The sun is pouring down on London’s Hyde Park on this, the first day of the British Summertime Festival. This is a series of individual concerts held on over a two-week period. Entering the site free Ben and Jerry’s frozen yoghurt is on offer to get the happy revellers in the feel good summer mood. Walking around the park there is everything a discerning Notting Hill resident could want in culinary delights, ranging from the now fashionable tea and crumpets to fish and chips, hog roast sandwiches, premium burgers, frozen yoghurt, mojitos and a mini pie shop all upmarket and tasteful for the estimated 60,000 revellers.
The vibe is colourful and relaxed; carnival is here! There are show girls in plumes, stilt dancers in carnival masks. The Cuban Brothers are on the appropriately named Carnival stage, with sensational dance moves, sharp comedy and infectious energy served up with old school soulful beats.
Juxtaposed to all this energy are Wild Beasts over on the Oak Stage (main stage) seemingly incongruous in comparison to the samba party atmosphere of the Carnival Stage. They never the less are appreciated for their intense performance with polite applause from the crowd. Eager to explore the festivals other offerings I make my way across the site and find myself in the intimate Sony Unlimited Tent watching (and very much enjoying) The Hearts who’s set is bursting with hook-laden anthemic guitar pop.It’s in this very same tent that Public Service Broadcasting will be appearing later, and I do wonder if the venue is a little too small/cosy for them. True enough after a wander around the many many stalls, I make my way back only to find that I cannot get in due to the high number of people already inside, and those queuing to get in. So I give up and head to the Oak Stage.
The stratospheric rise of a certain Jake Bugg certainly has divided opinion, at a young age he is already a veteran of the larger stages having previously played Hyde Park and of course Glastonbury to name a few. This is no doubt why he seems so confident and comfortable on-stage as the main support. He glides through his set with few words and a workman like performance, whilst the crowd sing-along in the warm evening sunshine with huge smiles on their faces.
You can spot the headliner fans, young girls in shimmering dresses glinting in the sun all glam with glitter on their faces as they await Arcade Fire.
'8.30 ARCADE FIRE' promises the screen on stage, and the anticipation is palpable. Here come the Paper Mache heads (The Refelktors) to herald the bands entrance, Win Butler minus his now trademark eye 'mask', salutes the crowd and the set kicks off with 'Normal Person' It’s a different set to the faultless Glastonbury one, with more intense reflective songs, 'Intervention', 'Rococo' and 'Month of May', interspersed with the crowd pleasers 'No Cars Go', 'Ready to Start', 'Reflector', 'Rebellion (Lies)', 'Tunnels', and 'Power Out'. The crowd dance an abandoned jig to 'Sprawl'. with a smiling happy Regine Chassagne thanking the them. “It’s Never Over” is mesmerising, “We Exist” pulsating and the crowd dance throughout out the park for “Here Comes The Night Time” cannons shoot paper confetti and “Wake Up” culminates in a crowd chorus sing along. Everyone feels like they have been to a party no one wants to leave. Win Butler remarks “this is thelast time we see you London, take care of yourselves” hopefully this wasn’t meant to be taken literally.
As good as their Glastonbury set was, I felt their performance more suited to a sunset slot as that’s exactly what we got at Hyde Park. What could be better than the warmth of the setting sun, and pink –blue sky, beer in hand and singing your heart out with 60,000 like-minded people?
So, with Day 1 out of the way, it’s onto the “metal” day which finds Black Sabbath headlining. The first thing that is noticeable as I make my way on site in gleaming sunshine is the different crowd. Gone are the hipsters and indie kids, and in its place I find a real mixture of the old and young. Yes, some of course are in standard-issue black with long hair etc, but the audience is more diverse than that. Clearly the music and line-up transcends stereotype.
First up on the Oak Stage are Soulfly who most defiantly blow away the cobwebs and clearly state their intent. Their brief set providing the perfect appetiser to the day ahead. They have been around the block a few times, but no-one can deny their rightful place in the annuls of rock history as Motorhead are next to grace the 'Oak'. Yes they have the history, the back catalogue but something for me was missing. It’s true that Lemmy Kilmister is not the most energetic of performers preferring to remain static behind his mike stand, so it’s up to guitarist Phil Campbell to 'carry' the show and bring some much needed zest and movement to proceedings. Something he does with aplomb as he makes use of every square inch of the stage. Having said that, and despite Lemmy’s recent heart problems he remains an imposing presence.
