I recently mentioned that when reviewing an Adam Ant gig at the Ironworks that I had previously left the 80s well behind, and that Adam Ant was the one act I regretted not seeing.
Following that gig the door back to the 80s remained slightly ajar, open enough for me to take the step back in time to the 80s Rewind Festival at Scone Palace. As much as I was assured that the festival would be done to give the 80s credit, a nagging doubt in my mind was that it would come over as all too twee. However, the 20,000 who turned up over the two days called it right. 20,000 that included 500 who took advantage of the perfect weather on the Saturday to buy their tickets at the Concert Hall that morning.
The site at Scone is in many ways a blank canvas, bounded on one side by the River Tay, and on the other by the hill leading up to the Palace. Within this area the organisers were able to create a compact layout with camping on one side of the festival arena and car parking on the other. No doubt the organisers have put to good use their experiences when organising the events older sibling at Henley.
The camp site, as we at Invernessgigs like the full festival experience, was about as good as it gets. Generally well behaved, there are always one or two exceptions, show me a festival where that is not the case, and there was good banter round the site with adequate facilities camp side of the arena with many new friendships struck.
Saturday, as I’ve mentioned, was one of those rarities for Scotland – a summer’s day! We don’t get them often but when we do it brings out the best in everyone. So from the moment that Bags of Rock kicked off the event in their own inimitable way the party started. This in turn lead to excessively long queues on the Saturday at the bars, toilets and food outlets but all treated in a good natured manner.
By the Sunday the queues had shortened probably due to a number of factors: the slightly lower numbers, the weather being overcast and temperatures having dipped a little, and the majority of the crowd being fortysomethings who probably couldn’t remember the last time they did a weekend on the bash and were suffering somewhat! The final point may also be reflected in the fact that more revellers took to sitting on their camp chairs on the Sunday – tired old legs!
But it wasn’t just about keeping the beer topped up and finding a portaloo that didn’t resemble that famous toilet in Trainspotting (not an 80s reference I admit but for a self-confessed lutropublicaphobic – there really is such a word – these are matters never far from my mind) there was the music!
Saturday had a number of acts on my 80s checklist, but it also threw up a number of surprises. The biggest surprise, and one of the highlights of the weekend, was the assured and slickly performed set of Billy Ocean. Given a longer slot than most, Billy performed his catalogue with an incredible warmth and professionalism. If the sun hadn’t been shining, Billy’s smile would have lit up this, or for that matter any other arena. Billy wasn’t the only beacon and a number of mentions are required.
The Bluebells added a Scottish flavour to proceedings to those who were “Young at Heart”, with a set if replicated at Loopallu this year will ensure that those in the tent will know they’re having a party too. The other Scottish representative on the day, Hue and Cry, even had the audacity to throw in some new material.
The pace picked up in the early evening with the introduction of a house band which limited the time for changeovers. During this segment Carol Decker threw everything into her set and turned the clock back, and Hazel O’Connor produced a short but sublime set with rendition of “Will You” which from the opening vocal made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck – and that was before the sax solo! ABC, who were always on my must-see list, put together a varied set including all the standards from Lexicon of Love and also gems such as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”.
The 80s rule was also broken on a few occasions by cover versions, none more so than by Go West who threw in their interpretation of Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire”, very much to the liking of the partying throng.
The headline act was a strange affair. Rick Astley, in black kilt, kicked it off and linked up with Tony Hadley for a duet of Don Henley’s “Boys of the Summer” only for Tony to disappear off stage, at what would appear an appropriate handover point. When Tony did reappear his set was fairly limited, but did include the classics, and he mentioned more than once that he wished he could play for longer, which was a shame for many, as many didn’t want the day to end.
Come Sunday the clouds had gathered without looking too threatening, and Modern Romance set about lifting the mood and getting the crowd to conga. This was followed by the more measured pop of China Crisis, who between their banter, knocked out a classy and timeless set starting with “King In A Catholic Style (Wake Up)” culminating in their debut single “Christian”. A great way to start a Sunday afternoon. However there is a problem with time travel, and that is bands such as The Real Thing are keen take us back earlier to years such as1976, as they kept on reminding us! But with a few remixes under their belts in the 80s they were no party gatecrashers.
One of the best receptions of Sunday went to Perth’s own Fiction Factory, you know how we like our local bands! Unashamedly proud of their hit “(Feels Like) Heaven” they gave their local audience, friends and family a moment to remember. Having met both Kevin Patterson and Eddie Jordan of the band I can only wish them well when they get the opportunity to do it all again at Henley, genuine top blokes.
The rest of the evening saw some over the top performances from both Toyah and Doctor and the Medics revealing the extravagant side of the 80s, followed by a storming set by Heaven 17 with Glen Gregory toying with the crowd as he kept them waiting for “Temptation”. Heaven 17 sounded as relevant today as they did back in the early 80s, a tribute to the longevity of their songs. Nik Kershaw and Howard Jones also kept the pot boiling with sets showcasing a string of their hits, showing a greater level of musicianship than I had previously appreciated.
At this stage, due to previous commitments I had to make my way towards the exit, but not before hearing for the first time male voices out shouting their female companions at the appearance of Kim Wilde. As Kim set about her set, I set off for the exit with a nagging feeling that the best had been kept to last in the shape of the Human League, and I was about to miss out.
So overall, Scotland’s newest and probably fourth largest festival, was a resounding success. I’ve never been a fan of single stage festivals, but on this occasion it actually worked, probably helped by having on screen karaoke (less successful on Sunday) and an apparently unrehearsed rendition of “Happy Birthday” by Clare Grogan.
Ultimately a niche market was well catered for. The only potential problem could be finding a variation of acts in the future, not that most of those attending would probably really care! So 2012 by all accounts is very likely to go ahead this festival has a rosy future for the time being. If only someone could do something about portaloos…..
Special thanks to Highland Eventz and the folk at Rewind for helping to arrange.