Gig review: CORNBURY FESTIVAL – The Great Tew Estate, Oxfordhire, 14 July, 2018


After 14 years and appearances by some of the world’s biggest names in music the Cornbury Music Festival held its ‘last ever’ showcase of music and performances in July last year. However, barely three months after many fans asked for it to carry on, festival director Hugh Phillimore announced a U-turn and declared that the show must go on! Hence here we are on a gloriously sunny day in the Cotswolds countryside ready to give the Cornbury experience our first go…

The whole festival site is well laid out and is geared for families and the older festival goer. From the fairground through to an afternoon tea tent, it couldn’t be more different than Download or Reading. Top marks as well for the running times on the two main stages which neatly segued into each other so no real clashes and a chance to stretch your legs between stages.

Onto the music…Friday night hosted impressive sets by headliners UB40,  Jimmy Cliff played a rousing set and the Stereo MCs were another highlight judging by feedback from punters today and on social media.

Starting off at the Café Nero stage we had a listen to Emily Barker who was a decent enough singer/songwriter and pleasant listening, however nothing really grabbed your attention wanting you to hear more. However, Ivan Moult over on the Riversde stage provided more interest and was easy on the ear – perfect for a summery afternoon. Reminded me a little of James Blunt at times.

First act we watched on the main stage was Southern Avenue. A lively female fronted band (the whole of Saturday’s line-up was female led with a few exceptions) with the emphasis on soul with a dose of funk and rock. Not bad at all. The Kolars, a duo resplendent  in glittery costumes, mix glam rock, rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, funk, disco and some darn fine tunes. I think the term on their Wikipedia page sums it up – ‘glamabilly’. Energetic stage presence from both members, good melodies and one of the discoveries of the day.

Megan McKenna to quote Ultravox means nothing to me as I had never heard of her before today (she made her name on an MTV reality show), however her singing voice and country pop are spot on. She did a sterling version of the Dolly Parton classic ‘Jolene’ and had them dancing away to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’. There was possibly a Hannah Montana cover in there as well, although that is way beyond even my wide musical taste! Her own songs were good and you can certainly see why she is gaining success in the musical world.

Kameron Ritchie writesShe (Megan McKenna) was actually quite good and I enjoyed her pop tunes. I enjoyed the bands on the smaller stages most. The kids area was fun for me at least. Other children were taking part in dancing and the music exploration tent was great. The fun fair was good fun and there was even a big wheel. I really enjoyed Cornbury with lots to enjoy and you can chill if you wanted to.

Back in the Café Nero tent (well you need a milky brew now and then!) we enjoyed the upbeat blues rock of Coffee Pot Drive. They drew a decent sized crowd and would be good to see them on a bigger stage next time.

PP Arnold was fantastic, with her soulful voice still strong on such classics as ‘Angel In The Morning’, ‘To Love Somebody’ and ‘First Cut Is The Deepest’. She worked with many of the greats in the 60′s including the Small Faces, the Nice and more, often as a session singer, however she is rightly getting recognised for her singing and go see her live. An amazing set.

Pixie Lott is not standard GRTR! fare and to be honest it was a step too far for this reviewer, especially when she made a right mess of ‘Blinded By The Light’.

Time for food methinks…speaking of which the Hairy Bikers (keen rockers themselves) had a tent where they were cooking up a festival feast and it was sold out every sitting.

Food and music seem to the perfect match at festivals now, although one youngster I overheard was bemoaning the fact all the food stalls sold ‘funny sounding food’. He hadn’t found the lovely pizza stall like we did where you could have haggis and black pudding toppings if you so wished.

Nina Nesbitt was a gentle way to spend the early evening, again nothing to taxing musically and she seemed to go down well with the crowd on the second stage. Over on the main stage Amy MacDonald was one of the few artists on the bill that I knew a few songs by.

She played a fair few of last year’s ‘Under Stars’, where her mix of rock and pop went down well – she has moved away from her more folky origins and musically sounds like one her main musical influences, fellow Scots Travis. Her biggest hit ‘This Is The Life’ needless to say got the biggest reaction in her set.

Mavis Staples may be heading for her eightieth birthday but shows no sign of stopping and like PP Arnold earlier in the day still has her singing voice in fine form. With a set made up of songs by the Staples Singers including ‘Respect Yourself’ and a Talking Heads cover, ‘Slippery People’, she delighted the crowd and should have really been on the main stage perhaps, although she was the headlining act on the second stage.

Alanis Morissette played a ninety minute set, based heavily around her ‘Jagged Little Pill’ album  including opener ‘All I Really Want’ and a storming version of ‘Ironic’. She seemed to be having a great time on the stage and the Cornbury crowd was lucky as she only played two other UK dates this year, both in London. She certainly puts her all into her set, as do her band with some heavy guitar riffing and soloing. It was the rockiest set of the day (not hard to be fair!) and one that left many a happy smile on the crowds faces.

Hopefully Cornbury will remain on the festival calendar as it is a well run, family friendly festival with a good mix of artists and musical styles. All this and afternoon tea as well!

Review by Jason and Kameron Ritchie

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