As the gates open promptly for day two of Hard Rock Calling at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, West London winners of 2013 Hard Rock Rising Global, The Carnabys open to a mild audience for a short half-hour set to get the festivities started. Followed up by alternative rock band, Deaf Havana, the audience is really just starting to settle in during the tail-end of the performance, sunbathing, enjoying food and finding seats as the band play and entertain with anecdotes from Norfolk.
By the time the Zac Brown Band takes the stage viewers are really paying attention, taking in the seven-piece country group’s wide instrumental collection (that incorporates violin, organ and mandolin) with ferocity and exuberance that blatantly stands out against lesser performances.
While their reputation precedes them, the sound of Alabama Shakes is unparalleled. Driven vocally by guitarist and singer Brittany Howard, their blues-style performance, combining soul, rock and a voice like no other, relies simply on the music with no embellishments. In Hold On, Howard’s tone is relaxed but her words are so encouraging. Finally Found You is more upbeat and also lacks any superficial interaction with the crowd – you see very little of her personality or showmanship onstage – but the passion she exhibits as she performs is more than enough for some, though not all.
Alongside acts on the main stage other musicians are featured on the Hard Rock Rising Stage as well as the Pepsi Max Stage, including British-American singer-songwriter and solo performer, Josh Doyle as well as local performers Lawson. While seeing another set on the secondary stages means missing a more prominent act, Doyle shows real promise and heart with his original single Zombieland. He displays energy, passion and insight into what it means to grow up in the suburbs and feel lost in high school. The instrumental accompaniment on guitar, cello and bass is harmonious and entertains the small crowd under the tent.
The sounds of the Black Crowes are recognisable from the other end of the park and with long, progressive instrumental solos and distinctive lyrics in Wiser Time and She Talks to Angels, it’s no wonder their success spans over two decades. Chris Robinson brings real character to the stage, entertaining fans with his engaging dance moves for the lighter numbers and his passion and depth on vocals during the more intimate tracks. Jackie Greene on guitar and Steve Gorman on drums are phenomenal in Shine Along, epitomising exactly what rock and roll should sound like and encompassing the free, laid back, absorbed-in-the-music feel of an outdoor festival such as this.
When headliner Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are ready to go on the crowd is ecstatic, howling “Bruuuuuce” in anticipation. Opening with Shackled and Drawn, Springsteen says little but easily gets fans riled up. He works the crowd effortlessly, singing right up at the barrier and pulling signs from fans to introduce the next song. His vocals are as powerful as ever, coarse and raw, full of emotion with a seductive edge. The accompanying band is extensive: with vast brass, strings and percussion sections, each number sounds as if it’s backed by the energy and range of a full orchestra.
When the tempo slows for Atlantic City the lyrical content is well-known to fans, but each word sounds as sincere as if he were playing it for the first time and the crowd croons back “Meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”
As Springsteen tours across England, each town is given a specific album, and fans at Hard Rock Calling are thrilled to hear him announce that they’ve got Born in the USA. With hits like Glory Days and Dancing in the Dark showcased throughout the evening, the 23-track set is celebrated with an encore of five hits including Jungleland and Tenth Avenue.
This was a fitting conclusion to a two-day festival with a truly fantastic atmosphere.
For further information about Hard Rock Calling and next year’s dates visit here.
Watch the video for Glory Days here: