"They don't make 'em like they used to," sings Chrissie Hynde on "Pop Star," from the Pretenders' latest album. At the 10th Fleadh festival, on a weighty bill that included Elvis Costello and Van Morrison, it was a young pretender, Ronan Keating, who proved her point.
When the Boyzone singer started to sing his debut solo single, "Nothing at All," for the second time, after a succession of technical hitches made a mess of his first rendition, the crowd were not impressed.
It was the perfect day for London's longest-running party in the park, however, and the sunshine ensured that everybody was in the mood for dancing.
Afro-Celt Sound System performed, as their name suggests, an unlikely fusion of dance sounds from two continents. The mix of West African rhythms and Celtic pipes looks like a mistake on paper, but worked perfectly in a sweltering field. Canada's Barenaked Ladies provided a hilarious medley of most of 1999's chart hits. They also forced the reluctant crowd to sing along to Chris De Burgh's "Lady in Red" ("Come on — even if you hate it you know it. It's Irish!").
Elvis Costello, armed with only a guitar and ex-Attraction Steve Nieve on keyboards, played a hushed set that would have been better suited to more intimate surroundings. Old hits including "Pump It Up" and "Oliver's Army" cheered up an audience that only really wanted to sing along. Van Morrison was intermittently lively, wheeling out skiffle legend Lonnie Donegan for a funky duet.
But it was Hynde and her band who stole the show. Claiming to be awestruck at being invited to share a stage with Costello and Morrison, the Pretenders proceeded to play a set packed with style, energy and great tunes. Despite having a new album, Viva El Amor!, to promote, classics from the band's 20 years of stardom such as "Talk of the Town," "I'll Stand By You" and "Stop Your Sobbing" were all present.
Hynde's husband, Lucio Brieva, was dragged on stage for a kiss during "Don't Get Me Wrong," to celebrate their wedding anniversary. The Pretenders sped gleefully through an array of hits, even finding time for a cheeky parody of Van Morrison before sending the audience home, safe in the knowledge that the old ones are still the best.