Bruce Springsteen duetted with Paul McCartney until their microphones were switched off because of a noise curfew. Iggy Pop went shirtless in the cold rain and Paul Simon reunited his “Graceland” band.
London’s three-day Hard Rock Calling festival had memorable moments for fans prepared to endure the persistent downpours that soaked Hyde Park.
Springsteen, known for his long sets, rewarded them by playing for more than three hours on Saturday. He was some 30 minutes over the closing time imposed by local council officials when he was joined by McCartney.
They sang Beatles hits “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Twist and Shout” before they were silenced. The band stood on stage for some minutes, bemused, bowing, speaking their thanks into switched-off microphones, as some in the crowd jeered.
“We break curfews in every country,” Springsteen’s guitarist Steve Van Zandt said in a Twitter post. “When did England become a police state?” He later said “Hard Rock would have let us play all night. Live Nation is cool. It’s some stupid City Council rule.”
Westminster City Council said that it introduced stricter time restrictions after complaints about noise from residents who live near the park. An earlier finish time also allowed crowds to catch trains home before the subway closes for the night.
McCartney is known to drop in on Hard Rock occasionally -- in 2009 he joined Neil Young. Still, hundreds of fans’ messages on Twitter said that a moment of rock history was ruined by the two being silenced.
It took Simon a while to get to the “Graceland” songs in his impressive three-hour set, closing the festival last night.
First, he treated the audience to hits like “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover,” some skippy zydeco and a bit of skiffle complete with a washboard solo.
When “Graceland” came, it was bordering on the miraculous. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Soweto choir that featured on the original album, filled Hyde Park with swelling Mbube harmonies, eventually leading to “Homeless.”
Simon then introduced the original “Graceland” band on to the stage. Guitars sparkled, rhythms flowed. “Crazy Love Vol. II” might have lost a few of its more 1980s drums. Most of the songs were unchanged, as sparkling and entrancing as they were 25 years ago. “You Can Call Me Al” had the whole crowd singing.
Guests included Jimmy Cliff and trumpet player Hugh Masekela.
For an encore, Simon, with just an acoustic guitar, played “The Sound of Silence.” The audience was rapt and hushed, with a gentle murmur of those quietly singing along.
Iggy Pop was stripped to the waist for his Stooges show Friday as the crowd shivered, and he was followed by Soundgarden. “Black Hole Sun” seemed out of place as the gray sky unleashed a storm.
The U.K. has seen the most rain in the months from March since 1766, when records began. The Hyde Park site was turning into a swamp in places for the Wireless festival this month. The Hit Factory Live was canceled last week so the site could be covered in wood chippings for Hard Rock.
The soggy field had more of a feel of Glastonbury (which has a year off in 2012.) Premature obituaries are being written for rock festivals in the U.K. after what has been a lackluster season -- the Big Chill and Sonisphere canceled -- though on the basis of Simon’s show last night, the festival is far from finished yet.
Ratings: **** for Simon and Springsteen, ** for the Stooges and Soundgarden.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Mediocre (No stars) Poor
(Mark Beech and Robert Heller write for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
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