Review: Hardwick Live, Hardwick Hall, Sedgefield

Ocean Colour Scene were a huge hit with the Hardwick Live crowd.
Ocean Colour Scene were a huge hit with the Hardwick Live crowd.

Thousands took in the festival atmosphere of Hardwick Live at the picturesque Hardwick Hall and were treated to top performances on the festival's most impressive line-up yet.

Headliners Ocean Colour Scene launched the crowd 100 miles high from the onset by opening with their anthemic Riverboat Song, made famous in the 1990s as the theme tune to TFI Friday.

Their seminal mega-selling album Moseley Shoals celebrated its 21st this year and the Brummie modsters played a string of crowd pleasers from what has proved to be one of the biggest selling albums of the 90s.

Singer Simon Fowler hasn't lost any of his delicate tones and won a chorus of backing from the enthusiastic audience singing along to their popular hits. They were treated to hit after hit and even an accomplished cover of the Beatles' Daytripper.

OCS were preceded on the main stage by former Libertines and Babyshambles frontman Pete Docherty. He might well be a bit more of an acquired taste and his onstage antics only prove to provide fuel for his detractors, but you can't knock his stage presence and obvious talent, which attracted salutes from his staunch faithful.

And there will have been one very happy gig-goer who walked home carrying his acoustic guitar, which he threw off stage after the power was cut mid-song after an apparent over-run of the tight time schedule.

Fun Lovin' Criminals were a real crowd pleaser as dusk set in on the picturesque lakeside setting - sending the whole field off on a funky hip-hop bounce that was among the highlights of the day.

Lead singer/guitarist, and BBC Radio 2 and 6 DJ, Huey Morgan's chilled charisma won the crowd and had droves singing and dancing along to the likes of Scooby Snacks, Fun Lovin' Criminal and King of New York, all from their Come Find Yourself album which also celebrated its 21st this year.

Another huge crowd pleaser came from Soul II Soul which again won a field of backing singers grooving along to the likes of Back to Life (However Do You Want Me).

The mighty Buzzcocks also proved popular and saw young and old up on their feet when the now aging punks lashed out Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've) which topped a strong mid-afternoon set.

The main stage was brimming with quality, and that was supported by a second stage that gave a mix of successful soulsters Brand New Heavies and Gabrielle with a big stage for promising local acts.

The dance tent was also a massive puller with veteran DJs Alastair Whitehead and Brendan Block topping the bill and packing the inflatable stage to bulging.

As the music line-up goes this must be the strongest yet and one which could have easily seen all the main acts featured in any of the country's top festivals.

And there was entertainment for all the family with a range of activities for all ages.

The children's comedy stage was a massive hit and left kids giggling with delight as a string of acts ridiculed parents and saw the world from their perspective.

There was also rides, bouncy castles, bungee trampolines, face painting and crafts that all proved a success with families of all ages.

And as a family of festival-goers the organisation was precise and swift and the toilets were all clean and easily accessible which made the day a lot easier that I've experienced at other venues.

A good time was had by all.