Neighbourhood weekender was back in Warrington’s Victoria Park for its third edition, Getintothis’ Luke Traynor tells all about his bank holiday weekend.
“Here’s two stone cold classics,” trumpets Richard Ashcroft 80 minutes into his headline slot at Neighbourhood Weekend in Warrington.
“And I wrote them both,” he sniggers, a statement that can now be backed, given last weekend’s end to the legal battle over the ownership of Bitter Sweet Symphony which has taken a mere 22 years to resolve.
Shortly after its release, the song was mired in controversy which meant the former Verve man had to grudgingly forfeit royalties to Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards who claimed it was a rip off their 1965 hit The Last Time.
There’s a nice symmetry to the news that Mick and Keith have dropped their financial interest in the track, us being just 15 miles down the road from where Aschroft grew up.
The Wiganer seems pleased as punch to get undisputed ownership back in his hands, and he signals his satisfaction by eventually dropping his No.1 masterpiece The Drugs Don’t Work closely followed by the orchestral string-underpinned anthem Bitter Sweet Symphony.
It’s a grand finale from a headlining set which delivers in spades for ex-Verve devotees, and which has a series of customary nods to his ‘chef d’oeuvre”, Urban Hymns, with fans getting extended jam outs of accomplished album tracks including Space And Time and Velvet Morning.
“This is history!” continues Ashcroft in buoyant mood and he does appear at ease with the world, his voice impressively meaty and substantial throughout his one hour-and-a-half set.
Solo singles Music Is Power and Song For The Lovers further back up a strong offering from the 47-year-old who also delights Verve devotees with renditions of Sonnet and Lucky Man.
Ashcroft loses his audience for a time, his six minute versions of tracks going down well with his ready-made supporters but struggling to convince casual fans who’ve turned up solely to hear the hits.
The Ivor Novello award winner brings a suitably epic conclusion to the two day Victoria Park festival, which celebrates its second airing with a promise of the same again in 2020.
Early bird tickets, promoters SJM tell us, are available from Friday, May 31 with a £20 reduction on face value. (For more details see later in this review)
It’s once again been a thriving festival, all things considered, and even the middle of the road exploits of George Ezra, who we’re somewhat perturbed to report has found a fan in the shape of our three-year-old daughter, is refreshingly without pretension in a Saturday headline slot which predictably draws huge crowds.
But the Hertfordshire songwriter nor Ashcroft are Warrington’s winners, with the gong for best received set going to lad revivalist Gerry Cinnamon.
The Glaswegian draws vast crowds for his early evening slot on Sunday, with his bawdy singalongs sending thousands into raptures that leaves this commentator somewhat at a loss to explain his ecstatic popularity.
Colourful flares fill the air as Cinnamon’s simplistic ditties work wonders and the Weekender audience respond in kind with football terrace chants which pay homage to the cackling and slightly annoying Scotsman.
“There’s a war on for real music and if you’re sound and can write decent tunes then you’re on the front line whether you like it or not,” declared Cinnamon in 2016.
And whatever his accurate formula, the 33-year-old seems to have stumbled across some stardust that currently make everything he touch turn to gold.
Other big winners at Weekender are The Vaccines whose short and sweet anthems – Wetsuit, All My Friends Are Falling In Love, If You Wanna and the searingly honest Post Break-Up Sex – all hit the spot.
Lead singer Justin Hayward-Young is a reassuringly comfortable front man, pulling a series of gurning-type facial expressions which echo Future Island warbler Samuel T Herring in a manner which counterpoint the matter-of-fact lyrics.
Sunday brings stage clashes throughout the afternoon and evening with The Charlatans having to be content with a 6pm slot which leaves the assembled throng somewhat lukewarm.
One To Another, North Country Boy and Just Lookin’ all sound fantastically robust, but long player Sproston Green, traditionally The Charlatans departing tune, leave Weekender fans in two minds.
White Lies are an inspired choice inside the dark recesses of Stage 2, with a light show that perfectly showcases the brilliance of tracks like Tokyo and To Lose My Life.
It feels like a headlining performance from the Ealing five-piece who are set to mark a decade since they first burst onto the scene with Farewell to the Fairground in 2009.
— Jo O'Brien (@JoanneMorgan541) May 26, 2019
Weekender is unashamedly a guitar bands’ festival, with a dearth of any dance music to speak of, but it feels somewhat like a changing of the guard, with at one-time Brit Pop fare – Embrace, Maximo Park, Mystery Jets and Gaz Coombes – all doing enough to warrant inclusion, but none of them smashing it.
Ex-Supergrass man Coombes, in particular, delivers an uneven set which is light years away from his hugely-impressive performance at Liverpool Sound City in 2015.
For both Coombes and Maximo Park, a duo that certainly don’t lack hits, there’s a wayward balance of sound that spoils both indie acts, and Girls Who Play Guitars and Apply Some Pressure only just reclaim some lost ground for the Newcastle-formed rockers.
A day earlier, Primal Scream romp through an 11-song set which 56-year-old Bobby Gillespie just about manages to complete, his powder-thin vocals barely doing the job on Kill All Hippies and Swastika Eyes.
Rocks, Jailbird, Movin’ On Up never fail to entertain, and even a couple of Screamadelica classics – Higher Than The Sun and Loaded – sway onto this nostalgic set list.
On the new music front Fuzzy Sun, Kawala and Jade Bird are the pick of 18 hours of music, with the Stockport lads’ blissed out psychedelic strains magically reproduced on tracks like Heavy, I’ll Be The Man and Want Love, winning over a rapidly-growing evening crowd.
Kawala’s afro-beat tunes are delightfully quirky, and in lead singer Jim Higson and guitarist Daniel McCarthy on acoustic guitar and vocals, there’s an on-stage chemistry and mid-track patter that puts George Ezra to shame.
Earlier on Sunday, 21-year-old Croydon gal Jade Bird yells her away through her best-known tracks of My Motto and the brilliantly stomping Love Has All Been Done Before.
It’s bruised, its’s raw, and it’s exquisitely raucous.
Neighbourhood Weekender returns in 2020 on Saturday and Sunday May 23 and 24. Early bird tickets will go onsale this Friday, May 31 at 9.30am for discounts of £20 off normal tickets and £30 off VIP tickets. The early bird pre-sale will last for one week only.
And if you’re lucky enough to live in Warrington postcodes WA1 to WA5, then the presale starts a day earlier on May 29 at 9.30am.
Getintothis’ picks from the weekend
These Doncaster lads (now based in Manchester) played a Blinder (Pun Intended) to a packed out tent at stage two on the Saturday afternoon. This also culminated in the first real mosh pit seen at Neighbourhood and some mosh pit it was too! Warren Millar
Set stage two alight early evening on the Sunday and not just because of her attire which looked like something from a sci-fi movie. Not content with staying on stage she even joined the crowd during her second song. Very different from the Kate Nash a few years back and much stronger for it. Warren Millar
The Slow Readers Club
The Manchester lads are really going places. And with this very strong set on the main stage you can see why! Warren Millar
Maybe it was because he had just won his battle over the rights of “Bittersweet Symphony” against the might of The Rolling Stones that made this headline set at Neighbourhood a “Sweet Symphony” ……. Who knows ? Warren Millar
Images by Getintothis’ Warren Millar