A real live music festival on our doorstep! That was the prospect we awaited with the new Alive at Delapre Festival in Northampton that took place over the weekend of 19th –21st July. Paul Weller on the Friday, The Wanted and Lawson on the Saturday, James Morrison and Bo Bruce on the Sunday. You spoil us, Mr Ambassador. Actually, owing to other commitments, the Paul Weller concert was the only date we could make, but I was there amongst the keenest of festival fans queuing at the Royal and Derngate box office to buy our tickets the moment they came on sale. Even the local paper was there to report the ticket queue. Queuers were interviewed, would you believe. “Are you a die-hard Paul Weller fan?” they were asked. “Ah yeah man, he’s really great”. I desperately hoped no one would interview me, because I didn’t want to have to answer that, actually, I prefer theatre, Eurovision and contemporary dance. Fortunately they missed me out, phew.
To be fair, I used to love The Jam in the 70s. They were savage enough to be meaningful but tuneful enough to be commercial. I quite liked The Style Council years too, but after that only the die-hard fans would know anything he did; although I do recollect a single, “It’s Written in the Stars” from 2002 that I bought. Anyway, I would always try to support any new entertainment venture in Northampton, so there was no question that Mrs Chrisparkle and I would be up for attending the concert.
Fortunately I had read all the rules of engagement before setting off, which said you could take picnics (hoorah!) but no glass or tins, and all crockery and cutlery had to be plastic. So, like the law-abiding citizens we are, I swapped out our picnic set metal knives and forks for plastics, and decanted two bottles of wine into empty San Pellegrino bottles, saved specifically for the purpose. Middle class, don’t speak of it, savoir faire, we reek of it. Our starter was a big bag of Sweet Chilli Kettle Chips; our main course was two big helpings from the Morrisons’ Salad counter; our dessert two small helpings from their fruit section. Like Billie Jo Spears, we put our blanket on the ground, not too far from the stage, spread out in the beautiful evening sunshine, kicked off our shoes, and relaxed. It was great.
The last concert like this I attended was way back in 1982. Yes, honestly. It was Genesis, the last tour that featured Peter Gabriel, at the Milton Keynes Bowl, on a day when it bucketed it down. I went with some friends from university and we all got totally drenched. The car got bogged down in mud; such happy days. The support act that day was Talk Talk. Not that rather iffy communications company, who leave you in the lurch when your phone won’t work, but the terrific little band that sang wonderful numbers like “Today” and the eponymous “Talk Talk”. I loved them. Everyone else in the Milton Keynes Bowl hated them, because they were soaked to the skin, just wanted Genesis to come on and sing some songs, then we could all rush for cover. Talk Talk did their thirty-minute set to boos and slow-hand-claps. When they had finished all their contractually obliged numbers, the lead singer just said “thank you for your patience” and they all slunk off. Fortunately nothing like that happened this time. There was a support band, Toy, of whom I know nothing, apart from the fact they are from London and their lead singer has a somewhat terse attitude to audience communication. “This is a new one”. “Fanks”. “This is an old one”. “Ta”. You get the picture. They were fine; but they were no Talk Talk.
After a short break, Paul Weller and his backing band took to the stage, and sang some songs I didn’t know. It didn’t matter, because they were very enjoyable. Mr Weller is still in excellent voice, his band was rocking, the sound quality as projected to the gathered crowds was top notch and everyone seemed to have a wonderful time. Something I remember about Paul Weller – his songs have always tended to be quite short. This is A Good Thing – because if you don’t like this one, another one will be along in a minute. As it turned out, I only knew five songs that he performed all evening, and even then I only knew “Wishing On A Star” because of Rose Royce; I didn’t know he’d covered it. He only did one Style Council number, “My Ever Changing Moods”, which is a great tune, and got everyone really bopping. My favourite of the ones I knew was “That’s Entertainment”, a superbly bitter-sweet indictment of societal woes in 1980 and no less relevant today. He did it brilliantly.
That was followed by another crowd-pleaser, “Start!” which is grammatically incorrect if you exclude the exclamation mark. I’d forgotten all about that one, but it was fun to hear it again. The only other song I recognised was the final number of the encore, “A Town Called Malice”, which is still a rip-roaring, hugely entertaining, piece of post-Punk protest poetry. I’d been hoping he’d play “Going Underground” and “Eton Rifles”, but alas they have to be filed under “Sins of Omission”. Massive appreciation to the Powers That Be for creating this festival, and I hope it is considered to be sufficiently successful for them to bring it back next year. 6,500 people (apparently) attended this concert and from what I could see it seemed to pass off without incident. The stewards were friendly and polite too, which is a bonus. The only slight criticism I would have of the overall management of the event is that when it was all over, there was insufficient light to find your way easily out of the venue and on to the path home – people were colliding with trees and barriers, and fumbling around in the dark which was a bit frustrating. But all in all it was fantastic, and we look forward to next year!