The truth is it makes a great venue. On Sunday, with mostly laid-back rock on the two stages it is small enough to provide an intimate and generally happy vibe. Nowhere near as grungy as Glasto or Leeds Carling, but a good 'grown up' event.
Bizarrely the organisers decided not to show England's crucial second round World Cup match at the event, so, like a large number of other people, I chose to get to the festival after the match.
This means I missed all the earlier acts, and after a wander around the site, popping my head in to see Robyn Hitchcock & The Minus 3 on the second stage, I found a good position at the front of the main stage and decided to stay put for the two headline acts.
|The Flaming Lips go mad at Harewood|
I've never seen Flaming Lips live before but I have read good things about their performances. Wow! From the moment Wayne Coyne announces he intends to surf the crowd in a giant inflatable bubble (he does) the mad and often surreal performance was one of the most amazing festival gigs I've ever seen - complete with dancing Santas and aliens, a smoke machine, massive balloons, a singing nun puppet, giant hands and a load of ticker tape and glitter. And good tunes, including some mass sing-alongs to tracks from what is probably the band's best-known album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
Even the die-hard The Who fans behind me, who were obviously only there to save places for the headliners were heard to whisper to each other "Who are this lot?" - "I don't know, but they are amazing".
At the beginning of the evening I was bit disappointed (but not really surprised) by the grey, chilly weather, but after the Flaming Lips it didn't seem to matter so much and I was really looking forward to The Who.
I have to admit a prejudice here, I am really not a fan of what I call to myself 'Dad-rock'. It's not that I don't like The Who - I have a couple of well-worn albums and spent many happy student hours watching Quadrophenia. It's the idea that they were probably at their best when my dad was a regular concert-goer. There is undoubtably a real thrill from seeing music legends performing live - but are you really going to see a legendary performance now, 30 years on from their prime? So far I have been slightly disappointed by Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and even The Who before (Quadrophenia at Hyde Park, 1996) - David Bowie is the exception that has proved the rule.
Still, I'm here, I'm buzzing, I'm ready to be entertained...
|Daltrey and Townshend on stage|
Townshend and Daltrey begin by telling us they were last in Leeds just a week ago, at the University recreating the gig that led to the Live at Leeds album. It's another reminder that I'm thirty years too late and that Townshend, the man who wrote the lyric "Hope I die before I get old", must now be the proud owner of a free bus pass.
They then launch in to a massive hour and a half-long set with old favourites mixed in with material from their new album. It's hard to tell the difference, which is probably a good sign for the new stuff.
The crowd are loving every minute and so, it seems, are the band - despite the cold. Townshend's all windmills and Daltrey swings the mike around like the proverbial cat. It's hard not to notice that they are, well, old, but they are both definitely looking good on their years. It's good to see them so into their new material but for me it's the oldies that get me jumping - particular favourites were Tommy, See Me, Feel Me and Substitute.
I've checked with my dad and he's seen The Who twice before - once they were brilliant (in the late 60s, when he claims they were at one with the zeitgeist of the time) and once in the 70s when they reformed after the death of Keith Moon (apparently they were awful, obviously antagonistic and not talking to each other). He says he'd rather hold the memories of earlier days and see the Arctic Monkeys instead.
The option of seeing early The Who is not one open to me, but I did really enjoy the festival. Walking out I am still a bit wobbly from feeling the bass and have a satisfying ringing in my ears. I doubt it'll go down in rock history as a classic must-see gig but I have the warm glowing feeling of having stood in a field full of people listening to some great music.
The hour and a half queue to get out of the car park manages to put an end to that and by the time I get home I am in need of tea and bed - I guess I'm getting old and past my prime too.
The Who played the O2 Wireless Festival at Harewood House, Sunday 25 June 2006.