“Yet Another Midsummer Night’s Dream” - Knebworth Park Festival 28th June 1990. Concert review by Alan Hewitt.
A surprise knock on the door on Friday night led to yours truly being whisked away on a trip down memory lane to this year’s Knebworth Festival. I remember the first time I saw Knebworth was on Saturday 24th June 1978 when Genesis headlined there before a similarly ecstatic crowd as there were assembled forthis year’s festival. And to cap it all, it rained then too!
We arrived at the festival site early in the morning, bleary-eyed and wondering what possessed us to do it (a question I have been asking myself with no satisfactory answer for over fifteen years - lunacy some of my friends tell me - it’s a fair cop, Guv’nor!) . The queue was already massive and to the uninitiated it looked like everyone wasn’t going to fit in but eventually we did and took up our positions for the day. The weather was threatening to turn the site into a monsoon area but nobody seemed to mind (and for those of us who survived Milton Keynes ‘82 this was but a shower) as the starting time arrived and the opening came on stage amidst torrents of rain and high gusts of wind that almost blew parts of the stage awning away. I felt sorry for Tears For Fears who were the opening act; everything seemed against them, especially the weather and the many technical problems that seemed to dog their set. However, they showed what true professionals they are and turned in an hour’s performance including many of their hits such as Sowing The Seeds Of Love and Everybody Wants To Rule The World. I think the audience really appreciated the effort that the band put in and they got one of the warmest ovations of the entire day.
Status Quo and Cliff Richard followed in their individual sets to varying degrees of response from the audience. In my case their performances served to heighten my feeling of age because unlike so many of the younger members of the crowd around me, I could remember ALL the words to all of their songs!
A late addition to the festival was this year’s Silver Clef Award winner: Robert Plant with his new band and an old colleague: Jimmy Page. His set was a tribute to the music of a man who has been in the business for over twenty years and still manages to keep the fire in his performances. The audience certainly appreciated the inclusion of a couple of Led Zeppelin classics, although not the expected Stairway To Heaven.
Next up were the reason for my attendance at the festival: Phil Collins and Genesis. The weather, which up until then had seemed to be favouring the show with its blessing, changed its mind and when Phil and his band came on stage, it was to rapturous applause from the audience and a drenching from the heavens! Phil performed a solo set first which began with In The Air Tonight getting off to a suitably dramatic beginning which was marred somewhat by the gusts of wind which carried the sound everywhere. This didn’t seem to stop Phil, however, as he moved rapidly into the anti Apartheid anthem: Colours which heavily featured the percussive talents of Chester Thompson especially in the drum solo at the end. Another Day In Paradise predictably followed to cheers from the crowd and Phil finished his set with Sussudio in the forlorn hope of warming up the cold and wet festival crowd. Enjoyable as it was, I don’t think that Phil comes over as well in the open air as he does indoors , so it was with expectation that I watched as Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford join him onstage for Genesis’ part of the show.
They opened up with the stabbing drum machine beat of Mama, much to the disappointment of many of the crowd who had hoped for something a little different. That’s All followed to some serious audience participation by the writer who seems to enjoy this one more every time I hear it. Throwing It All Away was next and it was an apt title because in my view, by this point Genesis had thrown away an opportunity to really show off their talents and instead had chosen a very lacklustre set which was rounded off by the old chestnut: Turn It On Again, complete with Sixties medley which is wearing a little thin now. They left the stage to cheers from the crowd although it was a musically competent performance by the band, I know they can do better and look forward to their next tour (??) where they can prove it.
The so-called “Supergroup” of Elton John, Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton was next up and as expected, they performed a selection of their greatest hits much to the appreciation of the audience - I especially enjoyed Elton’s new single: Sacrifice which is a really excellent song.
After a protracted delay due to difficulties on stage, Paul McCartney took the stage to an excellent reception from the crowd, some of whom (myself included) had been to his concert at the King’s Dock in Liverpool two days before. For the next fifty or so minutes, he gave us a selection of songs from that show accompanied by the light show that had made Liverpool such a spectacular. All the old favourites were there including Let It Be, Hey Jude, Strawberry Fields Forever and Yesterday which I must admit had me in tears for the second time in three days. Paul and his band seemed to be really enjoying themselves and form the antics of some of the audience around us (those I could see through the haze of tears that is) were having a great time too.
A further delay occurred before the main act: Pink Floyd appeared, introduced by the doyen of British DJ’s; Tommy Vance. “The Ultimate Band” he announced and it was easy to see why. Floyd’s set left no avenue unexplored as they ran through the a shortened set list that was still full of visual excitement and musical excellence. To describe the effects would take a week but the music spoke for itself far more eloquently as they treated us to: Shine On You Crazy Diamond, The Great Gig In The Sky, Sorrow, Comfortably Numb (which is one thing no one in the audience was!) and Run Like Hell to name but a few. The show ended in a blaze of glory - a fitting tribute to the work of the charity whose benefit it was staged for - the Nordoff-Robins Music Therapy Trust which works with mentally and autistically handicapped children - a worthy cause for such an event especially such an entertaining one. Ten out of ten for the effort. Minus ten for the weather!