Lord knows you’re in trouble when Boris Johnson is the voice of reason. Siding with London’s buffoon of a Lord Mayor usually a queasy, uneasy quandary to find oneself in, but really, could anyone do anything but nod in agreement after he spoke out about the hullabaloo caused by the bods at Hard Rock Calling pulling the plug on Bruce Springsteen’s epic, Paul McCartney-assisted encore on Saturday evening?
It sounds to me like an excessively efficacious decision. You won’t get that during the Olympics. If they’d have called me, my answer would have been for them to jam in the name of the Lord!
He’s not the only disgruntled soul, either, with everyone from pissed-off punters to famous sorts such as Simon Pegg and Stephen Merchant sticking the boot in on Twitter, too. Undoubtedly, some of the reaction’s been a tad hyperbolic; in particular, E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt’s comparison of England to a “police state” was a bit daft, really. In Russia, Pussy Riot are still paying the price for their political protest, locked in prison amidst all sorts of seeming skullduggery on behalf of the authorities; turning off Bruce Springsteen’s microphone off during a gig isn’t really the evil bidding of a totalitarian regime.
What it was, though, was an outrageous act of killjoyism – the jobsworth mentality taken to its densest, and dourest, limits. Say what you want about the prospect of watching The Boss onstage for three hours – and personally, I think I wouldn’t be as much twiddling my thumbs as I would be hacking them off and jamming them inside my ears – but it’s clear that the fans felt they were witnessing a ‘once-in-a-blue-moon’ event with both he and Macca sharing a stage together. Would it really have killed anyone to let the pair of them finish up?
Heaven forbid that a gig may overrun! As long as they weren’t planning on playing on for an eternity, I can’t see a problem. And, even if they had to get them off the stage as quick as possible, it surely could have been handled in a classier, more satisfying way; you’d imagine that there must have been some way of getting word to those onstage that time was running short, rather than just abruptly cutting the sound and plunging everyone into silence.
Naysayers will argue that a curfew is a curfew, and not to be broken: a fair enough point, perhaps, but rock ‘n’ roll is hardly synonymous with strict rules and guidelines. Hard Rock themselves cited the need to be wary of “the public’s health and safety” in their decision; again, people’s physical wellbeing isn’t something to be taken lightly, but it’s hard to see why a gig running longer than anticipated would endanger anyone’s health (and it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that a venue full of irked and frustrated punters is more of a health risk than happy, satiated folk leaving slightly later than planned).
Live music has always thrived on unpredictability, and good gigs often become great when there’s a spirit of adventure, of not knowing what’s going to happen next, and a sense that you’re witnessing something truly special and unique. Maybe Hard Rock Calling’s organizers should have taken a leaf out of Michael Eavis’s book – when Springsteen came to Worthy Farm in 2009, the Glasto boss gladly forked out extra cash in order to let his headline slot overrun.
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“I’m going to pay the fine, it’s about £3,000,” he said after letting The Boss break his curfew by 10 minutes. “It’s not a lot of money for all that, the last 10 or nine minutes were absolutely spectacular, so, for three grand, come on!” If only the people making the decisions in Hyde Park over the weekend thought the same way…