What is the point of concerts at Hyde Park?

THE line-up for summer gigs across the UK is beginning to take shape, and once more many big acts will be taking to the road.

Arctic Monkeys are playing two nights at Finsbury Park in London and headline shows at festivals, Kings of Leon are playing the Milton Keynes Bowl and the Newcastle United FC stadium, American rock band Pearl Jam are also playing Milton Keynes, pop filler One Direction have somehow become big enough to do a stadium tour, and big names like The Killers, Kasabian, Blink-182, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Justin Timberlake are all lined up for the big festival headline slots.

London town as ever is having gigs, and as ever, Hyde Park in the middle of the city is hosting some big shows.

This year’s the Queen’s Royal Park is hosting gigs by Neil Young, McBusted, Black Sabbath and The Libertines – the last of whom are reforming specifically for this show.

These gigs are part of the Barclaycard Summer Time Festival – such a fabulously rock n roll title – which hosted The Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi last summer. This has displaced outdoor gigs and the existing Wireless Festival and Hard Rock Calling Festival, which moved away after disappointing mute gigs in 2012 led to promoters Live Nation jumping ship.

Blur’s gig on Olympic Closing Ceremony night was particularly a disappointment, with thousands of concert goers and even Blur frontman Damon Albarn himself voicing disappointment at the venue’s low volume.

Earlier that summer, that was outrage and disappointment when Bruce Springsteen’s performance at Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park was cut during a once-in-a-lifetime jam with Paul McCartney because they’d gone ten minutes over curfew. How rock n roll.

As a performer, Hyde Park is undoubtedly a venue bands would love to play. As well as the prestige factor of performing a venue that has hosted the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who and Fleetwood Mac, there is also the prestige of staring out at a sea of thousands in the middle of a city that have come out specifically to watch you. Certainly, its different to the concrete bowl of football stadiums, or the indoor arenas – basically the same as stadiums but smaller and with a roof.

But for fans, its not quite the same experience. The venue has a limit of 73 decibels and a very strict (and in rock terms, early) curfew, which is largely at the insistence of Mayfair residents. The wealthy London borough adjoins onto the Royal Park, and their residents are not quite so amused at what they presumably perceive as the “rock riff raff” churning up their park, playing late into the night and committing crimes. And unlike the foreign-owned ghost towns Chelsea and Kensington, residents are actually there.

Naturally, you have to take into account some concerns. Just because its two weekends a year doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence, and residents are right to have some leverage if they feel its intolerable to their well-being. But at some point, a little influence becomes too much.

While plugging Bon Jovi’s launch concert of their new Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park, new promoters AEG Live promised a 3 decibel rise in volume because the stage had been moved. This is hardly much of an increase. Hyde Park is 20-30 decibels lower than most outdoor concert venues, and as a result, its sound is significantly weaker than at venues like Wembley or the Emirates.

As if insisting on a stupidly quiet concert was bad enough, the residents of Mayfair now seem to think they can pick who can and can’t play the venue down the road.

After confirmation that The Libertines would reform for a headline show in Hyde Park, local residents weren’t impressed. The chairman of the Mayfair and St. James’ Residents Society said, “We can’t be supportive of this show for obvious reasons. We’ve had meetings over the noise levels and volume controls from the Hyde Park concerts and they have been under control recently. But we can’t be supportive of this sort of individual [Doherty]. Together with the Ozzy Osbourne concert the day before, it’s the last thing we need in the middle of Mayfair.”

Putting aside the musical and personal about the band, the residents are, with all respect, not picking the line-up. You get the feeling if they were, they’d probably just pick acoustic pop gubbins and have it be done by 9pm, or more events like the BBC Proms in the Park.

As for rock acts, one wonder if Hyde Park is really worth the hassle. The residents clearly do not want gigs at Hyde Park, and audience members by and large don’t seem to enjoy the venue experience, and performers can still play big London shows to more people in better-formulated venues.

Hyde Park, by contrast, just doesn’t really cut the mustard, and maybe it is now time bands found better venues to play – ones that will welcome them being there. And let’s face it – with so many other venues hosting bands this summer, its not as if there’s a shortage of places to choose from in future years.

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