Greenbelt '07: The Music Reviews

Wednesday 29th August 2007

For the ninth time we've expanded this comprehensive review of the music of GREENBELT

Continued from page 3

Soweto Kinch (photo by Peter Dilley)
Soweto Kinch (photo by Peter Dilley)

SOWETO KINCH - Mainstage - 8.00pm
Soweto Kinch has been to Greenbelt twice before, as part of Jazz Jamaica's horn section. Since then, a lot has happened in the Birmingham-based saxophonist/rapper's career. and so with an acclaimed album and several awards under his belt, he finally got to appear at Greenbelt as the main act, rather than as a sideman. His small band was made up of some of the other names causing a stir in the British jazz scene today; people such as guitarist Femi Temowo (Amy Winehouse, Four Kornerz) and drummer Troy Miller, plus a MacBook-weilding DJ hidden at the side of the stage. Much of the music played came from Soweto's latest album. 'A Life In The Day Of B19' is inspired by the everyday life stories of Soweto's neighbours - B19 being the postcode for the part of Birmingham where he lives. It's a part of the city that has had a lot of bad press, so rather than give more airtime to drug dealers and gangsters, Soweto has chosen instead to chronicle the lives of regular folk, taking inspiration from the Scripture, "The last shall be first and the first last." Using a unique mix of jazz and rap, Soweto brought B19's often faceless inhabitants to life; people such as "Adrian" who was such a good footballer during his childhood that at the age of 11 he was being headhunted by major football teams. He chose instead to find his fortune in America. Things didn't quite go as planned (in fact, they got very messy), and he's now back in Brum working as a bus driver. Before the gig started, audience members had been given a mobile phone number and asked to send any pictures they had taken on their phones which they feel really captured the essence of Greenbelt. For his final number, those pictures were projected onto the screen behind the band, and Soweto made up raps about each picture as they appeared on screen, showing an incredible ability to think on his feet. A great display of hip-hop-influenced jazz with a uniquely British twist.
George Luke

EMILY BARKER AND THE RED CLAY HALO - Performance Café - 9.00pm
Normally a quartet, illness had deprived the band of two members so this was a rather makeshift performance. Fortunately, the healthy participants included the band's eponymous lead vocalist/guitarist who, along with an accompanying accordion/flute player, served up 40 minutes of alt-country-tinged folk. Emily Barker has a terrific voice which, at times, reminded me of Lone Justice-era Maria McKee, but it would be doing her a disservice to suggest that she's anyone else's soundalike as her Australian origin and British residence combine to create something very distinctive. For me, the standout track of the performance was the brooding "Orlando" - named, apparently, after a book by Virginia Woolf rather than the Florida city (or even the Lord Of The Rings actor), but my literary ignorance didn't stop me appreciating the quality of the songwriting.
Mark Goodge

John Tavener (photo by Elaine Duigenan)
John Tavener (photo by Elaine Duigenan)

JOHN TAVENER - Centaur - 9.00pm
As the 60-strong Greenbelt Festival Choir launched into an introduction with a heavenly contrast between deep male voices and angelic female vocals, warm memories of Inspector Morse were brought back to me. I expected a lot of hushed silence, clapping and a man stood in the middle of the stage on a pedestal, looking like he was miming. The conductor in fact was Gavin Sutherland. All the previous things transpired as I listened to a gentle and soothing Mozart piece before the Tavener compositions began, but I was also treated to a squeaking pram passing by, a Korean journalist next to me on instant messenger, and a couple of rude interruptions of the mobile phone variety. My neighbours found this disrespectful, and though I write with a touch of sarcasm, my new found love for classical music saw me wagging my head and craning my neck in the direction of the perpetrators. Cellist Robin Thompson-Clark launched into the first Tavener piece, with a reverent and haunting solo. The composition dramatically altered between the sparse but captivating sound of the cello on its own, to the cello accompanied by the magnificent choir, the grief and tension tangibly felt by the audience. You could almost hear a pin drop as all eyes were transfixed on the cellist as he drew his final flawless notes. The shoulders of the conductor dropped, the orchestra and choir followed suit, and the audience paused before rapturous applause. Captive faces smiled and the only word I could think of with regards Tavener's music is majestic. Other highlights of the event included the unique voice of Patricia Rozario, dressed in a sparkly sequin scattered outfit, and the wonderful display of voices in "Hallelujah".
Tom Whitman

