in some kind of ghetto divorced from the world - a ghetto in which everyone is NICE to one another. Sometimes love means speaking out and being angry. Wish Tony Blair had grasped this. Glad Martyn has. Keep going MJ...and Greenbelt!

Reply by Zee Zee in Herts @ 08:06 on Mar 20 2007

Martyn clearly lost it on that occassion. If he had thought it out he would realise that his ranting outburst spread a smoke screen over the real issue. The use of certain language was a loss of control. Shame. I've followed Martyn's career for over 20 years and have agreed with him, disagreed with him but always appreciated the way, and the passion with which he's stated his case. Until now! And then to release it?

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