Live Review: British Summer Time Festival / Phil Collins – 30th June 2016 – Hyde Park, London, UK
With the UK festival scene now in full swing with avid concertgoers eager to take over the parks, fields and farms throughout the UK to see some of their favourite acts, London’s Hyde Park remains one of the key spots to gather friends for a stellar line up of top selling acts and one festival in particular – British Summer Time – continues to dominate the festival calendar in the capital each year.
Previous years have been hugely successful summer time events with the likes of Florence and the Machine, Carole King, Massive Attack, Take That, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, Kylie Minogue and Tom Jones all claiming a headliner title in previous years. The pedigree of this years line-up is no different with superstars Justin Bieber, Green Day, The Killers, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Kings of Leon all set to thrill music lovers over the course of the next 7 days and it was the first of these shows that took place last night with a string of music’s most elite opening up the BST Festival for 2017.
::: Starsailor :::
Promoting their soon to be released studio album All This Life, Starsailor, who began their career on a peak with the critically acclaim debut Love Is Here in 2000, cracked the lid on this years festival and it’s enviable lineup of international best selling acts, and a day that was set to see the likes of Mike and the Mechanics, Blondie and Phil Collins play to a sold out Hyde Park crowd.
“You’ll probably recognize this next song if you’ve taken any hedonistic holidays to Ibiza”, lead singer James Walsh announced before setting off into Four to the Floor while the park slowly started filling up with the crowds spilling in through both entrances and taking up prime positions for the day.
As the crowd downed ciders and licked ice creams despite the overcast sky and the seemingly likely chance of rain, the band offered a sturdy intro to this years event with radio- friendly indie/pop numbers including the catchy Tell Me It’s Not Over, a short cover of The Beatles classic, Come Together and early naughtiest hit, Silence Is Easy. After a brief a capella of The Shirelle’s hit Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, signature Starsailor single Good Souls was given an appreciative response from the crowd after Walsh dedicated the performance of the track to the victims of all of the recent tragedies in London and Manchester this year. A brief set for the band but a nice introduction to the long day ahead.
::: KC and Sunshine Band :::
As 4pm rolled around, members of KC and the Sunshine Band began to take their places on the Great Oak Stage. In front of a vibrant backdrop of colour, some of the disco eras biggest hits were delivered by the band who danced the length and width of the stage with giant neon coloured feather boas and eccentric outfits with set additions Shake Shake Shake (Shake Your Booty) and the instrumentally boppy Saturday Night Fever film soundtrack inclusion, Boogie Shoes being clear winners within the collectives playful set.
Lead singer Harry Wayne Casey shone as he reminded the crowd of the bands impressive back catalogue of disco/funk toe-tappers and swaying ballads such as Please Don’t Go; holding the final note of the track for an impressive length of time while pop classic Give It Up had the majority of the crowds 40y/o+ concertgoers up on their feet and swinging along to the band while the outfit flexed their dance moves for a lengthy performance of Get Down Tonight which allowed each member to show off his or her skills at their instrument before the band took a bow to a loud London applause.
::: Mike + the Mechanics :::
With the majority of the Hyde Park crowd now settled in for the remainder of the evenings performances, prolific R&B singer/songwriter Andrew Roachford was welcomed on stage alongside classic hit heavyweights, Mike + the Mechanics. The singer was enlisted as one of the lead vocalists back in 2010 and since then has been doing a spectacular job by performing the collectives enviable back catalogue to fans around the world. As their latest tour of the UK has recently come to an end, founding member Mike Rutherford, formerly of Genesis fame alongside the nights headliner, Phil Collins, was in high spirits as he and the rest of the band threw hit after hit out to a packed Hyde Park.
Sat at a keyboard for the bands opening number, Roachford was eager to get up and dance with fans for uptempo contemporary set addition, Get Up. New songs from the bands latest studio album, Let Me Fly were placed strategically within the set with The Best Is Yet To Come dishing up one of the most well received newbies while the records title track quietened the audience for Roachford to unveil the moving piano ballad with a trio of backing singers providing a rich gospel backbone to the number.
Obvious classics from the bands illustrious repertoire dominated the bands time on stage as they brought their signature eighties sound to the Great Oak stage. The first true dose of their synth-pop peak years was unleashed with the driving Help Me. The track perfectly showcased the flawless vocal skills of the bands adopted front-man along with Rutherford’s impeccable guitar work as the tracks wailing solos soared over fans.
Easily one of the defining tracks heard throughout the whole opening day of the festival came in the shape of the iconic The Living Years. As Roachford poured his heart into the somber ballad, hundreds of punters swayed their arms from side to side and helped the singer with the chorus as they belted out confidently with Roachford and co which the following Over My Shoulder had the crowd singing along to the upbeat hit and moving to the numbers infectious rhythm.
The band chose well when selecting a new front man in Roachford whose vocals carried a striking resemblance to those of original lead singer, Paul Young. The similarities were once again heard on the closing All I Need A Miracle which was this time delivered by fellow vocalist Tim Howar who made several appearances throughout the bands set. The uplifting 80’s pop gem provided the band with a flavorsome outro to the supergroups time at this years BST Festival.
