I have been reflecting on the surprising extent to which the first generation of rock and pop stars keep reappearing on sell-out tours, reconquering the world all over again and making 2014 what some in the media have unkindly dubbled “the summer of wrinkly rock”. Just to cite a few examples...there's been the Rolling Stones on their 14 On Fire tour with its preposterously priced tickets; former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney who, at 72, seems to have been on a semi-permanent tour for years; Fleetwood Mac who have reformed for a world tour; 70's super-group Genesis who, after reuniting for a BBC TV show are rumoured to be about to announce some tour dates - not to mention lower pecking order bands like Culture Club, Madness and the Osmonds who are all getting out there and performing their old material to ecstatic middle-aged audiences, all keen to spend big money on recapturing the soundtrack of their long-lost youth. Of course, for the bands themselves, a successful tour makes huge financial sense. There are big profits to be had from ticket sales and from back music catalogue sales to an audience who were used to paying for their music rather than downloading it free from the internet, plus there's mega-merchandising money to be had too.

Enthusiasm for these retro-performances, often in big stadiums, shows little sign of abating. But can the experience of actually seeing these icons from decades ago sometimes disappoint? I recently attended The Eagles show at London's O2. Having seen the Eagles perform in Southern California at the height of their Seventies popularity, I know how impressive they can be with their beautifully crafted songs, rich harmonies and classy guitar work. Tickets were a mere £80 - for seats that cost over £400 for the Stones - but the band were mere specks on the horizon...like tiny matchstick men. 95 per cent of the 20,000+ audience had to watch the huge side screens to see anything of the performance. The sound was reasonably good though and the musical performance seemed flawless. All around me were older middle-aged couples blissfully happy as the music transported them back to their youth. And yet...to me there seemed a grim efficiency about the Eagles' demeanour. These ageing rock gods in their smart casual outfits appeared to have lost their heart somehow. Pitch-perfect they may have been but something was missing. Maybe that something was soul. The Eagles never appeared to take the slightest pleasure in the performance and never talked to - or even acknowledged - one another. All joy appeared absent amongst the band members. I found that rather sad, dispiriting.

By contrast, not many days later, Dolly Parton took Glastonbury by storm and appeared to relish every moment. And I am happy to report that at the 2014 Cornbury Festival, each one of the older hands like Georgie Fame, Suzanne Vega, 10cc, Jools Holland, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes (featuring Gary US Bonds), Simple Minds plus the Gypsy Kings performed magnificently. The Gypsy Kings were especially impressive, their powerful musicianship, huge enthusiasm, energy and roaring choruses eliciting an amazing response from festival goers.

Despite its “poshstock” reputation with regular attendees including local residents like David Cameron, Orlando Bloom, Jeremy Clarkson, Rebekah Brooks, Noel Edmonds, Alex James, Jemima Khan and Russell Brand, Cornbury does actually dedicate itself to quality live music (plus some comedy) in a way that some other festivals sometimes fail to do.

Founder and organiser Hugh Phillimore's own blend of enthusiasm, ambition, geniality (and great organisational skill) ensures the festival's repeated success with a clever mix of big name acts with cult legends and promising newcomers. Hugh does not strive for cutting-edge credibility, but relies on his own eclectic good taste to produce an always-interesting list of performers in the beautiful surroundings of the Great Tew estate. Comedy acts included Al Murray, Mark Watson and Jeremy Hardy and there was a perfectly-restored Vintage Mobile Cinema screening a mini short film festival for all ages too.

As ever, the festival was expertly run with an amazing array of food outlets, clean and plentiful toilets, no mud anywhere and no bad behaviour from the 20,000 visitors. Drugs of choice at Cornbury tend to be Pimms or artisan beers!

“I like to think of Cornbury as a big village fete with good bands playing...we are not a monster festival, not seriously rock and roll and there's nothing here to frighten the horses. Which is how we and our regular audiences like it,” Hugh says. “We are the nation's most eccentric and charming open air party. We delight in being fantastically uncool - and we are perfect for those who are festival first-timers or for people who don't like mega events. I am delighted Cornbury was such a success, once again.”

Musical highlights of Cornbury 2014 have been recorded by long-term Cornbury partner, Abbey Road Studios. All proceeds from sales of this CD go to Helen & Douglas House, the world's first children's hospice and it can be ordered online at www.abbeyroad.com/live. Other details of the festival (including, soon, dates for Cornbury 2015), are at www.cornburyfestival.com.









Related Links:

http://www.cornburyfestival.com


Commenting On: Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire, 4/7/2014....6/7/2014 - Cornbury Festival








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