BIG TOP FESTIVAL NOTTINGHAM, 25 MAY
Heineken have been sponsoring a
series of four-day, free entry festivals up and down England and Wales. I was
fortunate enough to attend the first two days of the Nottingham-based festival
at Wollaton Park.
The opening night featured Squeeze headlining, with 9 Below Zero in support,
doing a tribute to the late Steve Marriott, who was supposed to have appeared
but recently died in a fire at his home. Indie Rock 'N' Rollers The Bobby
Charltons also played. I was even more fortunate to witness the following day,
featuring The Buttermountain Boys, The Levellers and Martin Stephenson And The
Daintees as the headliners.
The opening band (The Buttermountain Boys) are specialists in Cajun music, for
the uninitiated a sort of up-tempo hybrid of Blues and Rock from New Orleans
with French influences. This particular band's style bordered on sameness and
seemed rather emotionally flat. They attempted to be good-time entertainers but
only succeeded for myself at least, in creating an atmosphere of boredom.
Second on the bill were The Levellers, an up-and-coming Dexy's Midnight Runners
style group of ragamuffin folkies, complete with acoustic instruments and
Roulandesque arrangements. The spirit of Celtic soul seemed alive and well in
the heart of this outfit who were warmly received by an audience who were
convinced they had seen the best band of the evening - until the headliners that
Opening with "Slaughterman" (nothing to do with animals, incidentally - Ed.) the
one thing a diehard fan immediately noticed was the absence of backing / co-lead
singer Andrea Mackie. Their set had been altered considerably with so many
previous shows having been arranged to feature the almighty vocals of the lady
in question. So tonight was a chance to hear material not often performed, such
as "I Pray" from their second LP, mingling with new material.
So what we were treated to was a band more guitar / blues oriented with less
sophisticated jazz influences. Still, the evening was a testament to the
Daintees' versatility and showed to no small extent the brilliant musicianship
of lead guitarist Gary Dunn.
The few newer songs played that evening seem to lean towards the more spiritual
elements of the last LP, "Salutation Road". No doubt that this is one recording
artist with more depth than most of his contemporaries.