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Beards ,Friends and families .. .Warm vibes in Cornbury

13 July 2006 1,833 views No Comment

Cornbury Festival Oxfordshire, Saturday July 8 2006
To Cornbury in deepest Oxfordshire. The last time I saw Robert at an open air gig was back in ’98 at Reading with Jimmy. I was keen to attend this one and after moving heaven and earth to fit it all in, it was a relief to be finally on the bus early on Saturday morning bound for my first Plant live experience of the year.
Looking back, the three gigs I’d attended last December had been smash and grab affairs as I rushed to and from London and Wolverhampton to fit around work. The opportunity to see it all in a more relaxed environment was therefore a mouthwatering one. It was also high time I had a live music fix having not been a bona fide gig for far too long. There is a real need now and again to be reminded what being a fan is all about. For all the CD’s and DVD’s we wade through in our respective dives, there is nothing to top the buzz of seeing the object of our devotion on stage treading the boards. And let’s face it, after the painful England World Cup exit I was in need of mass inspiration!

Luckily the weather held just about OK. The festival itself was in an excellent setting on rolling hills with the stage in a natural amphitheatre not unlike Knebworth. This is something of a Glastonbury for the over 40’s and there were a many an offspring in attendance. Not least that of Mr and Mrs Foy with seven year old Jimmy about to see what all the fuss is about. It would have been nice for the Lewis clan to make it but for prom balls, sleepovers and such like made it impossible to sort it for this one so I was the lone Lewis soldier.
The family/friends vibe did encompass the Plant entourage with Logan and wife and baby in attendance, ex wife Maureen and long time associate Phil Carson.

By the time we got to Woodstock (well nearly – Cornbury is just down the road from the Oxfordshire namesake village!) Hayseed Dixie were offering up their countryfied blend of rock classics – entertaining in a guess which song they’re playing now manner.
Deacon Blue followed. I have a soft spot for the Scots rockers – having enjoyed their late 80’s output and seen them with the good lady a couple of times live back in that era. Their catalogue has stood up pretty well and infectious songs such as Wages Day and Real Gone Kid got the first real response of the day.
The Waterboys were due on next. However, despite their gear turning up and the roadies they were nowhere to be seen – apparently held up in a Madrid airport.
The long wait for Plant allowed the crowd to soak up the atmosphere and for little Jimmy it was a chance for more fun at the fair.
Robert and The Strange Sensation took the stage at just after 9.
It’s the first time I’d seen Robert with beard which took a little getting used to. He looked well fit with smart rugby style shirt and hair now as long as it’s been since the Page/Unledded era.
With no pampering to the mainstream audience, he wandered on against the backdrop of If I Ever Get Lucky and then bolted through an urgent Tin Pan Valley.
The sound was crystal clear from my vantage point close slightly to the left of the stage and his voice was reassuringly powerful.
Black Dog ignited the crowd into full on festival lets-have-a-party mode. If there was a criticism it was the pacing of the set as the atmosphere dulled somewhat through Let The Floor Winds Blow and a quite bizarre slowed down arrangement of 29 Palms.
Going To California won the crowds affection easily as did the surprise of the day – a faithful arrangement of Friends. This was an absolute highlight for me with Plant resident in beard you could squint your eyes and be back at Bath ’70.
Freedom Fries kicked in with venom – this is a great live number with Plant totally animated.
Right now it sounds by far the best track off the Mighty Rearranger album. The always welcome Four Sticks and the tension building Gallows Pole ended the main set.

They were back for the rather misplaced Enchanter – atmospheric as this performance is, the crowd were begging for an uptempo finale to send them back to the woods.
That wish duly arrived of course with Whole Lotta Love which now features an invigorating Arabic sung middle section. In front of me a group of teenage girls little older than my own daughter went totally ballistic throughout this final blow out – pleasingly vivid visual evidence of the differing generations this music embraces.
That final blast from Freedom Fries onwards was more than enough for me to be found babbling ”Still the master…” and ”awesome” as we made our way back to the car.

Amongst friends and families it felt good to be in Cornbury…and very good indeed to be feeling like a real fan in the true sense of the word again for the first time in a long time.

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