Hessentag, Heppenheim, 20th June 2004

Set List

I'm Alive / Here I Go Again / Jennifer Eccles / On a Carousel / Sorry Suzanne / Just One Look 

Listen to Me / I Can't Tell the Bottom from the Top / I Can't Let Go / Look Through Any Window / Bus Stop / Blackberry Way / Blowin' In The Wind / Carrie Anne / Long Cool Woman / Stop Stop Stop / He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother / The Air That I Breathe / It's In Every One of Us

 

A ridiculously early morning flight from Berlin to Frankfurt enabled four intrepid travellers to check in to their Heppenheim hotel early, have a nap, then spend the rest of the day exploring the town.  

The Hollies last played the Hessentag festival back in June 2002 when it was hosted by Idstein, a quaint medieval town close to Frankfurt. Heppenheim is similar to Idstein in many ways and proved just as splendid a host for the festival. Bustling and picturesque, it shares similar architecture and characteristics and the atmosphere invoked by the festival lining the streets was just the same. In full swing already by 10am there was music on every corner, hundreds of stalls crammed with arts and crafts for sale and cafes and restaurants packed with people dedicated to eating, drinking and being merry.  

Heppenheim

By the time evening came, we were feeling just a little jaded, but looking forward to seeing the band perform in this great environment. As we made our way to the “Festplatz” in the blazing heat, it became clear that the Hollies were just one of many musical attractions on in town that night. The venue was a fair walk from the centre of town, but numerous identical white tents later we finally located the one where they were to play. It was absolutely huge, and equipped in true German style with numerous bars and food stalls. It was also jam packed with punters almost as soon as the gates opened which made waiting for the first act to appear pretty uncomfortable; hot and sticky with very little room to manoeuvre! We miraculously managed to get through the crowd and secure a spot pretty close to the front.  

At around 8pm The Tremeloes took to the stage. This band get better each time I see them; fun, energetic and talented with a string of fantastic tunes. The audiences love them and they are a brilliant opening act for festivals such as these, charming and warming up the crowds with inimitable style.  

Our lads were up next. Thankfully by now there was a little more space down at the front and a bit of breeze circulating through the tent. As soon as the crew had re-set the stage, on they burst to perform the best show so far this summer.  

You wouldn’t have believed they’d just endured a long hot journey as they attacked the familiar hits with energy and fervour. Carl’s showmanship and enjoyment of crowds such as these shone through from the very start as he played with them, addressing them in German and encouraging and goading them to sing along with the hits. “I’m Alive”, “Here I Go Again” and “Jennifer Eccles” were particularly crowd-pleasing.  The quieter strains of “Listen to Me” and “I Can’t Tell The Bottom from The Top” didn’t have quite the same effect; I’m not sure they were so familiar to the audience, but they were performed as beautifully as ever with soaring vocals from Alan.  

From “I Can’t Let Go” onward Carl started to display antics that have become characteristic of these summer festivals. Blowing kisses, planting smackers on a long-suffering Tony, teasing the crowd about the recent football results and attempting to translate a somewhat derogatory remark about one David Beckham into German! The microphone stand suffered as much as usual, as he bent and swayed it, the microphone even finding its way down the front of the trousers at one point (enough said – definitely the heat!!). It was great to see him looking so well and enjoying himself so much on stage.  

Photo by Helen

“Look Through Any Window” was a rip-roaring success with incredible guitar work from Alan and Tony. “Blackberry Way” is always a favourite in Germany and was no exception tonight with some fantastic karaoke towards the end. The crowd were wonderful, the atmosphere inside the tent just electric.   

The announcement of “Blowin’ In The Wind” and Bob Dylan’s name were met with cries of appreciation. The crowd hushed as Carl delivered what are now his trademark sustained notes to open the song. He seems to be taking these to another level this summer; they were more powerful and prolonged tonight, prompting a mischievous Ray to check his watch in jest! I think the rest of the crowd were too impressed by the vocal to notice.  

“Carrie-Anne” prompted another of Carl’s extraordinary trademarks – that dance! Those who witness it never forget it. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” paved the way for much bouncing on the spot from the front man, and an excellent extended introduction from Tony on the banjo. It has been a while since he has played this and the German festival crowds loved it.

After this roller coaster of hits and relentless energy came an abrupt change of pace for the three concluding ballads. “He Ain’t Heavy” never ceases to sound amazing. The passion and vigour of Carl’s vocal tonight was more pronounced then ever. He sang with dramatic effect and true feeling as the crowd swayed in time with their cigarette lighters and various other illuminations. “The Air That I Breathe” was beautiful, and the show ended quietly and traditionally with “It’s In Everyone of Us”, the harmonies and lyrics filling the tent. A unique end to a truly marvellous show which hopefully sets the standard for the rest of the year.  

Carl during "Heavy"

Every time I worry the Hollies might not perform to their usual standard, for whatever reason – the heat, tiredness, an unbearably long journey – they not only prove me wrong, but surpass themselves. And every time I don’t believe Carl can get any better as a singer and a showman, he does. Shows like this remind me just how lucky I am to have found him and how delighted I am he is still performing to the extent that so many others around the world are able to witness his unique talent. I hope it continues for a long time yet. 

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