MONDAY, 27th August

A GENUINE FREAKSHOW - Underground - 10.30am
I don't have a lot to say about A Genuine Freakshow. They didn't have the chance to say much between their three songs either. Needless to say they are rather progressive, to the extent that I would have quite liked to have seen them come out and announce themselves by saying "We are A Genuine Freakshow. This is our last song, thanks for listening", before launching into a 30-minute epic disaster. However, it was humorous that they did so after two songs. Their first song saw a military style drum roll, picking guitar, moody trumpet and a gradual ascent towards a big soundscape and vocals that can only be likened to Thom Yorke. Unfortunately their cellist could not make the gig, and one of their guitars was forgotten and left behind in a cellar. Yet they did manage to borrow a guitar from another band and a cameo role for some free-styling trumpet was a welcome addition. Apocalyptic and haunting sounds infused a nothing but entertaining set.
Tom Whitman

STRANGEDAY - Underground - 11.20am
Seldom have I witnessed a rock band gig so dominated by one band member. The drummer of Kent-based Strangeday, one Westy, is a mighty monolith of unrelenting rhythm who propelled every song with raw percussive power. Not that the other guys in the band were slouches. Dreadlocked guitarist Anwar contributed some wonderfully jagged riffs and even sang an occasional bit of harmony while singer Toby Hawkins, though his voice occasionally cracked on the high notes, had enough frontman charisma to ensure one overlooked such musical niceties. As he bawled his vocals over the scorching neo-punk rhythms. I mused how much the band have improved down the years. The crowd had filtered into the Underground dozily indifferent after a weekend of music and sunshine but by the close they were up and jumping. Strangeday have been around a fair while - I remember them when they were My Kid Sister - but this current lineup and armoury of fiery songs shows they've put in a lot of hard work. Particularly effective were the two closing numbers "Insight" with a funky bass line from Ally and the careering pogo-rhythmed "Get Me Through" with its bellowed prayer "Waiting for God to get me through" being undeniably powerful. As we filed out at the close I spotted a sizeable bunch of punters striding off to the CD tent to search out a copy of the band's new 'Please Intervene' album. After that set I'm not surprised.
Tony Cummings

NICAR AL-ISSA - Performance Café - 12.00 noon
Proclaiming himself as the oud master, Nicar Al-Issa took to the stage in the Performance Café before an intrigued audience. For those of us that don't know what an oud is, it is like a lute but of Arabic origin. I must admit that although his mastery of his chosen instrument was fascinating and inspiring, Nicar's voice left much to be desired and often seemed flat. Although the songs weren't in English each song had a special story. The story that stood out most to me was the one of a woman who followed her husband to war as she wouldn't leave him on his own. Overall, an interesting gig though one that occasionally seemed more like a music history lesson than a musical performance.
Daniel Cunningham

HOME WRECKERS CLUB - Underground - 12.10pm
Another last minute substitution taking the place of the advertised Fijidots, HWC occupied the poppier end of indie with a nice collection of guitar figures and singable songs. With some strong hooks that would sound good on radio, this four-piece had an excellent visual presence and left a vivid impression with the receptive crowd.
Paul Ganney

JULIA HARRIS - Underground - 1.00pm
Regular Cross Rhythms radio listeners will know Brit Julia for her turntable hit single "These Days". Julia opted to do this gig without her band due to illness (theirs, not hers). If she hadn't told us we'd not have known, as the songs rendered well with just her voice and guitar. One of the Underground stewards rated this as the best gig of Greenbelt (and he naturally saw a lot). Julia has a good voice and underpins it with some funky acoustic guitar playing with songs that occupied the Ricky Lee Jones / Joni Mitchell (or even a less husky Melissa Etheridge) end of the singer/songwriter spectrum, with extensions (and I'm not referring to her hair here!) that made the style all her own. A great set from a singer with huge potential.
Paul Ganney

JON BILBROUGH - Performance Café - 2.00pm
In the absence of a band usually including a tabla, xylophones and violins, Jon Bilbrough was left with his worn guitar, some ankle bells and a voice that projects itself powerfully. His driving finger-picking was often accompanied by gentle verses and hauntingly soaring choruses. Eastern influences set him apart from other acoustic singer/songwriters, as does the variety of his vocal ranges and influences. He can really carry a note with depth, soar with beauty, whisper like Damien Rice and loop his vocals to create an even more haunting background to his songs. Rural scenes and songs of love infused the mellower tunes, while his feet were sent tapping with ankle bells on his more upbeat material. One such song was the penultimate song "Jealousy", which saw the crowd nodding their heads in time. While he might not headline at Greenbelt like his dad in the past, bigger things must certainly be expected of his such finely crafted music.
Tom Whitman

