Duke Special tops the bill on Sunday at Greenbelt

Greenbelt Festival 2009 review

published: Tue 8th Sep 2009

Duke Special

Friday 28th to Monday 31st August 2009
Prestbury, Cheltenham, England MAP
£83; Concs £55; 13-17 years £46; 4-12 yr olds £42; family ticket £215
last updated: Mon 15th Jun 2009

There is only one activity scheduled for 10.30 am today which is the Greenbelt Communion Service, although there are plenty of early morning activities before this – family films, yoga, worship, scratch orchestra. Actually 'communion service' is a bit of an anomaly as there is no communion this year due to concerns about swine flu, so we don't share bread and wine, and the 'elbow bump' is substituted as a form of greeting instead of hugs and handshakes. The service is curated by a group of Greenbelters who spent 10 days in Israel/Palestine last year and follows the theme of 'Standing in the Long Now'. An olive tree is a perfect example of what this means -a farmer will plant an olive seed and tend a tree for many years, investing in the long term, knowing that he will never see the fruits of that tree but that it will bear fruit for the generations to come.

around the festival site (Sunday)
After the service, I manage to get in to the No Nonsense Theatre Company's 'Ruth' in the new festival bowl venue, this is their third performance of the piece over this weekend and there's a long queue again. It's a retelling of the Old Testament story of Ruth using puppets and masks, hessian props, minimal dialogue and music; a very old tale of a dutiful widow who leaves her own country with her mother-in-law to find work and food, and the company has related it directly to the experience of refugees today.

Foy Vance
Then across to the Big Top for 'The Rising', hosted by Martyn Joseph, which is where three singer-songwriters play a couple of tunes each and answer questions from Joseph on inspiration, songwriting techniques and the process of creating a song. Today features Foy Vance, Susan Enan, and Stu G.

In a nearby tent, Simon Mayo, the BBC5 radio presenter, is hosting a fun quiz featuring four panellists and rounds of charades, as well as Spot the Vicar and Spot the Atheist, very tongue in cheek and hilariously funny. Close by is the Jesus Arms beer tent which is hosting 'Beer & Hymns', always enormously popular – the tent is full to bursting with hundreds of people outside the beer garden fence unable to get inside.

Jahaziel is opening mainstage today – a hip hop gospel artist, I only hear one song 'In My Neighbourhood' which he wrote about a friend who was murdered. Up the hill in the grandstand area there's a much bigger crowd listening to Rob Bell, an American pastor and author, being interviewed. I must admit I've never heard of him but he's a charismatic speaker and very popular with the punters here.

Shlomo
The Apples are on next at mainstage – they comprise a four piece brass section, two turntables, drums and double bass and produce danceable funky beats, a sort of jazz fusion with Eastern European influences. There's a massive audience for the next act Shlomo who played the festival last year. The extraordinarily talented beatboxer performs a couple of songs solo, using his loop station to layer the vocal sounds, and then brings out his Vocal Orchestra. The seven of them, along with Shlomo, produce a colourful, vibrant and fresh show, and amazing sounds – they perform The Prodigy's 'Out of Space', Massive Attack's 'Teardrop', Stevie Wonder's 'I Wish' and an improvised song especially for Greenbelt.

Duke Special
The Sunday headliner is Duke Special who has brought a full band with him tonight to showcase his unique hobo-goth-vaudevillian set. It's a heart-warming moment for him to be headlining Greenbelt mainstage as he reminds us that a while back he was at the festival "scrambling around desperately trying to find a gig". The Duke Special team put on a high energy, theatrical show complete with props and posturing, some crowd singalongs, songs from Duke's recent albums as well as a couple from new ventures – 'Apple Jack' from the Kurt Weill Huckleberry Finn project, and 'The Jockey Club (A Bitch Called Wanda)' from the Hector Mann project (an album of 12 songs, one for each movie that the 1920s silent film actor allegedly made). There are also a couple of quieter moments with the beautiful 'No Cover Up' and poignant 'Why Does Anybody Love?'. The amazing set finishes with a bit of piano- and crowd-surfing.

It's a bit of a race to get in to Last Orders tonight as Duke Special's due to make an appearance so quite a few of the enormous crowd at mainstage are heading to the Centaur venue. The guests include comedy from Barbara Nice, who succeeds in getting the weary audience on their feet to do a silly dance, Matthew Bishop talking about his book on Philanthrocapitalism, which is about rich people like Bono and Bill Gates giving some of their vast wealth to projects which change the world for the better, and Jeff Halper, an American Israeli Jew who co-founded the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. There is also music from Karen Grace, Miriam Jones, and six members of the Vocal Orchestra who teach host Jude Adam some beatboxing basics, and Duke Special, who sings 'The Song of Fraternisation', from the Brecht play 'Mother Courage and Her Children', which he'll shortly be taking part in at the National Theatre in London, as well as the gothic 'Diggin' an Early Grave'.
review by: Helen OSullivan

photos by: Helen OSullivan

Friday 28th to Monday 31st August 2009
Prestbury, Cheltenham, England MAP
£83; Concs £55; 13-17 years £46; 4-12 yr olds £42; family ticket £215
last updated: Mon 15th Jun 2009


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