For the ninth time we've expanded this comprehensive review of the music of GREENBELT
Continued from page 4
DAN WHEELER - Performance Café - 4.00pm
Having been too late for a seat at the previous gig, I managed to shuffle into the tent and grab a bench space at the front during the artist changeover - something which didn't take too long, as this was effectively the second part of a double-header with Cathy Burton using exactly the same band - the only change was for Dan and Cathy to swap places on stage! Despite having played guitar for a whole host of artists and recordings, Dan is probably less recognisable than his backing vocalist for this gig and, consequently, had to work harder to connect with the audience - which probably wasn't helped by the fact that a fair proportion of the audience hadn't come to see Dan at all, they were just there in order to ensure they had a space for the subsequent performance by After The Fire. Fortunately, his songs taken from his 'Long Road Round' and 'Seven Kinds Of Grace' albums are tailor-made for the acoustic setting of the Performance Cafe and, allied with an ability to deliver just the right amount of banter and between-song chat - something that's a lot harder than many performers imagine - he pulled it off extremely well. Dan Wheeler and Cathy Burton are doing a joint tour together this autumn, so if you didn't catch them at Greenbelt then you've got another chance - I'd highly recommend it!
STAIRWAY - Underground - 4.20pm
Next year this band celebrate their (cough cough) anniversary. Put it this way, they've been going longer than I've been alive! So with this wealth of experience and a tasty back catalogue, this is one for all fans of '80s metal to get excited about. So it's a crying shame that they were let down by a rather disappointing live sound. I'm not blaming them though, Stage 2 (now rebranded as the Underground stage) has a reputation for rather substandard sound production. Instead of filling the place with a big metal sound, it just came across as rather thin and lacking the necessary crunch. Still, however much you try to cover up their sound with technical difficulties, you can't help but tell that these guys have got a great collection of tunes. Despite the crowd being rather thinner on the ground than you'd expect (some went so far as to voice their concerns on the live sound to the sound guy before huffing out) the core crowd were obviously loving every second of it. With the exception of Seventh Angel, these guys were the UK's premier exponent of 'white metal' when it peaked 15-20 years ago - it's not hard to see why.
AFTER THE FIRE - Performance Café - 5.00pm
ATF2 needed no introduction to a capacity crowd that knew what they wanted and got it (except for the encores, that is). Pete Banks and John Russell know how to play a crowd and how to pace a set and it showed. Ian and Matt are no slouches either. This was at the more acoustic end of their material, evidenced by PB playing guitar more than usual (but did mean that they played a hefty chunk of "Pilgrim") and a very restrained "Dark Side" (a track that was recorded in the '80s, and was finally released recently) which morphed wonderfully into "You're Gorgeous" - after so many years of hearing them play "Help" it was nice to hear a different cover. For me, "Billy Billy" didn't really work in this style, but it was the only one (probably due to a lack of power chords), though getting Rob Halligan to join them for two numbers was a clever move. They closed with "Laser Love", the greatest-hit-that-should-have-been and sent the audience away very happy and wanting a lot, lot more. On this showing, there's more in the tank from these rock survivors.
MY SPOON - Underground - 5.00pm
Someone at Greenbelt needs to get the venue allocation sorted out. Both My Spoon and Dweeb have grassroots followings far too big for the small, cramped Underground venue. The queue outside The Underground had been building for two hours prior to My Spoon. I was one of the lucky 240 punters who managed to get in, twice as many people were turned away. The band has been regularly described as Rage Against The Machine meets Busted and you can see why - catchy and fun but surprisingly heavy. Starting off with the now legendary Spoon intro, the set quickly reaches "Pardon Me", with the singalong "God above the Earth who reigns with love - FORGIVES ME". The band then took a left turn into a cover medley featuring such seminal acts as Fall Out Boy, Take That, The Proclaimers and (erm) the Village People. By now the whole crowd have grins from ear to ear and the band are laughing their heads off as they launch into (do my ears deceive me) "Kum Ba Ya"! You can see the steam rising off the band as they return to tracks from their 'Love, Stories And Lies' album. The band were determined to fit in as much as possible to their 30 minute slot - sing-alongs, tempo changes, chunky riffs, dollops of good humour and a blatant positive message. Next year they and Dweeb must surely be on Mainstage.
THIS BEAUTIFUL REPUBLIC - Mainstage - 5.45pm
The Monday afternoon slot at Greenbelt is always a tough one due to the decreasing numbers of people at the festival and the tired torpor which inevitably kicks in after a weekend of camping. Yet American rockers This Beautiful Republic, whose debut 'Even Heroes Need A Parachute' had only recently been released by Fierce!, seem like a band definitely worthy of the challenge. From the moment they emerged they hit the ground running with a performance filled with passion and energy. The band looked in their element when on stage, with plenty of jumping and guitar swinging. Musically, few bands over the weekend were as tight as them, with a strong rhythm section and chugging power chord filled riffs being traded between guitarists Adam Smith and Jeremy Kunkle. Frontman Ben Olin is a natural performer with a gutsily expressive voice and he is definitely on a par with most modern rock front men such as Brandon Boyd from Incubus or Ian Watkins from the Lostprophets. The set is filled with plenty of fist in the air chant-along songs from the band's debut, delivering a series of top-notch Christ-centred songs. It's not hard to see why these rockers from Ohio are starting to make waves in the Christian scene Stateside.