ZEROSTAR - Underground - 2.00pm
It's unclear what the crowd thought of London's indie rockers, Zerostar. It's clear that the band put their all into the set, which allowed for a lot of light work, dry ice and frenetic dancing by lead singer Bentley Browning. But the crowd didn't seem to possess quite the same energy. Was it just that they are an unknown force to most Greenbelters, that the audience were tired after three crazily hot days and an equal number of sleepless nights, or that Bentley's dancing was rather scary? Whatever the answer to this puzzle, Zerostar delivered an entertaining set of jangly pop rock - which on other occasions has courted a number of big name plaudits. As you'd expect, the band closed their set with the song that has become their trademark - "A Rockstar Saved My Life", the single of which got them airplay on a number of stations (including Cross Rhythms) and that made them Grant Nicholas' (Feeder) favourite unsigned band. A great finish to a musical performance that is bound to get Zerostar invited back next year and will continue to win over fans in the mainstream.
Greg Sammons

Cathy Burton (photo by Mark Goodge)
Cathy Burton (photo by Mark Goodge)

CATHY BURTON - Performance Café - 3.00pm
I arrived just a bit too late for this, as the tent was already packed to whatever the canvass equivalent of the rafters is by the time I turned up, so, after persuading the stewards to let me take a few photos I had to leave and listen from the outside. In retrospect, this was probably a good thing as, two gigs later in the same venue, my posterior was suffering badly from the very uncomfortable benches inside! In any case, it didn't affect my enjoyment of the gig as the sound was perfectly good from just outside the tent and I was able to lie on the grass and soak up both the sunshine and Cathy's music with equal pleasure. Cross Rhythms readers and listeners will mostly already be familiar with Cathy Burton so there isn't much for me to add other than the fact that this was a very polished performance from a band - featuring Dan Wheeler on guitar - who are clearly comfortable performing together. Some of the songs were new to me and others I recognised from Cathy's 'Silvertown' album, but all seemed to go down well with the audience - at least as far as I could tell from the outside!
Mark Goodge

THROUGH SOLACE - Underground - 3.00pm
Last year I compared Through Solace to Zao and the Nodes Of Ranvier and I wasn't wrong to do so. However, this year I shall add that with frontman Luke Nicholas, we could well have the UK's answer to As I Lay Dying's Tim Lambesis on our hands. Not only is this some of the most brutal metalcore in Christendom but as its backbone it has some of the most deep and poetic lyrics you'll ever hear screamed at an unsuspecting crowd. However, unlike Lambesis, Luke has yet to put much variation on his vocals. Whilst some of their newer stuff does allow for a touch more melody, Luke's voice is stubbornly sticking to what it does best. Musically, Through Solace's newer tunes seem to be even more technical and even better structured - I really am looking forward to hearing their next release. So it would seem were the crowd too, providing without doubt the best mosh pit of the festival. Monday's Meltdown Sessions kicked off in a right royal style, sufficiently pleasing the people who had the discernment to avoid the cockney nostalgia of Chas & Dave.
Greg Sammons

THIRD DAY RISING - Underground - 3.40pm
First things first, if you're expecting a review of the '90s Welsh hard rock outfit by the same name, think again. These guys probably struggle to even remember the '90s! In this band's less-than-a-year-old history, they've done a very good job of making synth-ladened pop-friendly screamo. They rounded off the summer with their one and only UK tour, touring the EP they made a few months prior. The tour finished here at Greenbelt and you could tell they'd used the tour to polish off their live show. This is a very young band (in terms of average age as well as longevity) that shows a huge amount of potential - so it's a real shame that all the members bar one are going their separate ways from their home town of Malmesbury, Wiltshire. Two things give away their age; the first is that they have quite obviously been heavily influenced by the latest buzz-genre, emo. Secondly, they came mighty close to being extremely cheesy - something with age, people can be very sensitive to avoid! Although to be fair, the cheesiest of all their songs, "Not Even Captain America Can Save Us Now", is probably my favourite - its glorious intro is something you have to hear to believe! It's a shame we're unlikely to witness this band mature into a really tight and proficient force - as this time next year they could have had a nice armoury of tunes.
Greg Sammons

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Reader Comments

Posted by Dweeb in dweebland @ 16:47 on Nov 13 2007


Posted by Johanna in U.K. @ 08:35 on Nov 2 2007

I thoroughly enjoyed Chloe Leavers who sang during Lleuwen's performance. Does anyone know where I might get the recording of this?

Posted by Carole in Forest of Dean @ 16:47 on Oct 23 2007

Had a great time volunteering in Contributers' reception.Hi to everyone I met. Really loved Kevin Max,fabulous voice and his guitarist surely rates a mention. Delererious were great.Duke Special and Trent were new to me , but will look out for them in the future.

Posted by Gavin Owen in Wales @ 22:47 on Sep 17 2007

ive done a review of delirious and thebandwithnoname they should be in the process of being edited for inclusion on the site

Posted by d-fan in UK @ 14:50 on Sep 14 2007

Wow you'd never know from this CR review that Delirious? were even at Greenbelt. Bit of a mistake leaving out the biggest headline band of the whole festival.

