Saturday 24th September

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Calling Festival – Aerosmith and Stevie Wonder

| Festivals, Music | 02/07/2014

Aerosmith

Scheduling a music festival on the same weekend as Glastonbury is an ambitious move, but the Calling Festival (this year relocated from Hyde Park to Clapham Common) still managed to pull in two incredible headliners in the form of music legend Stevie Wonder and rock titans Aerosmith.

The festival offered two very different line-ups over the weekend: a rock heavy Saturday and a more relaxed Sunday. On Saturday there was a lot of black, leather and studded denim waistcoats and on Sunday there was more of a family feel. The draw of the two headline performers and their decades-spanning careers meant that the crowd ranged in age. The site was a good size and the main stage was big enough to suit the star performers yet small enough to give a good view. The second stage had the authentic festival tent feel and saw performances from The Jezabels and Walking Papers on Saturday and Gregory Porter on Sunday – it could have been in Leeds/Reading or Glastonbury, it had the same feel (and distinctive smell) that only a festival tent can have.

The Saturday line-up was definitely a lot more specialised, especially to a rock novice like me (Aerosmith is about as hard as I get). Seeing all the Thunder fans on Saturday showed the festival had made a point of catering to the proper rock fans and a lot of people were rocking very hard with massive smiles on their faces.

Aerosmith proved why they have endured for decades as they performed their incredible range of hits with more energy and vibrancy than bands in their 20s could muster. Steven ‘the demon of screamin’’ Tyler’s voice is so unique – he sounds even better live than he does on records. Their infectious back catalogue of catchy songs like ‘Dude Looks Like A Lady’ and ‘Cryin’’ left the very enthusiastic crowd singing (and shouting) along. A big highlight was everyone singing and swaying along to ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ and the ‘Dream On’ encore left the whole audience stunned.

The only criticism of the show would be that it could have been a bit louder, but it’s understandable that the organisers wanted to keep the council happy after the Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney switch-off last year. Steven Tyler howling from his scarf adorned microphone centre stage and Joe Perry’s mind-blowing guitar solos are something that I, and the rest of the crowd, will not soon forget.

Sunday’s line-up was perhaps a bit tamer with more ‘pop’ artists like Paloma Faith and Jack Johnson warming up for the Motown megastar who was closing the festival. Paloma Faith’s talent is undeniable and she manages to exude so much personality; you get the feeling that her band (who were all in matching tartan outfits) absolutely love her. After her set I heard one person in the crowd say, “She’s an absolute nutter, I love her.” I think that pretty much sums up what we were all thinking.

When I saw that Jack Johnson would be the act between Paloma and Stevie (obviously I’m on first name terms with both of them) I thought it was a strange choice for the organisers. I like Jack Johnson and he seemed lovely (even if he had a slightly overenthusiastic glory hunting piano player) but he really brought the mood down. Paloma had turned it up to 11 and Jack Johnson came in and brought it down to 3. His songs are very sweet but I feel that they would be more suited to a more relaxed setting than in-between two high octane performers. A lot of people seemed to be enjoying themselves swaying along to his songs and I cannot fault his voice, but there was a man next to me who had actually fallen asleep….

What can you say about Stevie Wonder? I doubt he has ever done a bad show and at Calling he managed to command thousands of people to sing along and be his “choir” from his seat behind his keyboard. Audience participation made the experience even better and I watched him live on stage not truly believing that it is HIM, Stevie Wonder, in Clapham of all places. He gives the impression that he hasn’t really planned yet which order he’s going to play his hits in and what a range of hits he has – there really are far too many to mention. Watching Stevie Wonder is an incredible experience, whether you are a life-long fan or someone who only knows a couple of songs. His performance was truly an amazing end to a thoroughly enjoyable festival (there was even a surprise appearance by Richie Sambora playing guitar on Superstition).

Although on paper the headliners seemed very different, the love that Aerosmith and Stevie Wonder fans have for their heroes was clear to all to see – I saw several people with Aerosmith tattoos and a very colourful Songs in the Key of Life inking on someone else. True dedication. Although I probably won’t be heading down the tattoo studio just yet, these performers are so loved and I think I speak for everyone there and (possibly) most of SW4 when I say come back to Clapham next year please Calling Festival!

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