First Night: Cornbury Festival, Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire


'Poshstock' – the festival offering spa treatments, songbirds and Status Quo

Now in its eighth year, the Cornbury Festival has been dubbed "Poshstock" for a host of reasons, most of them instantly verifiable the minute you arrive at its new, even more picturesque site, on the Great Tew Estate in Oxfordshire.

Where else can you be offered a spa treatment under shady trees with the heady smell of linden instantly relaxing you, pick up a free copy of Cotswold Life and nearly get run over by Dom Joly's 4X4 as he waves VIP and car passes to the security team and drives right past you, all in the space of five minutes?

The three day-event is still held in David Cameron's backyard and pulls off a delicate balancing act, catering for the dedicated, the casual and the well-heeled festival-goer, and presenting a healthy mix of current mainstream acts and new emerging artists, as well as performers who made their names in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.

James Blunt, the Marmite singer-songwriter who divides opinions in Britain but still pulls huge crowds across continental Europe, headlined the first night. Three albums in, he perfectly exemplifies the new consensus Britain with his easy-on-the-ears material, too often written by committee.

Another "new David Gray" of recent vintage, Ben Montague kicked things off on the appropriately named Pleasant Valley Stage, ideally positioned on a gentle slope at the edge of the site and affording a fine view to everyone in their deckchairs or on the lush grass.

On the Riverside Stage, London four-piece Melic successfully blended their diverse musical backgrounds – classical, funk, metal and rock – with the bluesy "Nowhere I'd Rather Be" a particular highlight.

Jaunty pop sensation Eliza Doolitle was the first to really get the crowd going and proved an instant hit with the kids. It helped that her set started just after half-five when the audience had settled into the easygoing vibe of an event a million miles removed from the mud and madness of Glastonbury.

Across on the Songbird Stage, Greenwich Village legend Buffy Sainte-Marie introduced an element of danger into the proceedings. Backed by a crack trio of fellow Native Americans, she performed a wide selection of material, including the evergreen and sadly still relevant Sixties protest song "Universal Soldier" – recorded by our very own Donovan – thematically-followed by "Soldier Blue", the title song of the counter-cultural western directed by Ralph Nelson in 1970. She also took a detour around the hits she had a hand in – including the much-recorded "Until It's Time For You To Go" and the Oscar-winning Eighties power ballad "Up Where We Belong" made famous by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes – and talked about her Cree roots and her undying faith in "community". She still looks quite the foxy lady too, if you pardon the expression, though she was soon outdone by Cyndi Lauper, a blur of a girl determined to have fun on the main stage.

With more girl power acts – Imelda May, Sophie Ellis Bextor – and headliners The Faces and Ray Davies due to deliver crowd-pleasing singalong sets today and Status Quo and a connoisseur's curate egg's of a supporting bill tomorrow – former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson, Seventies curios Stackridge, and Cream bassist Jack Bruce, the original Cornbury Festival looks set to roll and roll.

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Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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