Bluesfest, the celebration of all things blues and rocky has been successfully drawing like-minded fans to the O2 for a number of years now and every year is bigger than the last, including the names on the bill. Buying a pricey ticket to all of the nights, will have you seeing John Fogerty, Robert Plant, Counting Crows and Zac Brown headlining across a sprawling four days of musical programming. Names that are not blues per se, but still rise to the thematic occasion.
Any festival that occurs at the O2 will be different to most. Firstly, it's an (in)famous venue synonymous with corporate branding and comfortable, middle-class musical experiences. The O2 has even just expanded into an outlet shopping mall, round the back of the Nandos, Byron, GBK and other franchise restaurants and Cineworld Cinema or bowling rink.
Comfort isn't extended to the airport-style security at the entrance, which can have you queuing for longer than you'd deem necessary. And some of the tickets require you to walk virtually the perimeter of the venue to get in; it's freezing too... The many bars and food outlets inside are all cashless - it still doesn't feel like a festival when you have tickets with seat numbers on.
That said, both John Fogerty and Steve Miller put on two excellent headline shows for the price of a Thursday night ticket. What Steve Miller didn't bring in theatrics or showmanship he compensated with all of his trademark hits and an enthusiasm to at least play tribute to the Blues with his set. The crowd were happiest, obviously, when he delivered his most popular hit The Joker near the finale. And Steve Miller was "technically" the support act.
John Fogerty disbanded Creedence Clearwater Revival decades ago, but his return to London to play all of their hits was a popular one. After many residencies in Vegas, Fogerty's show had much razzmatazz and gusto energy for a man 73 years old. When he's not running with his guitar doing laps on the stage, Fogerty's band are invading the audience or stirring up continual party spirit. Keeping the Creedence family connection going, Fogerty also duets with his son Tyler on two numbers. The frontman of CCR paying tribute to his former band was always going to please the crowd, and Bad Moon Rising and Down On The Corner are sprinkled across standard bluesy covers of Good Golly Miss Molly, Jamabalaya and New Orleans.
Whilst Bluesfest is pricey, and more of a celebration than a Festival, it's a fitting collection targeted to a specific targeted sector of music fans away from the usual stale lineups and over-saturated summer calendars. The O2 is either a love-it=or-hate-it venue, but it knows how to comfortably hold 20,000 fans (security times excepted).
latest on this festival
festival home page
first acts announced
Bluesfest 2018 review