::: Blondie :::
As the sounds of bees echoed through the large speakers which were dotted around the enormous Hyde Park enclosure and artwork for Blondie’s latest studio album, Pollinator were cast upon the giant screens that framed the Great Oak stage, the iconic band, led by bolshy American front woman Debbie Harry, were met with a rapturous applause as One Way Or Another signaled the arrival of the next act in an already spectacular line up for BST Festivals first date with London.
Donning a bee-meets-Maleficent inspired helmet and a sweeping black bejeweled overcoat with the words ‘Stop Fucking The Planet’ printed on the back, Harry dominated the stage with sheer confidence and swagger, mastering some of the bands biggest numbers including Hangin’ On The Telephone and the perfectly executed Call Me which had the whole crowd singing along with the iconic sex symbol of 70’s and 80’s punk/pop.
Surrounded by screens lit in red lights and smoke, Rapture found its place early on in the set with its distinctive bells signaling its arrival to Hyde Park and while the band mastered the 1981 new wave classic, their rendition of Beastie Boys hit (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) fell slightly flat and felt quite forced within a set of the bands original classics.
Despite a shaky performance that saw Harry struggle to hold any lengthy notes within the number, Atomic got the crowd swinging and singing along. Too Much and other songs from the bands latest record as well as later career notables like Maria sat confidently beside the bands heavyweight material but it was the bands 70’s and 80’s juggernauts; numbers like the closing disco notable, Heart of Glass that captured the audiences attention the most.
Blondie are no strangers to the London live scene having performed relentlessly for fans over the last several decades and their performance displayed an iconic outfit that won’t be hangin’ up the microphone anytime soon.
::: Phil Collins :::
As the crowd took a breath and topped up their liquids, portraits of tonight’s headliner help light up the slowly darkening festival site and a little before 9pm the superstar, whose career has spanned the last few decades as both a member of ground breaking pop/rock outfit Genesis and as a top selling solo icon, took to the leafy Great Oak stage with his weighty back catalogue of hits in tow.
Another Day in Paradise set a somber tone for the opening of Collins’ set with the power ballad sweeping over the crowd. Each member of the crowd instantly rose to their feet and sang along with the superstar as he sat on on a stool at the front of the stage for the opening number.
The initial slow pace set by the opening hit was quickly traded with a more uptempo vibe thanks to the instrumentally charged Something Happened On The Way to Heaven which showcased his talented and member-heavy band, particularly his seasoned backing singers and skilled horn section which added a robust filling to many of the nights nostalgic numbers..
Following a serious of back operations Collins has been restricted to sitting on a stool for the duration of his latest run of comeback shows and relying on a walking stick to get him from one place to the next but the music legend showed no signs that his spirit was dampened by his condition. He tor through a playful rendition of his Supreme’s cover of Can’t Hurry Love with a smile constantly glowing alongside his backing singers who joined him at the front of the stage to perform the blue-eyed soul masterpiece; conquering the hit live on stage just as he had done in 1982 with the recording of the track.
A missed opportunity to perform alongside his former Genesis band mate Mike Rutherford was missed when Collin’s dished up a memorable performance of his former bands down-tempo 1978 single Follow You Follow Me without pulling Rutherford back on stage to perform alongside him for the track but the performance offered one of the most memorable additions to the set as videos of the bands peak years were shown on the enormous screens that served as a backdrops to the days performances.
The musicians band were given generous nods throughout the set with his backing singers acting as a solid vocal backbone to many of the nights numbers. Separate Lives and Easy Lover offered his singers with an opportunity to duet with the superstar while his 16 years old son (yes…16 years old) made his mark on London following in the footsteps of his famous father and taking over the drums for the duration of the show with remarkable precision and talent.
As the musicians face was shown up close on the giant screens, the instrumentation for In The Air Tonight began and the crowd responded with an enormous applause. Easily the best performance of the night, the unnerving hit was accompanied by Collin’s scanning the crowd within an eerily lit stage as his backdrop. Collin’s performance of the haunting solo hit was as pitch-perfect and emotionally charged as the original recording and left the crowd in awe of the hit-maker as he mastered the classic.
A couple of the stars biggest solo hits that have provided key moments to his current Not Dead Yet comeback tour – notably Against All Odds and One More Night – were missing from last nights set but I guess its hard to fit so many achievements into a single 90 minute set without having to sacrifice one or two. For each track missing from the set, fans were offered a substitute – whether it be a Genesis hit like Invisible Touch or a solo number like the bouncy, retro flavored Sussudio.
After 13 years absent from the London stage, Collin’s proved there is a lot more gas in the tank as fans lapped up hit after hit from one of music’s most celebrated and successful hit makers.
With several more shows set to take place over the next week as part of the 2017 BST Festival series, last nights opening is certainly going to be a hard one to beat.