Live Review: "Superstars or Rock," Knebworth, 30 June 1990

So ironic that Radio One, our bastion of good, fair radio in this country, should choose to throw their weight behind an event that features a selection of artistes who, for the most part, scarcely get the time of day on Radio One, let alone have much of their music played.

So ironic that eminent Radio One DJs should introduce acts like ROBERT PLANT (whose last single, if the man himself is to be believed, received the grand total of one play on Radio One) and PINK FLOYD, both of whom stand about as much chance of getting their records sandwiched in between Kylie's average twenty-five plays per day as John Barnes has of doing something right whilst in an England shirt.

But let us not forget that despite Radio One's twat-head attitude to playlisting, many of those on display today are indeed SUPERSTARS OF ROCK whose music sells millions of records the world over, and will continue to do so long after that which he with his head up his arse at Radio One decrees we should listen to have gone back to being milkmen or whatever they did before some record company exec roped them in for their fifteen minutes of stardom!

Today was a day for those who have decidedly more than fifteen minutes of stardom. Specifically it was for winners of the Nordoff Robbins Silver Clef award, although BOWIE couldn't turn up because he's in the middle of a world tour, and both GEORGE MICHAEL and STING decided they were far too important to play on the day. However, those that did turn up, including the massive 120,000 strong audience, apart from getting drenched at the beginning and the end of the day, did have a good day's entertainment, even if some acts disappointed way beyond belief.

TEARS FOR FEARS kicked things off, and although they haven't actually won the Silver Clef, bass player Curt Smith is on the award panel, and seeing as everyone else thought they were far too important to open the show, he bravely put forward his act. The link may be tenuous, but the music wasn't. Head Over Heels, Pale Shelter, Mad World, Sowing The Seeds Of Love, and Everybody Wants To Rule The World (of course) are all top quality pop that shines head and shoulders above that which attempts to parade under the same banner. They may be somewhat inanimate on stage but the music was good enough to make the sun come out. A good opening act!

There's little you can say about STATUS QUO. They may have been going for years and their records may be crap nowadays but everyone seems to love the band. Today they could do no wrong, and rattled their way through all their finest moments (apart form Down Down) with as much fervour as many up-and-coming young bands. Caroline, Again Again, Whatever You Want, and Rockin' All Over the World were sandwiched between well thought out medleys that gave the crowd the chance to hear most of the band's best known songs, and yes, they loved every minute of it.

CLIFF RICHARD and the shadows came and went, CLIFF donning a horrendous pink suit, and then ROBERT PLANT took to the stage, having been announced by the ever trendy Gary Davies. What Davies knows about PLANT or indeed LED ZEPPELIN (as his band was so inaccurately billed) I don't know, but due to Radio One’s ignorance the audience knew even less. 

They stared on blankly as PLANT and band thrashed out Hurting Kind, Tie Dye On The Highway, Nirvana, and Tall Cool One, and even managed to ignore the fact that he slipped Immigrant Song in second in the set. They actually appeared to enjoy it though, if their applause was anything to go by, but it wasn't until a very together looking JIMMY PAGE strolled on that PLANT kicked into a different gear altogether. 

Misty Mountain Hop, Going To The Country, Rock And Roll thrilled the audience, but it was JIMMY PAGE who won the day. He looked great, played great and I await his second solo LP with much excitement.

PHIL COLLINS proved himself to be the arrogant, self-important big head I'd always had him down as. Placing himself before GENESIS, he showed he's clearly forgotten where he came from. In The Air Tonight was OK, but the rest of it was drivel compared to what GENESIS came up with. When Mike Rutherford and Tony Band did appear, much to the crowd's delight, COLLINS' oh-so-obvious attempts to prove himself to be Mr. Big put a massive downer on Mama, That's All, Throwing It All Away, and Turn It On Again (not the best selection of GENESIS songs they could have played, but Mr. COLLINS' choices for sure).

The so-called SUPERGROUP was yet another disappointment. ERIC CLAPTON appeared to play Pretending and some stuff no-one quite knew and then DIRE STRAITS (well a few of them anyway) strolled on, led by a very bored-looking Mark Knopfler. In between Solid Rock, I Think I Love You Too Much, and Money For Nothing he told the crowd that DIRE STRAITS would be recording another album, so they'd better book a month at Wembley for the next tour! ELTON JOHN wobbled a bit until he hit out the opening notes to Saturday Night's Alright For Fightin' (wot, no Crocodile Rock!!) and then they finally hit top gear for the closing shot of CREAM's Sunshine Of Your Love.

Everyone appeared in the backstage viewing area to see PAUL McCARTNEY and he didn't let anyone down. He may be getting on a bit now but he looks and acts as young as ever. I honestly thought he'd be a bit on the boring side, but boy did he prove me wrong. Coming Up got things going but Live And Let Die was the piece de resistance of the set, with McCARTNEY clearly enjoying himself. The crowd revelled in a host of BEATLES hits, including Hey Jude, Let It Be, All You Need Is Love (dedicated to a dear friend), and Yesterday. A triumphant and thoroughly enjoyable set.

It was gonna take something special to upstage McCARTNEY, and PINK FLOYD are something special. As the opening strains of Shine On You Crazy Diamond drifted out across the audience it was so clear that so many had come to see the elder statesmen of British rock, who were accompanied by a great laser show. Gilmour's superlative guitar playing may be the most prominent feature of the band now, but Rick Wright's keyboards and Nick Mason's tight drumming are just as effective in the set up.

Hits are something FLOYD don't really have, but they strolled through their finest moments as the crowd went wild. Great Gig In The Sky featured vocals by Clare Torry (who I think sang the original from Dark Side Of The Moon) and Wish You Were Here had everyone singing along. Sorrow and Money were great, but it was Gilmour's outstanding guitar solo on Comfortably Numb that really rocked Knebworth. One Of These Days was as great as ever, and the band finished with an anarchic version of Run Like Hell to major applause.

They may be what the music press cognoscenti like to think are past it and pointless, but it took established acts like PAUL McCARTNEY and PINK FLOYD to really bring the whole show to life. And bring it to life they did, doing not only themselves but British music proud. Some may have proved a bit on the disappointing side on the day, but even as the rain came down, whilst the good natured audience filed out, I doubt that there were many who hadn't enjoyed the day!

Jerry Ewing
Riff Raff
July 1990

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