7,000 take part in Busk on the Usk

12:34pm Sunday 1st July 2012

By Maria Williams

THE London 2012 Festival came to Newport - and created a homecoming for two of Gwent's musical sons.

Around 7,000 people went to concerts and talks, visited market stalls and watched street performances during Newport's free festival, Busk on the Usk, organised by the Green Man Festival and part of the cultural olympiad.

The event on Saturday at the Riverfront, Newport's university city campus and acts along Kutaisi Walk in between, attracted a mix of local acts and big musical names.

Headline act Scritti Politti - led by Cwmbran's Green Gartside - performed in the city for the first time despite a long musical pedigree.

"Blimey, this is terrifying - home turf," Gartside said, opening his set with the classic track from Songs To Remember, Sweetest Girl, followed later by Jacques Derrida.

There was, of course, plenty of crafted Eighties pop - including The Word Girl and Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) - and Gartside's > strong reggae influence.

Later tracks like Die Alone showed his love of hip-hop, despite the fact collaborator Mos Def was not in Newport to "spit out the rhymes".

Gartside joked: "There is no more unedifying sight than a middle aged white man rapping, but you don't want to be edified do you?"

A number were "written above the dentist's in Llanthewy Road", there were anecdotes about hanging out with Kraftwerk and using Joni Mitchell's guitar.

At times, Gartside seemed a little nervous - but got a warm welcome from a packed auditorium.

There was also a homecoming for Newport's own Jon Langford, who strode onto the Riverfront's headline stage in a packed theatre and joked: "We'll be doing songs about Newport - that's all we've got."

The former Mekon dedicated his song The Pill Sailor to the late John Sicolo, and if we wanted Newport name-checks we got plenty of them > during his set - Blewitt Street, Clarence Place and the newsagent where schoolboy Jon used to buy his lunch, which happened to be underneath Joe Strummer's flat.

In tribute, Chicago-based Langford and his band performed Strummer's song X-Ray Style, alongside a taut version of The Go-Betweens' The Streets of Your Town, Deep Sea Diver and The Ballad of Solomon Jones.

His homecoming included bringing a harmonica-playing mate on stage, backing vocals from two Canadian-Welsh male voice choir members and a > jokey rapport with the crowd.

Welsh Indie act Cate Le Bon was a somewhat more ethereal experience - with a stripped-down set in front of a star-spangled backdrop.

There was just her voice, keyboard and a guitar for songs like Fold The Cloth and That Moon.

Anyone looking for something more meaty was soon rewarded with the dark heart of Anna Calvi, and a show-stopping set which was the hit of the festival.

The musical love-child of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey put in a virtuoso guitar performance alongside soaring vocals, and left her audience cheering in a standing ovation with her set, including Blackout, Desire, Morning Light and Love Won't Be Leaving.


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