Sound issues make for a shaky start for Blood Orange, but the tropical groove instilled in ‘You’re Not Good Enough’ and ‘Uncle ACE’ gets things underway, Dev Hynes strutting coolly around the main stage. A short hike finds Georgia churning out far dirtier sounds: her dystopian drum and bass noise provides a welcome oasis from all the corporate tat and floral décor, before Poliça, who pack a punch with their dual drum kit set-up and Channy Leaneagh’s icy vocals bewitching on every note.
Not even a biblical opening of the heavens can rain on Jamie xx’s parade. The superstar DJ / all-round swell guy plays to a wall-to-wall audience, despite brewing storm clouds above. It’s the perfect warm up for what’s to come; the Skepta version of ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ is a rehearsal in rhyme spitting for all the Kendrick fans, and a ballsy spin of ‘You’ve Got the Love’ (The xx remix) serves only to whet our appetites rather than upstage tonight’s headliner. ‘Loud Places’ ices the rainbow cake of the ‘In Colour’ experience in the way that only a summer anthem can.
A late start due to weather does little to subside the buzz around Kendrick Lamar. Hell, Hyde Park could flood to chest height and no one would bat an eyelid right now, as a jazz-funk cacophony heralds the arrival of a living legend. In jeans and a red, white and blue sweater he looks London, but oozes LA. Hits come thick and fast with little room to breathe: ‘m.A.A.d city’ frames the set in two parts while ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’, ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and ‘Money Trees’ keep BST jumping for a solid hour. With the music comes a showman in his element. His devilish charm plays off any notion that the age-old left side / right side crowd-play he employs is a rehearsed performance, here it’s more a vibe-off between star and audience. ‘King Kunta’ and ‘Alright’ bring a strategic high to the end of a headline-worthy appearance.
A year ago, thereabouts, Florence Welch found herself in the unique position of topping the Glastonbury bill with just days’ notice. It went pretty well. Twelve months later, she’s closing ‘How Big How Blue How Beautiful’ with a hometown show just a stone’s throw away from her first Florence + The Machine gig. “I don’t remember it because I was so drunk,” she quips, between sprinting barefoot from one end of the stage to the other.
Her show is tight and awe-inspiring throughout, from those powerful vocals to the vivid flashes of nature on the screens behind. ‘What the Water Gave Me’ is a sombre opener, but proves surprisingly easy for the crowd to jump to, while ‘Rabbit Heart’ ups both tempo and spirits, when “as many people as possible” are encouraged to get on shoulders. An astonishing intimacy can be felt in Hyde Park, no more so than for ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’. It’s not a stretch to imagine Florence cramming her eleven-piece backing band back into a tiny pub in East London. And yet, in places the show is weary. Ad-libs debuted months ago are used once more, the setlist is short and predictable. Then again, perennials ‘You’ve Got the Love’ and ‘Dog Days Are Over’ draw proceedings to a close with a perfect sing-along moment under a picturesque London sunset.
The lid is closed, then, on the ‘How Big…’ era, with style and elegance. Go get some shuteye, Florence.
Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett
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Written for the upcoming film, ‘Cruella’.
Recorded for Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy annual Christmas concert.
And all proceeds will go to Intensive Care Society COVID-19 Fund.
Her swansong performance for the ‘High As Hope’ run is just as hypnotic and emotive as her first.