Written by General Jabbo
While many festivals have boasted incredible lineups of music, the one held at Knebworth in June of 1990 has often been called the best British rock concert of all time. With a lineup featuring Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Elton John, Phil Collins, Genesis, Tears for fears, Dire Straits, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, and Status Quo, it would be difficult to argue against that claim.
The artists chosen were previous winners of the Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef Award, recognizing acts that make outstanding contributions to the British music industry. The concert itself was a benefit for Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy and the Brit School of Performing Arts. The CD will raise money for those charities.
While the concert was an all-day affair, the CD features highlights of the bands, leading off with two songs from Tears for Fears, including a spirited version of their hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Up next are Status Quo, who deliver a fine cover of John Fogerty’s “Rockin’ All Over the World” and Cliff Richard and the Shadows with legendary guitarist Hank Marvin doing “Do you Wanna Dance” and “On the Beach.”
Robert Plant’s set included the then popular “Hurting Kind” and “Tall Cool One,” but the real highlight was an appearance by Jimmy Page on the seldom-played Led Zeppelin classic “Wearing and Tearing.” Up next is Genesis with “Mama” and “”Turn it on Again,” the latter of which evolved into a medley of classic 1960s songs including “Somebody to Love,” “Satisfaction,” and “Twist and Shout.”
Phil Collins opens disc two with his version of “Sussudio,” while Eric Clapton plays a funky version of the Cream classic “Sunshine of Your Love.” Dire Straits offer “I Think I Love You Too Much” while Elton John has two songs, including a fun “Saturday Night’s All Right (For Fighting)."
Two heavyweights close the show in Paul McCartney and Pink Floyd, though only two songs are included from each act (“Coming Up” and “Hey Jude” and “Comfortably Numb” and “Run Like Hell” respectively). If there’s a problem with this set, it is this: McCartney’s set alone was roughly 45 minutes, including a John Lennon tribute not included here. While putting out the entire concert may not be feasible for the average buyer, perhaps a deluxe edition could have solved this with all of the performances, or perhaps individual CDs for the bigger artists at the show, with the proceeds from those going to charity as well.
For fans that just want an overview though, Live at Knebworth is an excellent document of this historic event. It’s not often one can find this many big names doing their biggest hits in one place.