Having not seen this next band live for at least 18 years, as far as I was concerned, Faith No More were my headliners. Dressed as men of the clergy, they waste no time getting straight into the hits, 'From Out Of Nowhere' grabbing you by the throat.. They bring some much needed vigour and urgency to the afternoon, a glorious 'Epic' is delivered and dispatched with precision working the crowd into hysteria as they chant/sing along. During a triumphant set, lead singer Mike Patton’s only mis-step may have been mentioning the Amercian Public holiday the 4th of July (which was today) to a very muted response. His retort being “Oooooh, that’s where we kick your ass”. Ending their set with 'We Care A Lot' , they came, they played, they conquered.
Soundgarden scaled the mainstream back in 1994 with the release of 'Superunknown' and tonight sees then perform this in it’s entirety and according to lead singer Chris Cornell, for the last time. It’s not long before Black Sabbath take to the stage. It’s been a day of re-acquaintance between band and fans, so its fitting that they should be the main draw for today. It’s Ozzy Osbourne’s wedding anniversary today, and it appears Sharon Osbourne has agreed to let him out to play with the boys. Something the massed throngs are no doubt happy and grateful for. This could be one of (if not) the last time this line-up plays live, so every moment is savoured. They end of course with 'Paranoid' as Hyde Park erupts. Is this truly the end? 60,000 fans hope not!
British Summertime is nothing but diverse, today the boybands are coming for us and resistance is futile. McBusted top the bill tonight, but before we get to that there is much to sample. Upon another seamless arrival on-site we are greeted by the news that the Theatre Stage has been closed for safety reasons.
Five were due to perform there today, its not hard to see why in a field of 60,000 that Five (amongst other big draws) would be heavily over-subscribed in a venue that perhaps holds no more than 400. So, they are off the bill, whilst some of the other artist moved to other stages.
Opening the Oak stage are urban street dancers Diversity, who much like everyone else has witnessed their incredible routines on the television. Having been very familiar with them, I wasn’t expecting much, however I was wrong. They were simply incredible with their jaw-dropping antics on stage. A fine way to get today’s show on the road.
As expected, today is very much a family day and has a nice relaxed feel to it. The sun again is shining (which helps). I do hear on my travels throughout the site mutterings about the price of food and drink etc, whilst I would agree to a degree with that sentiment, it is sadly to be expected at all these types of major outdoor shows or festivals.
Despite this, everyone is in good spirits and the screaming (I have never heard anything like it) for The Vamps as they take to the stage is incredible. It’s easy to see why they appeal to young girls, they have the looks, the moves and the pop songs that sees them crowd singing every word.
For a slightly older generation, it’s the next act that generates much the same (if not more) excitement. The Backstreet Boys have come to show how it’s done, their show is slick as you would expect and choc-full of radio friendly hits. There is a sense they want to be taken more seriously as Nick Carter picks up a guitar and they tell the audience how they are writing songs as they break into an acoustic set. It’s not long before they are back with the dance routines and pop hits, its at this moment the heavens open (for the first time this weekend) and we are deluged by a thunderstorm. This however is not enough to dampen anyone’s spirit.
And so, it’s the moment that mums/dads and their offspring has been waiting for as McBusted are lowered to stage from above in a full sized DeLorean. Talk about making an entrance. Pandemonium ensues as the hybrid of Busted and McFly leap, jump, bound and throw themselves all over the stage. Although no longer a “boy” band, some of their audience has grown up with them, some of the younger children present with their parents would perhaps not known what to make of some of the crude or sexually overt aspects of the show. But it was done with a cheeky wink, and went over most young children’s heads.
There was mix of hits from their respective back catalogues. They perform tirelessly for the crowd and even though I wouldn’t class myself as a fan, they were an exuberant joy to watch.
All in all, it’s been a very diverse but enjoyable 3 days at British Summertime. The weather of course helped, and despite one or two performances; it’s been a blast. Yes there will be some criticism over the closure of the one of the stages, or the wisdom of booking artists onto stages/venues far too small for them and also the size VIP hospitality/premium area. But overall (and judging by all the smiling faces) the majority left happy.
I look forward to see what they have in store for 2015.
latest on this festival
playing in Hyde Park on Saturday 14th July 2018 with Khalid
on Saturday 14th July with Khalid & more
line-ups & rumours
playing BST at Hyde Park and arenas round the UK