REVIEW festival Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Stevie Wonder and Aerosmith deliver the goods at the Calling Festival

A less 'Hard Rock' and more soulful feel to this year's event...

Calling Festival @ Clapham Common, 26/27th June 2014.

In the luxurious surroundings of Clapham Common (OK, most parks look the same regardless, but this is much closer to my house than the Olympic or Hyde Park) a festival full of genuine legends and great up 'n coming acts descended for a weekend of Rock and Soul bliss. Calling Festival (once partnered up with Hard Rock Cafe) has been delivering a stunning array of headline artists to our fair capital for years now. The Who, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and many more have graced the hallowed stage, delivering much talked about shows to the crowds. In the case of Bruce and Macca, they caused quite a stir when over-running their slot time.  Naughty Rockstars, giving the audience what they want when Oligarchs residing in billion pound properties nearby complained to whichever dodgy Tory MP they have in their pocket. This year sees the return of Soul legend Stevie Wonder and a first time for Rock icons Aerosmith to headline the Festival. Between the pair they have over 50 classic hits and I for one couldn't wait to finally cross Aerosmith off my bucket-list of bands to see.
aero2Saturday started with a bang... A hard-hitting, youthful and explosive bang. Attention grabbing newcomers (and former new artists of the day here on Subba-Cultcha) Radkey delivered a fine set to kick proceedings off. Sounding somewhere between the Misfits, Ramones and Trash Talk, their riotous rawk wins over many new fans and works as the perfect cure for those suffering hangovers. Lonely The Brave are in a totally different position, whilst still relatively new, the secret is quite clearly out about them. Many a journo delivering hyperbole about them in mass quantities, stuttering comparisons to U2, throwing in predictions of world domination. If the lads weren't such nice guys it could quite easily go to their heads, but instead we're treated to a humble and earnest show from start to finish. Their music has the anthemic quality of all those arena-filling bands they get compared to, but underneath it all is an energy you only really get from listening to a lot of post-hardcore and emo records in your youth. Harnessing the power of many influential 90's bands and fusing it with the anthemic bite of prime-Pearl Jam without sounding saccharine (or Creed-like) is no mean feat, and for once the hype is totally justified about a young rock band, who would've believed it?! Finally, the moment we've been waiting for, ladies and gentlemen, if you really think seeing the Rolling Stones is a 'great show', then you'll be shitting in a bucket after witnessing the joyful brilliance of Aerosmith live. Whereas one Rock behemoth has become somewhat limp through the years, Aerosmith have always had a muscular muscian-manship underpinning everything; more Led Zep, less Stones. Live it's just a non-stop party (including many of the musicians, friends and family on the side of the stage). Sure, their bassist and guitarist (who isn't Joe Perry) do look like they're a little past their bed time in a sitcom older uncle sort of way, but those drums are monumental throughout, Perry is a playful and eye-catching figure delivering frenetic licks, pulling every guitar-god pose possible, and what can you say about Steven Tyler that hasn't been said before? The guy lives and breathes rock 'n roll, he is the very embodiment of what you'd expect from a living rock 'n roll legend, and throughout the set you just can't take your eyes off of him. The live set has many interesting AV cut aways on the huge screens (the cartoon versions of themselves being the best), but it's the tunes you came for, as for tightly packed sets chock full of hits, Aerosmith are the masters regardless of what is currently capturing the zeitgeist. We're treated to 'Eat The Rich', 'Lovin' An Elevator', 'Sweet Emotion', 'Walk This Way', 'Cryin', 'Don't Wanna Miss A Thing' and many more hits with a few covers and new tracks thrown in, it's a truly amazing thing to behold!
stevie wonder Sunday's start is a little more chilled, thankfully. Michael Kiwanuka delivered the sweet and soulful folk set that our hungover minds needed to ease us into the long day ahead. His rich voice is truly magnificent and the songs have a depth to them that many artists would kill for. Paloma Faith isn't an artist I've been able to really get behind previously, she has a great voice, one song I quite like, but otherwise it's all a bit bland in a faux-soulful way, more Duffy than Adele. Surfer and folk-star extraordinaire Jack Johnson returns to our shores after what feels like an absolute age, by this point though most people are getting back on the booze. Whilst his hits garner a great response from the audience, his lesser known tracks seem to provide most people with an excuse to hit the bar or toilet. He's a sweet guy throughout, his band are ragged but create warm backing to his laid back voice, but it felt like it needed to grip hold of your focus more, instead you find yourself checking your watch for Wonder time. Then it comes. The band start to play, ushering in Stevie Wonder from the side of the stage, armed only with a Keytar and his welcoming grin. He plays a groove that slowly builds as he glides onto the stage like the Emperor in the Empire Strikes Back, the audience are going wild at the sheer wonderment of being able to see such a genuine Musical legend singing his songs in SW London. Once he'd sat by his Keyboards the magic really starts to happen as his warmth cascades over the tightly performed tunes. The hits comes thick and fast; 'Jammin', 'Higher Ground', 'Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing', 'Superstition', 'Living For The City', 'Part Time Lover', 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered', 'Sunshine Of My Life' and so much more. It's a glorious set that just builds and builds on summery rhythms and soulful melodies, he even plays the song used on the BBC's coverage for the Brazilian World Cup ('Another Star'). His faux English accent aside, this was a monstrous set that delivered the party atmosphere a big festival like this deserves when closing. Until next year then...
stevie wonder2