Thursday, July 19, 2007

Live Earth: a view from the top tier

2007_0720Image30026There are some things that a middle-aged father of two shouldn't see... but Live Earth definitely isn't one of them. To arrive at the new, majestic Wembley Stadium on what seemed like the only fine weekend of the summer was an occasion, filled with anticipation of participation in a major planet-saving event. It was a shame that my own personal carbon footprint was erring on the 'size 12' - what with the fleeting visit to Birmingham for the Dan, and a journey to the Cotswolds planned for the very next day, but sometimes things just have to be done.

"Who are these old men?" asked my eldest when the first main band came on stage. Our seats were in the rarefied atmosphere of the top tier, whose gently curving wave arced over us a few rows back, where Chris Moyles' announcement sounded like 'Nghnges' by the time it reached us from the stadium engulfing PA system. The sunlight glinting off the lead singer's pate was a huge clue - "Its Genesis; old man's rock," I said. "Don't worry, there will be acts you've heard of later". Eighties classics brought out a long-forgotten nostalgic streak in me. (Don't get me wrong here - there was no getting my kit off and running around the stadium in my birthday suit.) There would be more of this to come (nostalgia, not streaking) what with Duran Duran on the bill.

We soon moved on to America - the Razorlight anthem that is - and at last the crowd were treated to material that had been created in the majority of their lifetimes. The lager was going down and the pulse was going up around the stadium and crowd singing filled the air like seventy thousand post pub Saturday nights.

The Black Eyed Peas pumped it louder as their frontman used the catwalk stage to maximum effect, and from our lofty perch in the upper echelons, the standing masses in the bowels of the auditorium rose and fell as one, conducted perfectly by the bobbing singer. Unfortunately the slowed down style and sophistication of next up John Legend's urbane soul was lost on the hyped up crowd - perhaps it was a hard act to follow.

We were then treated to the surprisingly nifty sounding Duran Duran, another band swinging the needle of the nostalgia-meter far to the right. They belted through a trio of greatest hits with only their waistlines to show that perhaps they were merely 'acceptable in the Noughties', now a couple of decades from their heyday. After all we were a long way from the action and the screen was tantalisingly out of sight at our oblique angle, so the wrinkles were rendered invisible by the diffusion of distance.

2007_0720Image30020The Red Hot Chilli Peppers reached a new standard in crowd lift off, as the riffs from the guitar thinned out from their opening chord medley to the opening bars of "Can't Stop'. The expectant punters locked in to a recognisable signal and you could feel a warm tingling feeling in your extremities as the palpable wave of love went zinging back to the stage. They were truly stunning, and the next real high after those crazy, energetic 'Peas.

At festivals you get used to queuing, but the effect of too many hits on the concession stands meant that I had to join a mega one for the ATM to replenish much needed funds. Consequently the hour long snake up and down the corridors meant that we missed Corinne Bailey Rae (no particular loss), Bloc Party (see previous note), and rather more importantly Keane. I suppose you could call it a near live experience here, since I could see the band on the handily provided screen (with a better view than from my seat) and I could hear the sound wafting through the openings into the seated bowl, but I couldn't face the thought of losing my place to check them out properly. Shame.

In the latter stages we went considerably down the metal route - that of the heavy variety. Now I must admit here that I have never actually seen Spinal Tap - the movie - all the way through. The usual clips have registered themselves in my conciousness, but the the mini Stone Henge sequence had passed me by and I had to have it explained to me afterwards - never a great idea. So the notion that the little people dancing around the henge were as a result of a scale cock-up and that they weren't children was completely lost on me. Consequently they weren't as high on my enjoyment factor as they were on their amp volume controls.

Metallica continued the rock vein and my notes for this section simply say: 'loud, damn loud'. My eldest wanted to see them though so we braved the assault on our ear-drums, which despite the band's best efforts, remained free of post gig tinnitus, which in my youth would have been the lasting impression left by the really iconic events.

The Foo Fighters are in the melodic metal category on their recorded releases, but in the stadium, with the sound muddied and distorted over a highly amped PA, Dave Grohl's urgent screams to the audience to get involved, over an industrial block wall of sound gave them a distinctly harder edge. This was no power pop, but a real thrash through their tried and tested tunes, which was appealing in its raw, un-sanitised state. The levels were getting to my youngest by now, and we had to take a breather before the pinnacle of professional pop came to the stage to deliver the most perfect slice of choreographed show-womanship that only Madonna can.

Her slick, polished delivery came as complete contrast to the fore-runners. Don't get me wrong - Madonna can do festivals - from the audience berating expletives to the guitar hero pose of 'Ray of Light', she rocked the rockers and funked the funkers at full remix version length with 'Hung Up' and La Isla Bonita. All of this was accompanied by precision choreography, the look of which had been honed so that it looked like she had set up home there on the stage, it was that rehearsed.

It was time to vanish into the night; to leave the dream-world of music shot through with lessons in carbon frugality, some of which will stick. Al Gore - job done.

No comments: