Live Review: Hop Farm Festival

Paddock Wood, Kent, July 1st-3rd

Blessed with the sort of faultlessly balmy weather system that you could imagine the more superstitious festival honcho sacrificing prize livestock for, Hop Farm celebrates its fourth year with some serendipity. Despite being less than half the age of many of the veteran musicians on show, [a]Brandon Flowers[/a]’ unflinchingly earnest bid to revive classic rock for the new decade means his set fits snugly. Joined onstage by [a]Killers[/a] bandmate Mark Stoermer, a slick delivery of [b]‘Crossfire’[/b] is his most convincing bid. Relative newcomers [b]Goldheart Assembly[/b], meanwhile, shine brightly with their crystalline harmonies. London’s bright electrofied hopes [b]Clock Opera[/b] are the first act to inject some good-time party-fun into Saturday’s arm.

Any folks traumatised, though, by dreadlocked acoustic numpty [b]Newton Faulkner[/b] buggering the bloated corpse of [b]‘Bohemian Rhapsody’[/b] soon have a chance to rinse their ears clean, with [a]Graham Coxon[/a] leading his six-piece band in an energised hula dance of punky guitar goodness. New turns including [b]‘City Hall’[/b] and [b]‘Running For Your Life’[/b] make a new solo album an exciting prospect. A ghostly, moving acoustic set from godmother of punk [a]Patti Smith[/a] sees a guest spot for her ‘good friend’ [a]Patrick Wolf[/a], who gets to flex his harp and fiddle muscles through an entrancing version of [b]‘Gloria’[/b] and beyond. The final day is an altogether more upbeat affair, kicking off on the Main Stage with neo-soul/jazz/hip-hop maverick [a]Aloe Blacc[/a], who packs out his set with noodly jamming but wisely leaves mega-hit [b]‘I Need A Dollar’[/b] ’til last. Far better is all-star producer-turned-performer [b]Labrinth[/b], who fixes together breakneck beats and convulsive synth stabs with the sort of easy finesse that should see him become ubiquitous.

Just in case there was ever any question who this festival was all about, the organisers have opted to shut down all other live entertainment for headliner [a]Prince[/a]. Strutting on in a striking white silk suit, he wastes not a second in taking command. After [b]‘Nothing Compares 2 U’[/b], he jokes with an eyebrow raised, “That wasn’t my song, that was [b]Sinéad O’Connor[/b]’s song. That song bought me a house.” There are a smattering of covers like [b]‘Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough’[/b] and [b]‘Come Together’[/b] and, yes, an abundance of the kind of improvised jam workouts that send chills down many a spine. Still, everything from that to the mischievous flirting with his female bandmates to the slightly bonkers need to repeatedly assert that “This is real music!” are part of that uniquely crackers character that makes him so compelling, and a suitably majestic festival closer.

Tom Edwards