Live Music + Gig Reviews

Guilfest 2004 Day 2 @ Stoke Park, Guildford

17 July 2004

Rolf Harris – the undisputed star of Saturday afternoon – smacks of the tradition associated with his adopted homeland. The crowds, basking in the Saturday sunshine, cheered with delight as the deep, reedy sounds of the didgeridoo filtered in to the audience as our Rolf stepped on the stage to deliver his inimitable music. They’d had to chant, football-style, ‘Rolfy, Rolfy’ before the artist/tv presenter/singer/all round entertainer (the list goes on…) would grace the stage. They loved it; he more so. Old Rolf must be getting on in years, but with the sprightliness he springs around the stage and engineers his ‘wobble board’ you would never guess. And yes, we were treated to Tie My Kangeroo Down, as well as countless other ‘hits’.

Tim Booth (he of James fame) was given the unenviable task of following him on to the BBC Radio 2 main stage, with his new support band The Individuals. Sporting a newly bald pate and manicured facial hair he looked a million miles removed from his ’90s heyday and seemed none too pleased to be following a novelty act: especially one engaging the crowd far more so than he. The ‘guru’ had landed. Still, in a nod to the enduring appeal of James, Booth started his set with a familiar favourite Laid before launching in to new and unfamiliar territory.

Radio 2 stalwart Ricky Lee Jones gave her all to her hugely loyal and devoted audience, looking as glamorous as ever: think Mariah Carey‘s mum and you’re half way there. Over on the Uncut Aladdin’s Cave Stage, Brighton folk-rockers Lucky Jim cemented their growing reputation following the release of debut album Our Troubles End Tonight. They played every bit as sharply as they dressed; co-ordinating in varying shades of sand – a nod to their seaside roots, perhaps? Songs, filled with their signature heart-stopping chord structures and achingly wry melodies, were belted out to an expectant audience and included recent single You Stole My Heart Away.

Kathryn Williams, a seemingly permanent Mercury Music nominee (though not yet a winner, always the bridesmaid…) had played the same stage earlier, showing the assembled throng what a consistently classy act she is. She was followed by the lesser known Niall Carter, warmly welcomed by an appreciative audience. But it was Levellers that those crowding the second stage had come to see – and they bagged their places early. Well in advance of the 8pm kick-off those relaxing by the stage in the early evening sunshine had been shoehorned out by throngs eager for the acoustic set to begin. They exploded on to the stage with special guests Blackbud and Ian McNabb.

The scene could hardly be more different on the main stage where jazz-popsicle Katie Melua was presiding over a rather more sedate affair. With her perfect spiral curls perfectly coiffed and perfectly arranged around her perfectly pretty face and perfect glossy lips, and wearing her uniform vintage top, blazer and dark jeans the saccharine-sweet darling of the chattering classes was reigning supreme. In a nod to a true Radio 2 legend she dedicated her first song to Eva Cassidy, who, unlike Melua, was unable to taste fame in her lifetime. Then followed the radio-friendly fodder of Call Off The Search and The Closest Thing To Crazy interspersed with album tracks and a painfully jazz-lite rendition of The Cure‘s The Love Cats. It’s one of those ‘little-known facts’, known, by all that eccentric songwriter Mike Batt produced, co-wrote and financed Melua’s album and following baying from an audience ‘in the know’ he joined the songstress on stage to sing his most famous tune The Wombles. How terribly British.

As Melua’s set finished, women of a certain age started staking their places at the front of the stage for that night’s biggest draw Simple Minds, who, in the 80’s, were regarded as a poor man’s U2 but are profiting in the revivals bandwagon that shows no signs of slowing. “Show me your hands!” shouted frontman Jim Kerr encouraging a hormonal crowd to clap wildly. “Show me your hands!”. Dancing like a ’70s disco queen and wearing a light blue shirt unbuttoned at top and bottom, Kerr was in his element, belting out the band’s biggest hits including Don’t You (Forget About Me), Promised You A Miracle and See The Lights. Fans could barely contain themselves.

Outside, the merest hint of anarchy reigned for a split of a second as one lone girl tried to break down barriers to reach the band-only area and paw her heroes, held back by three burly, bemused security guards. Who says Guilfest isn’t an orgy of rock and roll excess? More tea, vicar?

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