After arriving at Victoria station at about 3.30, I made the 15 minute walk up to Hyde Park along Grosvenor Place I entered the south gates into the arena, no food or drinks were allowed into the arena apart from water with an unbroken seal, but this was pretty standard procedure amongst festivals. I grabbed some food from a stand selling meatball filled baguettes and a bottle of water for around the £10 mark and made my way out in front of the mainstage, luckily I had access to the front circle, as the normal standing area was quite a way back!
As Hyde Park operates a first 5000 through the door policy to get a wristband which then allows you to re-enter the front pit, it rewards the diehard fans who had been waiting outside the turnstiles from the early hours to see the legend that is Stevie Wonder.
I was expecting to catch a couple of the supporting artists but missed a few, due to the fact that Stevie was pencilled in for a mammoth 4 hour set! He was due on at 6.15. So the only act left on the main stage before Stevie was Pharrell Williams, he entered the stage at 4.30 for an hour long set, which was full of energy from start to finish, mixing up his set with tracks from his solo album, previous NERD hits and his plethora of production credits. From the gritty 'Rock Star' and 'Lap Dance' to the more soulful 'Beautiful' and 'Drop It Like Its Hot' both hits produced by Pharrell for Snoop Dogg, the set had plenty of variation. He rounded of the set with a few of his better known songs, 'Happy' on which he brought about 20 kids up on stage to dance with him, 'Get Lucky' the Daft Punk mega hit for which he provided vocals, and 'Freedom' leaving the stage to a huge round of applause.
Throughout the 40 minute break the food stalls and bars were pushed to the limits, as everybody recharged their glasses and stomachs before the main event, a 2 part 4 hour show provided by one of the greatest artists to ever grace the stage, Mr Stevland Hardaway Judkins more commonly known as Stevie Wonder!
On entering the stage to possibly the loudest reception I have ever witnessed, Stevie made a short humble speech, stating how he is both humbled and equally disappointed that his album 'Songs In The Key Of Life' is still so relevant today! That he was hoping he wouldn't still need to be singing about Village Ghetto Land in this day and age, before ploughing headfirst into the album!
With the first part of the set featuring the first 12 tracks from the masterpiece 'Songs In The Key Of Life' the crowd stood listening and singing back to Stevie with nothing but the utmost reverence for 'The 8th Wonder of the World' with 'Sir Duke and 'I Wish' really shining out for me! As you would expect from such an artist Stevie's band was faultless throughout the whole evening, but this was boosted by an 8 piece orchestra, which brought a beautiful and often tear jerking richness to the sound. In about 90 minutes which had seemed like a flash the first 12 songs had been delivered with a professionalism which one can only learnt after so many years leading the business! Stevie addressed the crowd in his finest received English accent declaring that everyone had time to go and get some Guinness and use the lavatory.
After returning for the second half of the evening's performance, Wonder again had a short chat to the crowd explaining that when he woke up he was incapable of singing a note and that he was having to keep his throat medicated with a drink which he referred to as some real nasty shit, and explained that he would be taking a little bit of a aback seat for a while and letting his awesome backing singers take over the show a little, he still brought his beautiful voice in where it was needed, delivering a heart-warming rendition of 'Isn't She Lovely' but dropped a few covers into the show to utilise his band and singers a little more, throughout this section I think Wonder played no less than 7 instruments, including piano keyboard and lap steel guitar this, as Stevie and the band drew the performance of 'Songs In The Key Of Life' to a close he made a transformation, announcing that for the last 30 minutes of the performance Stevie Wonder was no more! That his alter ego would be taking charge, DJ Tick Tick Boom! In a segment Stevie took to his Set up of samplers and DJ equipment, and played a short mixed medley of prince songs in honour of his friend who had tragically passed away this year. Before returning to the pianos for a closing salvo of 'Part time Lover' 'Signed Sealed Delivered' and a show stopping version of 'Superstition'.
All in all a top show delivered by a master tradesman! But I couldn't help but wonder if this could have been a real moment in music history had Stevie not been suffering with his throat! Mind you he did threaten to come back and do it all again next year? Booking team at British Summer Time Festival over to you.
latest on this festival
line-ups & rumours
with Nile Rodgers & CHIC, and Grace Jones, on Sunday 11th July 2021
with Pixies (Friday), and IDLES (Saturday)