LIVE REVIEW: Hardwick Live (22.8.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Dressed in leather and oozing with attitude, Hull’s Black Delta Movement may not seem the most appropriate way to start a festival that’s soaked in sunshine and set in the picturesque surroundings of Hardwick Hall. But with big dirty rock riffs that evoke the very best of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, tunes as hypnotic as Hell and Charlie Don’t Surf and with a voice as strong as singer Matt Burr’s, the swelling crowd are soon won over. Segueing best tune Butterfly into the spoken part of The Doors’ The End shouldn’t work, but it does and it’s truly captivating. A growing live reputation is entirely justified.

Bristol’s Meadowlark turn a sunny day into a glorious one with their lilting folk pop melodies. Kate McGill’s mesmerising vocals recall Gabrielle Alpin and songs such as Sail Away, Eyes Wide and Family Tree are all capable of making the same kind of dent in the charts. Ones to watch out for.

It’s been a strange ride for West Yorkshire’s Embrace. Touted as the next Oasis when they released their brilliant debut The Good Will Out back in 1998, huge success always seemed to elude them until the Chris Martin penned ballad Gravity catapulted them to the top of the charts in 2004. Gravity is aired here but Embrace’s biggest strength has always been their anthems; All You Good Good People and Come Back To What You Know still pack as much punch as they did nearly twenty years ago. Frontman Danny McNamara’s enthusiasm cannot be faulted as he encourages the crowd closer to the stage and they punch the air in delight as the band launch from one massive sing along to the next. Embrace have experienced the ups and downs and Ashes is the perfect closer for a band who have repeatedly risen from the flames.

10CC may be best known for their huge 1975 hit I’m Not In Love but they’ve nearly as many crowd-pleasers in their repertoire as they’ve had line-up changes throughout the years. 1978’s Dreadlock Holiday in particular has the crowd – many of whom weren’t born when it was released – getting down to the feel-good reggae tune and in a summer in which England regained the Ashes, singing along to the immortal line, “I don’t like cricket, oh no, I love it,” has never felt so good.

“in a strange correlation, what started out as a nice summer’s day, quickly turns into a torrential downpour midway through their set”

Razorlight have never quite lived up to their early success and in a strange correlation, what started out as a nice summer’s day, quickly turns into a torrential downpour midway through their set. Thankfully, in tunes like Golden Touch, In The Morning and America, they possess plenty of material to keep a festival crowd satisfied and Johnny Borrell remains a charismatic frontman.

There isn’t a better band around today than James to work a festival crowd and frontman Tim Booth is in no mood to let what is quickly becoming a deluge of rain affect what should be the crowning performance of the day.  Taking the stage to a sing along of Singing In The Rain, it’s soon business as usual as Booth whips the crowd into a frenzy with an opening salvo of classics, Come Home and She’s A Star.

With thirty years of festival experience under their belt, James are so good at this that they’re comfortable bumping up fan favourite and usual set closer Sometimes to higher in the running order as the rain lashes down, turning the beautiful Hardwick Castle lawns into one giant mud bath. “There’s a storm outside, and the gap between crack and thunder, is closing in” sings an ecstatic Booth, the sheer beauty and aptness of the lyrics not lost on a single member of the audience as lightening illuminates the sky around us. “Sometimes when I look deep in your eyes I swear I can see your soul,” sing back the crowd, soaked to the bone, but with not a care in the world.

It’s truly breathtaking as the dripping hairs on the backs of soaked necks move everyone and we’re barely a third of the way through the set. The festival classics just keep coming with Just Like Fred Astaire, Curse Curse – the best track on the latest record, La Petite Mort – and Tomorrow, not to mention everybody’s indie disco favourite sing along tune, Sit Down. Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) and the barely subtle sexual innuendo of Laid bring the night to a dripping climax and Hardwick Live is over for another year, a suitable triumph in spite of conditions that threatened to turn a great event into a disaster. There are few gripes as the weary, wet crowd make their way home, though an arc may have come in handy in what became a frankly biblical storm.

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