A few rock stars playing a few songs might seem insignificant in the face of such a complex and massive problem as the Balkans, but it's a welcome start...
Well it makes a change from apathy. The words that stick in the mind tonight – “they burned my house, but they can’t burn this” – might be spoken onstage by a Kosovan refugee rather than a musician, but at least the bands who’ve given up their time to be here are doing [I]something[/I]. All proceeds from this benefit are going to a charity whose main aim is to ensure that all the Kosovan children have schools set up for them in the refugee camps. Like War Child before it, it’s about installing some hope for the future.
Which is why [a]Paul Weller[/a] – owner of tonight’s most obvious political pedigree – is here. It won’t, however, stop him from his ongoing mission to be dadrock’s everyman. A gravelly-voiced trawl through ‘Broken Stones’ and two similarly bluesy new songs aren’t enough to overturn objections to his feet-of-clay approach to music. But for the first time in years – thanks mainly to his choice of covers – he manages to sound alarmingly relevant. As he growls through [a]Marvin Gaye[/a]’s ‘What’s Going On’ and The Beatles‘ ‘All You Need Is Love’ he sounds soulful and indignant, and unexpectedly becomes a genuine orchestrator of good vibes. Blimey.
He returns later to help Ray Davies, who proves the quickest way to destroy your legacy is with the aid of an acoustic guitar. He might have mentioned it to Stereophonics because stripped down to the barest of bones, with just Kelly and Richard, ‘The Bartender And The Thief’ and ‘Pick A Part That’s New’ only make you wonder how we could ever have had them pegged as the new Manics, when really they’re closer to the spirit of Bryan Adams. They’re perfunctory rather than inspired, but at least their solemnity and earnest grit underlines the fact that tonight is not all about getting pissed and vomiting on your best Ben Sherman. Plus they provide a mighty singalong as Weller joins them on piano for a stirring ‘Traffic’.
But if the atmosphere occasionally veers towards all-mates-together indulgence, you can always rely on the worst-kept ‘secret’ guest in the world to strut onstage fuelled with the bullish spirit of lager and Man City’s play-off victory. Overwhelmed by a return to the First Division, Noel Gallagher launches straight into a cover of ‘Bittersweet Symphony’. Fortunately, he does it with considerable style. True, he could probably fart into a trumpet and everyone would be happy, but as he sets about hijacking the proceedings, that’s largely irrelevant. Especially as he plays ‘Supersonic’, ‘Live Forever’ and ‘Rock’N’Roll Star’, stretching them out into raging acoustic mini-epics, which without Liam are altogether less arrogant and more vulnerable. But which, crucially, still sound like some of the best songs of the decade and give this gig genuine event status.
If they’re taken up by the crowd with rabid enthusiasm, however, it’s nothing compared with the way they greet ‘Wonderwall’. Everyone in the country must know the words, but more than that they seem able to take those words and find some memory of their own to fuse them on to. Hopefully next time they hear it they’ll spare a thought for the Kosovans.
A few rock stars playing a few songs might seem insignificant in the face of such a complex and massive problem as the Balkans, but it’s a welcome start. Dadrock has done itself proud. Now it’s over to everyone else.