Hop Farm Festival
- By Greg Rose -
- Jul 04, 2012
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,", reiterated the legend printed on many a Bob Dylan fan's shirt at Hop Farm. But a weatherman can give you a pretty good idea of whether you are going to have a fun festival.
The sun was shining on Hop Farm Festival on Saturday, and what a difference it made. Sure, an amazing set will still be so in torrential rain, but it helps if you're soaking up some rays at the same time.
This was the case as Bruce Forsyth - yes, you read that right - made his way to the stage. In crinkly crooner mode, he butchered many a classic swing hit. This wasn't a singing contest though, and Brucey's charm more than made up for the rough edges. He pulled punters up onstage to tap dance (describing one as a "mincey penguin", and treated the crowd to some pretty awful impressions. It was hilarious, it was endearing, it overran and nobody cared. Nice to see you Bruce.
Not so nice were the line ups away from the main stage, with slim pickings available until the evening. Lucy Rose was passable, and Ben Kweller in garage rock mode was unfulfilling. Joan Armatrading back on the big stage was notable for her still-booming vocals and Britney-style mic.
If the day was slipping away into a boozy lounge in the field, nobody minded too much. But Patti Smith soon shook up the farm. The punk icon was in irreverent form, still packing a snarl and delivering every song live with the vitality you can hear crystallised on her records.
New tracks were heartily received from the early evening crowd, and Lenny Kaye and the band kept up with Patti admirably. On fitting finale 'Gloria' the audience got their first real singalong. But this was no nostalgia trip. It was alive and brilliant, a shot in the arm to every old-timer still making the rounds.
Speaking of which, after Damien Rice underwhelmed and Maximo Park reminded everyone how many anthems they have in their arsenal, it was time for Bob Dylan. He has toured so regularly - neverendingly, if you will - that his nasal drawl and unrecognisable versions of his timeless songs are well known by now.
However, there was a freshness to proceedings at Hop Farm. He didn't linger side stage and one song in he picked up a guitar. The harmonica was played with aplomb, amend the set list shone. Several rollicking danceable numbers (honestly) permeated the set, from 'Thunder on the Mountain' to 'Highway 61 Revisited'.
It was 'A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall' that left many thunderstruck though, performed with all the power of decades of relevance. 'Like A Rolling Stone' provided a sterling chance to fall I'm step with Dylan's delivery, and capped an expectedly pleasant and unexpectedly exceptional festival day.