Reply by e in stoke @ 15:04 on Feb 13 2008

to be fair, i think alot of people actually left the site after duke special had played. seemed a lot of people though he should have been headlining, and he was fantastic! delirious were a little flat this time round.

[report abuse]

Reply by Greg Sammons in Stoke on Trent @ 14:37 on Sep 17 2007

A rather belated review of Delirious will be added asap

[report abuse]

Posted by Damian in Cardiff @ 11:15 on Sep 14 2007

I was only able to go to Greenbelt for the opening night.

Sarah Masen's opening Mainstage set was great, especially '75 Grains'. Ric Hordinski, otherwise known as 'Monk', accompanied on guitar throughout her set.

Over the Rhine were the main reason I went, and I felt they connected well with the audience. Their concerts always have an intimate feel to them, regardless of venue, and my impression was that many in the crowd had not heard their music before, and were not expecting this. Those who know Over the Rhine of old will realise what a rare treat it was to hear Linford sing backing vocals on a couple of songs.

When they sang songs from "Ohio", I noticed that lots of people who had been sitting on the field in front of the stage, got up and stood at the front, and several people who had been walking past the Mainstage, stopped to listen. Karin and Linford were in fine form, and their new drummer gave an awesome solo that wouldn't have been out of place with any great rock band.

I'm surprised there was no review of "Last Orders" - Greenbelt's fast-paced and humorous late-night round-up of the day. Over the Rhine were there, with their drummer playing a chair using brushes. The highlight for me, however, was Billy Bragg covering Pinball Wizard in the style of Johnny Cash - awesome!

Reply by Greg Sammons in Stoke on Trent @ 14:42 on Sep 17 2007

In regards to Last Orders - we only reviewed the musical side of things. Otherwise I'd have written reviews on Jo Enright and Get Up Stand Up amongst other things as well.
Last Orders does contain music but is not strictly a musical event (if you see what I mean).

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Posted by Tim in Kidderminster, Worcestershire @ 04:55 on Sep 10 2007

Sorry, I love after the fire but they were shocking!
I can't believe you guys missed This Beautiful Republic. They were my highlight. Surely they are destined for big things

Posted by Liz Long in Worthing @ 14:53 on Sep 5 2007

Monday night was the best for me - two of my favourite bands playing one after the other.

Firstly [dweeb] who are such a great live band - they rock out and they love doing it. As well as this they are quite possibly the most random band I have ever had the pleasure to see and that fits with me perfectly! They start their show with the theme music to Grandstand (RIP) and launch straight into Priate+Copse=Quandary which talks about pirates and ducks, but is actually all about how we all need God and looking for him. At one point the drummer, Dave, was rapping "The Fresh Prince of Shrewsbury" at an adoring crowd!
There were also some great new songs which will be on their album coming out soon.
They were awesome and DEFINATELY need to be put on Mainstage! Always!

Then there was Delirious? who did not dissapoint as always. The set and visuals they used I have seen before, but that didnt make it less enjoyable, and was actually quite nice to have that familiarity. They sang History Maker, as always, which was awesome, and great to bunny hop to!

A fantastic Greenbelt all round, but the bands this year were AMAZING!

Posted by dave watts in stapleford, nottingham @ 07:22 on Sep 5 2007

For me the highlight of the musical side of Greenbelt was Soweto Kinch which came as a complete surprise
because I had never heard his name and I don't especially like Jazz !
His joy of playing and his rapport with the crowd together with the sound and his amazing rapping plus the rest of his group (the drummer in particular was incredible) made this my GB highlight

Posted by Non-Linear Dynamics in Farnborough @ 22:29 on Sep 4 2007

No review of the mighty Willard Grant Conspiracy? We have the technology...

In the band's second visit to Greenbelt, they played two sets of their more acoustic alt-folk/country/desert songs in the Perfomance cafe, the (sadly) now clean shaven frontman Robert Fisher with a lead/slide guitarist and a cello for the Saturday slot.

Mainly taken from the more acoustic of their recent albums (Regard The End) these songs are unafraid to deal with big themes like faith, love and loss whilst rooted in deep south americana (tales of old school rural preachers, dying grandparents set to evolved folk tunes and, as a personal favourite, God, the Devil and a Seattle basketball coach).

Fisher sings with a deep baritone and plays with the confidence and laid back repartee with the audience of a man who seriously knows his alt-country game. The second guitarist might have used a little more rehearsal time, but with the band structure (best part of 40 members spead out over the world) that might unrealistic. The cello dramatically filled out the tunes on the Saturday. Overall though it managed to sound loose rather than ragged.

In conclusion, an excellent fit with the weather and the overall festival vibe this year.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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