Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, Saturday June 29 - Sunday June 30
Last year’s Hard Rock Calling was a disaster. First there was the pitiful sound system and draconian noise restrictions, which turned every show into the equivalent of 50,000 people gathering round one knackered MacBook Pro to listen to their favourite band. Then there was the curfew, which resulted in organisers turning the power off while Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney busted out ‘Twist And Shout’. Silencing The Boss and a Beatle? Come on. So HRC has relocated to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, to lick wounds and rebuild reputations. Good decision. It sounds good. It looks good. It goes like this…
First up: Miles Kane. What’s great about Kane is no matter when he’s on or how many people he’s playing to, he bangs out tracks such as ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ as if he’s headlining to a Stones-sized crowd. Elsewhere, in the giant blue Circus Tent, Klaxons are keeping last summer’s Olympic spirit going: Jamie Reynolds is wearing a bronze metallic suit jacket and James Righton a shiny silver shirt, while ‘Atlantis To Interzone’ provides the gold. Paul Weller is as contrary as ever on the Main Stage, playing the abrasive ‘Kling I Klang’ from 2012’s ‘Sonik Kicks’ and ‘Fast Car/Slow Traffic’ from 2010’s ‘Wake Up The Nation’ before getting to anything resembling a hit. Finally, he obliges with The Style Council’s ‘My Ever Changing Moods’, ‘Start!’ and the always classic ‘Town Called Malice’.
No such dilemmas with The Cribs, a four-headed ball of energy and attitude. Ryan Jarman throws himself around like a man who wasn’t hospitalised with a kidney infection late last month, while his brother Gary is in a genial mood: “I don’t like many people, but I love you lot.” The feeling’s mutual, as they rattle through a manic ‘Hey Scenesters!’ and the glorious singalong of ‘Cheat On Me’.
Closing the day are Kasabian – officially a Big Time Band after headlining Reading and Leeds last year. This show falls on the same evening that The Rolling Stones headline Glastonbury, and a few months after frontman Tom Meighan moaned about not being invited to Worthy Farm – and it sounds like they’ve got a point to prove. ‘Underdog’, ‘Where Did All The Love Go?’ and ‘Take Aim’ from 2009’s ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’ are hardy knots of rock and psychedelia, the chemistry between guitarist Serge Pizzorno and Meighan sounding dangerous. Pizzorno takes on vocals for a cover of The Korgis’ ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’, and early single ‘LSF’ and closer ‘Fire’ sound sharp and powerful. On this form, they’d do the Pyramid Stage proud.
After the rock’n’roll high of Kasabian the night before, Sunday begins sedately. Alabama Shakes, fresh from Saturday at Glastonbury, weave Heath Fogg’s guitar lines on ‘Be Mine’ and ‘I Ain’t The Same’ with Brittany Howard’s booming voice in spectacular fashion. It’s a decent build-up for Bruce Springsteen, who’s returning to right some of last year’s wrongs. With the sun high in the clear blue sky, The Boss and the E Street Band open with a laid-back ‘Shackled And Drawn’, from last year’s ‘Wrecking Ball’. Bruce chides the audience for not singing, but that all changes when he announces they’re going to play the album ‘Born In The USA’ in its entirety. There’s no dedication to The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini this time (as there was when Bruce played all of ‘Born To Run’ in Coventry earlier in the month), just roar after roar during ‘Cover Me’, ‘Working On The Highway’, ‘I’m On Fire’, ‘Bobby Jean’ and ‘Dancing In The Dark’. Each is a vital cog in a 45-minute examination of where the American Dream went wrong – with sax solos.
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“That was ‘Born In The USA’,” he says when they’re done; the good news is there are still nine songs left. An acoustic version of 2009’s ‘My Lucky Day’ is his parting gesture, uninterrupted by a jobsworth with his finger on the power switch. Three and a half hours after he walked onstage, Springsteen is gone – and, just like last year, the set doesn’t seem long enough.