Florence Rawlings proves a find at Hard Rock Calling headlined by Stevie Wonder

Hard Rock Calling 2010 review

published: Fri 2nd Jul 2010

Florence Rawlings

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th June 2010
Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH, England MAP
£47.50 Friday, £62.50 Sunday
last updated: Fri 2nd Jul 2010

Arriving at Hyde Park Corner in the heat of the afternoon, I followed the crowds and headed into the Hard Rock Calling festival.

Whilst knowing that the Friday evening had hosted Pearl Jam, I had not taken much notice of the rest of the line-up beforehand, but once on-site soon realised that 'Hard Rock' referred to the main sponsors, rather than the style of music to be found over the weekend; which was, in fact, anything but hard rock.

around the festival site
Saturday afternoon had seen a few lesser known bands playing the various stages, and I arrived just as Corinne Bailey Rae left the main stage, so busied myself exploring the site.

Facilities seemed expansive, with numerous bars, eateries, and merchandise stalls surrounding the main arena. Food seemed reasonably priced for a central London festival, but bottles of lager felt overpriced at £4 a bottle. Needless to say, my meagre funds for the day wouldn’t be allowing me to lose my sobriety, however, the bars received a brisk trade all day, and the queues were never too long.

The main arena encompassed a vast open expanse in the park, with numerous big screens relaying the onstage performances. Due to the site being so perfectly flat, it was almost impossible to see the actual stage even when in the nearer parts of the arena, so the screens were a necessity.

Throughout the rest of the site were a couple of other stages, the second stage, and a smaller bandstand in a wooded area. Wandering the site, I did feel that I was just at a big rock/pop concert, rather a festival; as so much of what makes other festivals special was absent, for example, no stalls selling wares, no walkabout entertainment, and absolutely nothing to keep children entertained.

Florence Rawlings
With my beer in hand, I busied myself with enjoying the music on offer. First up for me was James Morrison; somewhat of a hit with the ladies at the front, but not my cup of tea at all. Competent with his guitar, there was nothing to keep me beyond his first couple of songs and I soon found myself in the 'Pepsi Max' arena, utterly entranced by my new finding of the day, Florence Rawlings.

This girl has a voice like I've never heard, and at only 20 years old, commanded the stage with her blend of American influenced Soul and R&B. Comparisons might be made with Joss Stone, but in my opinion, Rawlings has a much stronger voice, and I prefer her material, to Stone's more poppy sound.

The arena provided much needed shade from the sun. I don't know how the audience in front of the main arena lasted all day with no cover, but last they did, and they were up dancing for next act, Jamiroquai.

JK arrived on stage resplendent in Native American garb. Feathered headdress, frayed suit and war-paint, he looked both amazing and crazy at the same time. Having been away from the live scene for a while, I was concerned as to whether he would still 'have it'. I needn't have worried though, as his voice was as amazing as ever, and his dancing would make Bruce Forsythe proud! The set included favourites from the back-catalogue, 'Virtual Insanity', 'We're too Young to Die' and closed with 'Deeper Underground'.

A short break to grab some food, and it was back to the main stage to watch headliner, Stevie Wonder. Well, I say watch, but I couldn't get anywhere near the front, so had to make do with watching the screen halfway back in the arena.

Wonder walked on stage playing his guitar/synth hybrid, and after an unnecessarily long intro, started his set proper with 'My Eyes Don't Cry'. This seemed to wake the crowd up from their, perhaps heat induced, lethargy, although Wonder asking of the audience to chant "We love you Michael Jackson" didn't seem to go down well with the people surrounding me, whom were intent on shouting back "No, we don't."

Concerns that Wonder wasn't being well received were quickly put aside, as he went straight into 'Master Blaster (Jammin)' (lying on the floor, kicking his legs at one point) and got everyone up dancing for 'We Can work It Out'. Sadly, my own heat induced issues took the better of me, and no longer able to cope with a splitting headache, I retreated home and watched the rest of Wonder's set the following day, via the BBC's footage of Glastonbury.

So, Hard Rock Calling, was it any good? It seemed well organised, catered for a more mature crowd (including £3 a go posh toilets, supposedly with magazines in every stall), didn't have large queues for the necessities, and had a varied selection of acts. And the downsides? Not much to do apart from the music, very in your face sponsorship, nothing to entertain children (although I didn't see many there), and expensive drinks with bags being searched to prevent taking of one's own.

around the festival site
review by: Andy Pitt

photos by: Andy Pitt

Friday 25th to Sunday 27th June 2010
Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH, England MAP
£47.50 Friday, £62.50 Sunday
last updated: Fri 2nd Jul 2010

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