Hard Rock Calling

Hard Rock Calling is probably one of my favourite festivals – not that I go to many. Of the festivals in the UK it’s the one that is a closer match to my musical taste (as eclectic as that taste is), with the added bonus that it’s in Hyde Park in the middle of London so its easy to get to and doesn’t require camping in a muddy field.

I attended Hard Rock Calling in 2009 when Bruce Springsteen was headlining and it was without exception the greatest concert I’ve ever been to and probably one of the greatest events of my life, musical or otherwise. Hell, I have Bruce’s performance on Blu-ray and break it out every now and then when I feel like exercising my sound system.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are hands down the best live performers in the world today. I’ve not seen to a concert with half the energy and passion that those guys put out for three hours straight, barely even stopping for a breath between songs. It’s exhausting enough watching it at home on disc, I don’t know how they do it, especially since Bruce is a ripe 63 years old.

Last weekend, Bruce was back at Hard Rock playing the Saturday. As an added bonus, Paul Simon was playing the Sunday, on his Graceland reunion tour. How could we turn that down?

You might have heard about Saturday’s performance; it made the news for all the wrong reasons when the show was shut down by a curfew whilst Bruce Springsteen and Paul f’ing McCartney were jamming on stage for the first time in ever. This because the residents around Hyde Park don’t like the noise from only nine shows a year.

As a resident who lives closer to Twickenham Stadium than anyone does to the Hard Rock Calling stage, big deal. Nine days a year? That’s nothing. Plus, these events finish late so you’re not likely to have to deal with people piling out of area because you’re probably already at home. Plus, if you live there, you’re rich enough to insulate your home. When matches come to Twickenham, whole days are lost inability to move through throngs of people.

This isn’t me being selfish – well, maybe a little. But events in Hyde Park bring in millions of pounds a year, and if the residents don’t like them then they can foot the bill. They can certainly afford it. They’re already responsible for the sound not being as loud as it should have been. I remembered today that when I came back from my first Springsteen concert – in the O2 in London in 2007 – my ears were ringing and I kept shouting, simply because I could barely hear myself speak – even by the time I’d gotten home. It was that loud – as it should be. It was an unadulterated assault on the senses and my Springsteen cherry was well and truly popped. But for the events in Hyde Park, there is a noise level limit – 75dB I believe – which leaves you feeling a bit lacking. There were more complaints from attendees at Saturday’s concert about the lack of noise than there was from residents about the presence of it. Heck, even the Financial Times complained that Paul Simon was too quiet.

I don’t mean to rant too much, but I am a bit disappointed that an incredible three-plus hour set was cut short right at the finale. Still, the rest of the set was absolutely brilliant, typical Bruce, unforgettable, the epitome of the Hard Rock ethos.

Compared to Springsteen, Paul Simon was relatively sedate. then again, you can’t really expect quite the same energy from a 70-year-old whose music is less rousing by design. It was still a fantastic concert though, and we managed to get a better position that day.

Last weekend was, simply put, fantastic. Two days in the mud in Hyde Park with some of the greatest musicians to ever grace the stage – I can’t think of many ways off of the top of my head that I’d rather spend a weekend – apart from taking photos, perhaps, so it is little surprise that I took my camera with me. Due to the camera restrictions at the event (“professional” cameras were banned, with the definition of “professional” being “an SLR with interchangeable lenses longer than six inches”. Do you hear that, so-called professional photographers? If your lenses are less than six inches long then you’re not a professional) I was only able to take my trusty 18-135mm kit lens, still with a polarising filter stuck on the front (yes, I know, I tried the rubber band trick and it didn’t work, next step is a filter wrench). The 18-135mm fits under the six-inch limit when both retracted and at fully extended; my 300mm is about six inches when retracted but breaks that limit when extended, and I didn’t want to take the chance of having it confiscated. I somehow managed to take over 400 photos over the weekend, and despite my best efforts there are still 81, presented below.

Quick note: a few images are watermarked with ‘Photomatix’ – this is due to the HDR processing software I’m currently using being in trial mode. More on that in my next post.

4 thoughts on “Hard Rock Calling

  1. Your position on Sunday really was excellent. Damn it!

    The HDR photos have come out really well, have you looked into getting the full version of Photomatix yet? If I ever get some free time in the next couple of weeks I want to look at exposure bracketing with the 60D and have a go myself, what with all this cloudporn around at the moment.

    I think the best Saturday shot was the one you labelled as being closest to the experience thanks to HDR. But because I too am a lighting geek I love all the shots of them, well except the fact I can’t quite read which make they are. (Have you got a ticket for PLASA? Now that could be a photo trip of a totally different nature)

    I really like the idea behind the shots of Paul Simon between the clapping hands, it’s just a bit of a shame that the lighting meant you couldn’t open up the aperture more, and also that Paul was facing the wrong way!!


    1. I think we got a better position at Paul Simon by virtue of the crowd being a completely different sort of people. Most of them in the front area (ahead of that weird ‘VIP’ paddock in the middle) stayed sitting down until the penultimate act cleared the stage, then everyone began shifting forwards and packing up blankets etc. At Springsteen, that area was packed out, standing room only by the time we got there. We actually arrived later on the sunday (just as the first act was finishing up on the Main Stage) than we did on the Saturday (before it all kicked off).

      Unfortunately, PLASA is going on whilst I’m out of the country this year!


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