IAIN ARCHER - Mainstage - 6.00pm
With a slight breeze and grey overcast clouds, Iain Archer entered the stage with just a guitar and his soulful voice. A perfect setting for his wistful melancholia. Chopped and muted guitar was looped underneath ambient and melodic guitar sounds, with an expressive voice to match. I was instantly transfixed and began to think how amazing an atmosphere one man and his electric guitar can create on the Mainstage at Greenbelt, this of course with Billy Bragg in mind on the first night. The rhythm section was introduced for the second song "Running In Dreams", with crunching U2 guitars. The voice of Archer, especially on the finger-picked "Canal Song" reminded me of the fragility of Ed Harcourt. "Collector's Shop" was a favourite, displaying a distinctive northern sound, with an almost country rock jangle and old blues jam combined whilst Archer threw his wee body energetically across the spacious stage. The infectious sounds are equally impacting from the subtler songs to the more upbeat and rocking tunes like "When It Kicks In". It's not hard to believe that this man co-wrote "Run", one of the standout tracks from Snow Patrol's 'Final Straw' breakthrough album.
DWEEB - YMCA Café - 6.00pm
They perform, entertain and cajole. Fanatical fans explode into excitement and even dress up as pirates in tribute to live favourite "Pirate + Copse = Quandary". They are ebullient and edgy, jazzy, rocking and just shockingly good. But they were let down by the sound at their first gig of the day, before they literally pegged it to the Underground venue to crank it up and play some new songs. Nonetheless, the party went on and it only took two songs before frontman Tim went into the crowd and brought the pirates back on stage with him. Showmanship prevailed with the melodic harmonies and jazzy ending of "Identity Is Not A State Of Mind", all the while the band minus drummer Dave parading the stage in their smart black ties and waistcoats. I'm far from understanding many of their more obscure lyrical references but it's clear where their focus lies, as Tim explained before final song "Jesus You Are My Everything", stating that this song sums them up. Badgerman scaled an amp and Tim forayed once again into the crowd, urging them to jump on his count. From good sources they rocked out at the Underground, despite a stage dive going wrong and free CDs having to be handed out, once again they wooed the crowd, swapping instruments and performing their rather humorous and unusual cover of the Spice Girls "Viva Forever". Bigger stages are expected for the band that, once their much awaited album is released, could well be the hottest thing on the UK scene since Delirious?.
ERIN STARNES - Performance Café - 8.15pm
The name of Erin Starnes, or just plain Erin as it appears on the CD sleeve, will be familiar to Cross Rhythms Radio listeners from her airplay hit, "But You Say". After thanking her audience for choosing to listen to her instead of Duke Special, Erin and her band launched into a polished set drawn mainly from her independently-released album, 'Songs From The End Of My Bed'. This is the kind of gig that the Performance Café was made for, with the intimate setting getting the best out of an acoustic performance featuring a Cuban box drum as the percussion instrument - something unusual enough for the compere to take a good look at before leaving the stage - and with former Why? frontman Ant Parker on bass. Erin is an excellent singer and a pretty good songwriter, the highlight for me being "Thousand Words" (written for her backing vocalist's wedding). My only quibble is that, having looked at the CR reviewer's comments on Erin's performance in last year's Greenbelt article, I find that I could almost have cut and pasted it into my review this time. Time for some more new material, I reckon.
EZIO - Performance Café - 9.00pm
Ezio are a mind-blowing live act to savour. Made up of the joint guitar talents of Ezio Lunedei, who writes and sings the material, and Booga on guitar who gives it the groove and the sensuous solos. Ezio alternate between many different styles, with Booga's South-American influences and more standard rock 'n' roll playing. From Lunedei's harmonica intros and story telling to Booga's ridiculously fast solo at the end of "Saxon Street", they had the crowd nodding their heads and laughing in disbelief. They do not apologise for having fun and enjoying their music, as Lunedei explained when someone challenged him to write a political song. What ensued, and was thus performed, was a waltz time song about third world exploitation, with the line "You are the girl of my dreams, a mail order beauty from the Philippines". They finished with an old school blues rock stomper and the refrain "One day I'm gonna die, one day I'm gonna die", repeated with various impersonations from Johnny Cash to Stephen Hawking. The crowd were invited to join in, duly obliged, and rewarded Ezio's efforts with the first standing ovation I had seen in the Performance Café all weekend.
DELIRIOUS? - Mainstage - 9.30pm
This was Delirious?' third time at Greenbelt (the other two times were 2002 and 2004) and expectations were definitely high. As the thousands of Greenbelters gathered at the Mainstage for the festival finale, the band hit the stage with a new song, a brave move on any band's part but especially for one with a much loved back catalogue. It seemed to pay off, as the crowd got into the show straight away. As the show progressed, the band went through a good number of songs from 'The Mission Bell', each with their own unique visual being projected on to the video wall. After some strong and uplifting anthems there are some more sombre and reflective moments, which are often some of the best moments in a Delirious? gig. The hard hitting lyrics of our "God Reigns" saw a sea of hands raised in praise and worship, as did "Miracle Maker", which was then followed by the D: classic, "History Maker". The song was accompanied by an extremely impressive visual, which was used on their last UK tour, showing hands raised and hundreds of people jumping. The band also got a few sing-alongs, most notably are the shouts of "WOOAA HERE WE COME" in "Paint The Town Red". The set was brought to an end with an encore of "Here I Am Send Me". For my money the D:boys had been better in previous years but they still did enough to send the Greenbelt crowd away happy.