Mass yoga sessions, roller disco and sports day events are all passed upon arrival, to give an indicator of the diversion that Citadel are taking. With time to visit ‘Sunday Papers Live’ too – dipping into discussions on the banking sector, democracy and combatting extremism – punters could happily mill around Victoria Park’s various attractions for much of the afternoon. It takes the unapologetic appearance of Honeyblood on the DIY x Communion stage to interrupt the early afternoon pleasantries.
With their sun-kissed melodies embellished by the glorious weather it’s the sweeter side of their performance that leaves the greatest mark this afternoon. ‘Super Rat’ and the new ‘Love Is A Disease’ might invoke a more dismal outlook than the surroundings, but it’s the crunching yet undeniably endearing presentation that sweetens their bitter lyricism. Rhodes is no less suited to the arena, and whilst the delicacy of his more acoustically grounded early material might raise questions over his suitability to the bigger outdoor stage, it’s a gloriously well-rounded display with a fullness to match the buzz.
With Citadel promising to hold a mirror up to London’s rich musical pulse, it’s over on the Soundcrash stage where the line up’s most bonafide London icon appears. “I love this park… I used to rollerblade in this park”, announces Roots Manuva – moments later embarking on the ever-potent ‘Witness’.
With the evening drawing in, we turn predominantly to the main stage. After seeing his former band mates in The War on Drugs reach stratospheric levels of acclaim over the previous eighteen months, Kurt Vile will hope to ride that wave with his forthcoming record. There’s something rather spellbinding – be it the meandering ‘Wakin on a Pretty Day’ or the more expressive ‘Freak Train’ – to each side of his work, and while it’s tentatively received you feel the reaction is more anticipation for the familiarity of what’s to follow than a rejection of Vile himself.
For Bombay Bicycle Club, there’s no such uncertainty. From the moment the whispering introduction of ‘Overdone’ can be made out, their suitability for this crowd and environment is never in question. Their records are each archetypal summer-in-the-park, and of Britain’s current crop there is nobody better suited to soundtrack the sunset in such an environment. While his Portico ex-band mates have reinvented themselves through the murky depths of electronica, Nick Mulvey’s closing set on the DIY x Communion stage reveals magical reinvention of its own through a rethought version of ‘Nitrous’ and a cover of Björk’s ‘Bachelorette’ – “I love the words so much” he says, before singing the latter’s verse once more.
While Ben Howard’s closing headline set may feel a little one-track at times – even the breakout ‘Keep Your Head Up’ struggles to reach the more upbeat appeal of its recorded version – he and his band are at the peak of their powers when their folky progressions reach climax. Some of the quieter intricacies may be lost among the chatter of an evening, outdoor crowd, but with the engrossing ‘End of the Affair’ proving a fierce set highlight, he shows why he’s one of the more captivating artists to emerge from his field, closing the curtain on what will likely be the first of many Citadel ventures.
Photos: Matt Richardson
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