LIVE: Calling Festival, Clapham Common 4.7.15

Having been running since 2006, Calling Festival has become an essential part of the London festival landscape. Over the last decade, a huge number of iconic artists have graced the Calling Stage; The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd to name just a few. So for the tenth edition of this much-loved festival, there was only really one person who could be called upon to mark the occasion with the passion and respect it deserves; stand up Noel Gallagher.

In the last twenty five years, it is hard to think of another British songwriter who has made such an impact on musical culture within the UK, but also across the world. Oasis are one of those bands whose music transcends language and their fans come from all across the globe. Whilst there are people who say they don’t enjoy their music or aren’t “a fan of the Gallagher brothers”, they have to be respected for the sheer heights their music has reached.

Credit: Danny North

Whilst this wasn’t Oasis headlining and indeed Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds certainly aren’t Oasis, when you hear thousands of people singing their hearts out to ‘Champagne Supernova’ amongst other classics, it certainly feels like you’re watching them. But before Noel graced the stage on Clapham Common, there were a few other acts looking to add their names to the history of the Calling Festival archives.

26 year old Elle King opened the proceedings on the main stage and with the scorching sun smothering the entire festival site, her bluesy-rock style and gritty-yet-soulful voice provided the perfect start. As the daughter of actor and comedian Rob Schneider, you would expect her to have a sense of humour and her cover of Khia’s 2002 track ‘My Neck, My Back’, which contains hugely provocative lyrics, was a hit amongst all festival goers, providing some light hearted relief early on.

Following the talented VANT on Stage 2, whose brand of fast paced rock & roll had everyone dancing, BBC Sound of 2015 nominees Sunset Sons hit the main stage and delivered a set of the highest quality. Their sound is a cross between Kings Of Leon and Maroon 5 with a hint of Red Hot Chili Peppers thrown in and they wowed the crowd with their slick performance. A shout has to go out to lead singer Rory Williams whose sizzling vocals were on point throughout and were definitely some of the strongest on show at the festival.

The legendary Echo & The Bunnymen were next up on the main stage followed by Swedish rockers The Hives and the two sets could not have been more different. Whilst Ian McCulloch and co were dressed in black, despite the searing heat and performed a somewhat sombre set, which included hits such as ‘Lips Like Sugar’ and ‘The Killing Moon’, The Hives were an explosion of hype and energy. Lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist was in a hugely talkative mood and interacted with the crowd between every track, demanding the crowds participation in every song.

With a backdrop of an evil pupeteer looking over the stage, the band were all dressed in matching white suits and performed a number of their hit songs, including ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ ‘Main Offender’ and ‘Tick Tick Boom’. The Hives have become known for their dynamic live shows and they certainly lived up to that reputation at Calling Festival, providing one of the most memorable sets of the day.

Whoever followed the lively Swedes were going to have a tough time living up to what had gone before them and that task fell to US indie outfit Modest Mouse. At the start of their set, lead singer Isaac Brock informed the crowd that they had been seperated from their instruments (exactly how we’ll never know) and it seemed to affect their confidence on stage. Whilst they still managed to play a strong set, which included crowd favourites ‘Dashboard’, ‘Satin In A Coffin’ and ‘Float On’, despite sounding vocally and instrumentally sturdy, their set felt a bit flat. Perhaps this was due to the fact they were following the madness of The Hives, but there seemed more to it than simply that.

Ryan Adams was the artist who was given the chance to play the main stage slot before Noel and he seemed extremely grateful, telling the crowd that he believed Noel Gallagher is “the greatest songwriter of all time”. Strong words from the American singer/songwriter who once covered ‘Wonderwall’ on his 2004 album Love Is Hell. His set contained numerous instrumental jams that seemed to wander on for an eternity without ever really getting anywhere. But on the whole he showcased his majestic vocals well and his band were very passionate about their performance, creating a genuinely personal feel which was also aided by his rather Americanised set design that randomly included a Dr Pepper drinks dispenser and some arcade gaming machines.

But before Mr Gallagher stepped out in front of the Calling faithful, incredibly talented North London four-piece Wolf Alice played a storming set on Stage 2. Having recently released their debut album My Love Is Cool to critical acclaim, expectations were high and the grungey alt-rockers lived up to their billing. Tracks such as ‘Bros’, ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ and latest single ‘You’re A Germ’ went down well with everyone in attendance. Despite being out in the sun all day, the crowd jumped around in enjoyment as Ellie Rowsell’s vocals decorated the air along with the bands crashing guitar riffs.

So at the end of a long, sweaty day of top class live music, Noel Gallagher hit the stage and played a set that can only be described as a masterclass. Songs from the High Flying Birds eponymous debut album such as ‘Everybody’s On The Run’, ‘Dream On’ and ‘If I Had A Gun…’ enticed the heaving crowd into full-voiced singalongs whilst ‘In The Heat Of The Moment’ and ‘Riverman’ from the recently released Chasing Yesterday were noticably favoured by the very vocal audience.

It was the Oasis classics that Noel played, however, that understandably got the biggest response and hearing thousands of people singing your lyrics back to you at the top of their lungs as though their lives depended on it must have taken Noel back to the good old days. ‘Champagne Supernova’ was the first but it was followed by ‘Fade Away’ ‘Whatever’ and ‘The Masterplan’, which were scattered throughout the setlist.  There was only one way that Noel could close his final London show of 2015 and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ was it, prompting drunken men everywhere to remove their shirts and wave them around their heads and groups of friends to embrace each other and passionately belt out every single word.

In this day and age, there aren’t many artists who can inspire that kind of reaction from a packed out festival crowd and the noise from the site must have been audible miles away as it was certainly deafening inside. Noel Gallagher is an artist who is respected by music fans and fellow artists alike and Calling Festival proved that they still know how to pick a headliner when they announced that he would be the man to top the bill on their tenth edition.

With the festival being reduced down to just a single day from the usual two, there was to be no Sunday live music on Clapham Common this year which was a shame, however the quality of the Saturday was enough to please expectant music fans and demonstrate exactly why they should all come back for Calling Festival 2016.

Matt Tarr

Check out these brilliant photos from the festival to give you an idea of exactly what went down…

Matt Tarr

Matt Tarr

Urban Music Editor
With grime and hip hop being major influences on him growing up in South East London, Matt's passion is urban music but over the years he has gathered a hugely diverse taste, ranging from Wiley to The Smiths by way of Machine Head, that has made him a very open minded individual.
Matt Tarr