Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jun 27 -- Hard Rock Calling Day 1 Review

Jun 27 - Saturday: Reached Hyde Park at 12:30pm. I was surprised how short the lines were at the entrance gate. The place inside was friggin' huge. Many food and merchandise tents lined up at the sides of the premise, including a makeshift Hard Rock Cafe. Didn't waste any time exploring the place though; I didn't even bother going to the 2nd stage all the way at the extreme end. After buying merchandise, we headed straight for the main stage. I reckon we got a pretty good spot initially, about 100m from the stage, just in front of the soundboard/equipment tent.

The afternoon started out very hot and it got pretty bad at times. But I couldn't seek shade as I'd immediately lose my spot. After sitting through the first two (unknown) bands, The Pretenders finally came up, and put on a great, fast-paced 45min set, heavy with their new stuff and familiar hits. Man, Chrissie Hynde looked old, but she still had that rock & roll swagger and attitude, and she really kicked ass :) What a great start to a long day ahead.

Then came Seasick Steve. This was the first time I heard his music and I was fucking blown away. Very old Mississippi dirty sounding blues, and also similar to the White Stripes--just drums and guitar. Steve looked and sounded great, and he was playing all sorts of interesting guitars; 1 string, 2 strings, 3 strings, 4 strings. He did a pretty hilarious set, cursing in between songs, whipping a bottle of Jack Daniels, throwing his guitar on the floor. I didn't know any of the tunes, but I really enjoyed myself on this one.

Ben Harper and Relentless7 were a great bunch of musicians. They played stuff from their only album, and also a wicked cover of Led Zeppelin's Good Times Bad Times. I think that was the only song the crowd knew. It's a pity the band didn't get a good response from the audience. A lotta people were still sitting down.

By the time Fleet Foxes came onstage, it started to rain. This really sucked because I couldn't really enjoy their 1hr set. But those guys (who looked like hobos) had beautiful voices and got a pretty good reception from the crowd. If you ask me, I wish they shouldn't have played right before Neil Young; The Pretenders would've been a more appropiate choice. Their sorta music didn't seem to work in a large, outdoor festival setting. But in a strange way, Robin Pecknold seemed to hypnotize most of us when he performed solo on some songs.

Finally came the moment we've all been waiting for. While the equipment was still being set up, many people started moving forward, trying to get closer to the front. I actually had to tip-toe in order to see the stage clearly--too many tall people blocking my sight :( Neil and the band came on time, and ripped through Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black). This was probably the best rock & roll show I've seen since the Stones. Neil Young, already over 60 years old, was really putting his heart and soul into the show, and I got goosebumps every time he played a solo. Thanks to the fuckers who kept on walking around with the beer, I got 'pushed' away from my original spot, right smack dub in front of Neil Young! For over an hour, I got a good view of him, without having to tip-toe and look at the high-definition screens often. Too bad he didn't play Cortez The Killer; but he played many of his hits. The crowd ate it up, especially during Old Man (the banjo part before the chorus was really cool) and Heart Of Gold. My personal favorites were Words, Fuckin' Up and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.

Down By The River and Rockin' In The Free World seemed to go on forever. After the main set, the crowd was really fired up. I was glad they played A Day In The Life during the encore, but I wasn't prepared for what was to come. Paul McCartney ran out onstage during the bridge and dueted with Neil!! It was one of those WTF moments, and it took a while to register before the crowd went absolutely apeshit. I was so overwhelmed with joy that I actually began to weep! It was an incredible moment. Neil's face was just glowing all the time and Sir Paul looked like he was in awe, especially when he did that rising guitar feedback towards the end of the song.

I really thought they were gonna play another Beatles song, but that didn't happen. Still, I thought that moment alone was worth the price of admission. But what a way for Neil Young to end his final show of the tour!

Here's the setlist:

1. Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)
2. Mansion On The Hill
3. Are You Ready For The Country?
4. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
5. Spirit Road
6. Words
7. Cinnamon Girl
8. Fuckin' Up
9. Mother Earth
10. The Needle And The Damage Done
11. Comes A Time
12. Unknown Legend
13. Heart Of Gold
14. Old Man
15. Down By The River
16. Get Behind The Wheel
17. Rockin' In The Free World

18. A Day In The Life