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  • Writer's pictureNick Meynell

The Primitives and The Verve, Godiva Festival, Coventry Memorial Park, 5th July 2024

Less of a festival review and more of what can be done by local government to help local culture. After all, I’m only doing one of the three days and even then only arrived mid evening to catch two bands, and various local talent passing other stages.

 

The Godiva Festival is celebrating its 25th year, and takes place in the rather pleasant Memorial Park - a bit of a gem in an otherwise generally unloved city. It used to be free and was duly voted the UKs best free festival for a number of years. With that came some issues in terms of anti-social behaviour and drug related crime. That said, in numerous years (well over twenty on and off of attending I never encountered any issues. My bigger concern was always bumping into somebody from the school where I teach, something I (and they!) like to avoid.



Previous headliners have included Maximo Park, The Charlatans, Levellers, Echo And The Bunnymen, Libertines, Supergrass and The Enemy, to name a few. Friday night tends to be more guitar/indie/retro with Saturday and Sunday perhaps more mainstream and family orientated. Massive respect to Coventry City Council for putting this event on for a quarter of a century. I do notice on the side of stage that this is also partly funded by the national government. If only I’d known on Thursday, perhaps I’d have been more sympathetic towards Mr Sunak.



Beer prices are just about OK, and parking is on site, or easy in nearby residential areas. Better still is a mainline station a 15 minute walk away. Given a 10.30 finish, you could be back in London Euston before midnight. I can’t remember the ticket prices, but they are not much more than the cost of a pint there and weekend/family tickets are very good value.



Coventry legends The Primitives are enthusiastically introduced onto the main stage and kick off with Thru The Flowers and Spacehead from debut LP Lovely. I first saw them supporting the Bunnymen in the late 80s and it was difficult not to like their indie guitar pop. Other bands such as The Wedding Present and The House of Love tended to grab my attention more, but I did buy their second album, Pure, on CD, as vinyl then was clearly a dying format. I’ll need to keep an eye out for second hand Primitives records, and there should be a few of them about locally.



Sick Of It gets a play from that said album as does Spin-O-Rama (from 2014 Spin-O-Rama). One track which I didn’t immediately recognise is dedicated to bassist Steve Dullaghan who sadly died over a decade ago. Throughout I find Tracy Tracy’s voice in good form, although other I know on social media felt differently. The sound quality is impressive anyway and perhaps due to the inclement rain, the area in front of the stage is comfortable. The main stage is below the standing area which makes for decent views.

 

I love the guy who is doing the signing just to the right of stage. Massively enthusiastic, and far too young to be an indie kid in the late 80s. He lovingly throws in some air guitar and drumming. What a fantastic skill and again a most welcome inclusive initiative. A second equally enthusiastic man signs for Richard Ashcroft, but clearly in need of a bucket hat for authenticity. 



Their set concludes with the obvious Crash. A younger work colleague who has joined me suddenly recognises this one. It was also heartening to see even more youthful people who had clearly found The Primitives somehow. It was also nice to see a 17 year old A Level student who I currently teach (ignore previous comments!) giving the band a good listen too. I was 17 too when I first heard them. 



Richard Ashcroft can be rather annoying to be fair for various reasons. However tonight he is anything but that. He starts (before even the first song Space And Time) with a tribute to his Coventry born grandma, and the city’s rich musical heritage. He says how his grandma survived the 1940 bombing which destroyed the cathedral (Coventry has two now - one without a roof!). Very fitting given that the Memorial Park is dedicated to those who lost their lives during the two World Wars, and even has a German Peace garden.



Sonnet follows which reminds us how impressive Richard Ashcroft’s songwriting and voice is. The Verve songs (particularly Urban Hymns) make up nearly three quarters of the set unsurprisingly, as it is an absolute classic. No need for Ashcroft to announce a Liam Gallagher style 30th anniversary tour in 2027 - he is doing it already.

 

Music Is Power and Break The Night With Colour from 2006 LP Keys To The World are two of the non-Verve songs to be played, the other, the wonderful A Song For The Lovers, again nearly 25 years’ old. Nothing from Natural Rebel or These People, his last two solo albums is played. Nor sadly The Verve’s Love is Noise from their Forth (post reformation) album of the same title, which I love. We do however get a beautiful acoustic On Your Own, which probably epitomises his songwriting and singing brilliance. Bitter Sweet Symphony is of course the natural encore. Chris Martin introduced this at Live 8 as the best song ever written! Ian McCullough said the same thing on this very Godiva stage a few years back about his own song The Killing Moon. You be the judge.



So, a very pleasant evening for various reasons. It was the first day in 14 years without an insufferable Tory government, and my last day of work prior to a rather long summer holiday (and teachers moan!). Add in some pleasant company and bumping into a few other people unexpectedly, and the rain was pretty much ignored. The Gore-Tex only had to handle precipitation and not beer (or worse!) What I am missing Saturday and Sunday ? Lady Leshurr, KAWALA, Sam Ryder, Paloma Faith, The Brand New Heavies and Beverley Knight. Perhaps not to my taste, but a fairly eclectic mix. Well worth a visit if you are in the Midlands in early July.


Editor – I was due to see The Primitives earlier this year supporting Hugh Cornwall, but they cancelled on the day. I was gutted, as I only really went to finally see them. Next time, I will go with Nick! See more here - Hugh Cornwell, but no Primitives, Islington Assembly Hall, 25th January 2024.


As for Richard Ashcroft, his recent views on many topics have left me a little disillusioned with him. And frankly, his solo records have been on a steady decline for years. But oh, how I loved The Verve back in the 90s - they were one of the first bands I wrote about on here - A Storm In Hammersmith - The Verve, Hammersmith Palais, 14th August 1997.


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