London Hyde Park

It's like an outdoor [B]Brits[/B], a music-biz atrocity exhibition beyond parody...

Welcome to hell. This is the day of final reckoning, according to Nostradamus, and it certainly feels that way. This mammoth Prince’s Trust bash is essentially a Wembley-scale concentration camp rammed to bursting point with a [a]Glastonbury[/a]-sized crowd. We know this because various Smashies and Nicies from Radio Bland keep loudly reminding us there are “100,000 people pumping away big style” in Hyde Park, in between plugs for computer games companies. Even Satan, it seems, works for charity.

Backstage, an entire Priory-ful of B-list celebrities are pretending to ignore Prince Charles. Out front, meanwhile, 31 bands each enjoy a Warholian 15-minute set, most of them gushingly introduced with album sales statistics. Even to a lover of teen-pop, the stench of heavy-handed product placement is overpowering. It’s like an outdoor Brits, a music-biz atrocity exhibition beyond parody.

Mercifully, there is fun to be had amidst all this sickness, chiefly in the unspoken showdown between The Kids and The Grown-Ups. And the youngsters take an early lead with the live debut of their sassy matriarch GERI HALLIWELL, whose hyperactive campery is clearly headed for Madonna-esque gay icon territory. Not quite there yet, Gez baby – lose the Lena Zavaroni frightwig for starters.

Less impressively, The Kids also have STEPS, a traumatically bland aerobics video made flesh. But far more sinister are Andrex-soft androids BOYZONE, junior Phil Collins clones peddling ruthlessly asexual, vanilla-flavoured pop-lite mush to the masses. The banality of evil or what? The sole interesting moment of their set occurs when security guards try to remove an ‘Out And Proud’ banner from three Stephen Gately fans on the grounds that “teenagers are watching”. But the activists are armed with a Polaroid camera, which scares off their would-be censors. Homophobic scum.

Fighting back from the adult benches, meanwhile, are evergreen troupers MADNESS and CULTURE CLUB. We are also pleasantly surprised by UB40, who are substantially groovier live than on their piss-weak records. Even soul fakers TEXAS deliver more jaunty bounce than usual, while those impeccable PET SHOP BOYS arrive in ‘ironic’ Chas & Dave hats and gold uniforms. Hooray! It’s 1985 again!

All of which pales into nothing besides the EURYTHMICS, who are virtually bottled off for being prehistoric music-biz whores! At last! Punk rock! In fact, so shockingly dull are Dave‘n’Annie that the crowd even begin bottling themselves off. Spying this hailstorm of boredom, Annie Lennox pointedly dedicates a lumbering non-tune to “the process of peace”. Peace? Nice one, Miss Jean Brodie. So why are you wearing army-issue combat fatigues? Durr! Another smart statement on a par with your Union-Jacked Brits namecheck for Stephen Lawrence. Fuck off and die, you sanctimonious millionaire wankers.

Salvaging the day for grown-up pop fans everywhere, mercifully, are surprise guests CATATONIA. After DJ Lobotomy from Radio Drivel confuses Cerys with veteran Welsh actress Nerys Hughes – incredible but true – the Cats blast through this rank-smelling London music-biz wankerama like a bracing Valleys breeze. Strangely, they don’t play anti-monarchy anthem ‘Storm The Palace’, but Cerys does end by endorsing Prince Charlie’s stand on GM crops. At this point, of course, DJ Twat hastily intervenes with more important messages from our sponsor, Mr B L Zebub.

Final score: Kids, 25. Grown-Ups, 35. Satan’s Henchmen, 974. Nostradamus, nil.