It was the BST of times…
Three days of sunshine and joyous partying in Hyde Park kicked off this year’s the British Summer Time concerts
06 July, 2017 — By Róisín Gadelrab
Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong. Photo: David J Hogan/Getty Images
Armed guards patrolling Hyde Park, heightened security all round and knife arches on entry – the initial welcome to this year’s British Summer Time concerts was a sad reminder of how much things have changed in recent times.
While some of these measures may have seemed a little daunting, the fact that such steps had been taken, actually created a sense of relief upon entry and such initial Big Brotherness was soon forgotten… until the explosions that came with Bieber’s fireworks brought these thoughts back for a fleeting second.
But before that, Phil Collins’ general affableness opened this year’s Hyde Park BST concerts against three days of sunshine and good times. Regardless of the genre of the day, the relentless, outrageous breakdancing Cuban Brothers with their culturally dubious personas worked tirelessly on the sidelines to create a non-stop kitchen party throughout the early part of the day.
With the exception of Blondie on Friday, the opening day was unapologetically M.O.R. – from Starsailor to Mike and the Mechanics to Phil Collins – there wasn’t a controversial note to be heard. Over at the top of the field, New Power Generation gave Mike and the Mechanics a run for their money – with endless Prince covers in the numbers to create a joyous dance party.
At the same time, Mike and the Mechanics, joined by sometime lead vocalist Roachford, played a mixed set of classic and new songs, drawing in a mass choir in the form of the audience for The Living Years. Perhaps we were standing in the wrong place but Blondie, wearing waspish conical ears, sounded a little flat, although this didn’t stop her devoted fans from enjoying an energetic performance, regardless of the age of the legendary singer.
Undeterred by his recent injury, Phil Collins came out unceremoniously aided by a walking stick, and entrenched himself in an office-style swivel chair – a little more like the stricken Phil Mitchell of more recent times than an international pop star. Still, the vocals could not be argued with, his singing was as clear as in his heyday. As he ran through the hits Another Day In Paradise, Sussudio etc, the fans danced under the waning sun. The iconic drum solo to In The Air Tonight was aptly provided by Collins’ 16-year-old son Nicholas – playing with the exuberance of his youth and the power of his father’s years to delighted and encouraging cheers.
Hyde Park felt a lot more packed on Saturday with a mainly ageing rocker crowd – and a few punks piercing the skyline with their rainbow mohicans.
The Stranglers packed out the top of the field for their synth-ridden set. Eternal festival band The Hives did their usual thing. Decked out in monochrome uniforms, they brought their familiar car advert rock to the main stage, frontman Pelle Almqvist surprisingly and unnecessarily needy, interspersing songs with attention-claiming pleas to the crowd to pay attention and interact.
A natural early highlight was Gogol Bordello, incomparable to anything else on the line-up, the New York-based gypsy punks bring a completely different style and authenticity to any stage – a festival band of true worth.
Over on the bandstand, Philadelphia’s Beach Slang, one of the lesser-known acts of the day, put on a more than valiant show. Their sound was bigger than their stage, their audience easily won over. Frontman James Alex in School of Rock-Style blazer captured the attention with his cheeky attitude. Their rendition of Pixies’ Where Is My Mind, a popular choice and one to which they did justice. Probably one of the better points of the day.
Green Day gave one of the best shows of the weekend, rallying up the fans to opener Know Your Enemy before progressing through a crammed set. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals have matured from when they first hit the headlines, his cartoon-style voice softer, his messages of rebelliousness about things in general still sparking fists of defiance among his followers. And why not? This is the more commercial side of punk and it clearly has an audience.
The band were extremely generous to their crowd, bringing on individual fans and giving them the opportunity of a lifetime to front the band they idolise. Earnestly encouraged by Billie Joe, who stage-managed the entire show with all the drama of a circus ringmaster, those few moments were probably the most heartwarming of the entire weekend.
With a set-list almost reaching 30 songs, spanning their entire career – from Longview to Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Basket Case to When I Come Around, this must have been one of the most value-for money sets of the entire weekend.
Day three seemed half as full but twice as loud. DJ Martin Garrix blasted out the dance anthems in the blazing sun while five-year olds jumped around in their glitter pumps. Garrix was joined on stage by a surprise appearance from Dua Lipa on Scared To Be Lonely.
Then, a little earlier than billed, Justin Bieber appeared. Without looking at the stage, it was possible to know that he had shown his youthful face as, from the very first note, the tremors of hysteria echoed around the park. Screaming tweens sprinted towards the stage, desperate to catch a glimpse of the runny-nosed Canadian, who at one point was forced to blow his nose on a borrowed white shirt, before telling the crowd how his nose was full of Vicks.
A set full of songs borrowed by fashion website ads and key Made In Chelsea scene changes delighted the youngsters, although Bieber at times looked despondent, defeated and barely attempted to cover the fact that he may have been miming through parts of the set.
He shone on the acoustic parts, his dancers were flawless and the children left delighted, if a little disappointed by the omission of Despacito.