As someone who grew up going to the likes of Glasto for my musical and hedonistic kicks, London festivals take some persuasion. Call me a snob, but I prefer the sight of the rolling hills of Somerset over the view of John Lewis. However, the draw of Jay-Z and Kendrick Lemar was enough to lure me out of my snobbery for a day of reveling in sunny, um, Stratford. At least I get to go home to my own bed, not a sleeping bag.
It’s nice to see the Olympic Park being recycled after THAT sports event as it provided a perfect arena for thousands of giddy ravers waiting to be treated by chart-rooted acts. It was probably a nice carrot for world-class rapper Jay-Z who’s used to the finer things in life. Historical venue-aside, he can always pop to Westfields pre-gig, I hear the Mothercare is huge.
As Wireless rolled out the red carpet for our transatlantic guests, the crowd pulled on their finest Topshop to welcome the men making the biggest dents in the hip-hop charts, as well as UK heavyweights Rita Ora, Calvin Harris and Emilie Sande to the main stage.
Kendrick Lemar was probably the only person in the festival wearing all-white who managed to avoid getting beer or burger sauce down his front. Kendrick spat the bars to his well-known hits riling up the crowd in a bit of ‘left side v right side’ tradition. Now, I couldn’t be the only one disappointed I didn’t get a chance to answer ‘ he dead’ when asked who my favourite rapper was. Plus I was looking forward to singing ‘you might catch me in east London, looking like a boss’ but alas, he scrapped Rigamortus and The Recipe and his ‘one for the ladies’ tune She Needs Me also suffered the cull. Shame, as it would have been a nice soother to all the sweary, rough and readiness of his gruff, but enjoyable, show.
Calvin Harris performed to thousands under the shade of a tent, rather than the main stage, evoking the raver roots he’s known and loved for. It was a reminder that he’s not always looked like he’s auditioning to play Ryan Gosling’s brother and can still get down and dirty on the obiding decks.
Emeli Sande might pop up more frequently than a PPP text message, but there’s a reason for this – she’s bloody fantastic. Flawless in her voice and a beauty to behold, she won over critics who may have let the negative comments taint their perception. Frequently I heard: ‘you know, that Emile’s rather good’ – peppered with a bit more London slang of course. Emeli rooted the audience without sounding like an o2 advert – a hard task for a crowd that might have just been there just to get a good spot for Jay-Z…
Ever the professional, wearing a top-buttoned shirt to make the man from Daz take his business elsewhere and with a chain you could lock your bike with, Jay-Z swaggered on to the stage for the finale to deliver an incredible sunset performance. A forest of hero-worshiping fingers and thumbs threw up the Dynasty sign, welcoming the big man of hip hop to his meaty hour-and-a-half set.
Only Argos can boast a catalogue bigger than a Jay-Z musical collection, so without ado, Jay got to work on the reams of tunes organised in a thorough and thoughtful fashion. Thanking us, whilst providing a reminder, that his album is no.1 in the UK, he seemed genuinely chuffed at the explosive reaction to his ‘new shi*’. ‘Cute’ isn’t a word normally associated with Jigga, but it was charming to see such a musical martyr humbled by his adoring crowd. His cheeky smirks confessed his gratitude – the only thing to occasionally throw off his steely swagger.
Jay continued to enlighten us with new material but creamed in classics from Big Pimpin, Give It To Me, Hard Knock Life and of course, 99 Problems. Not even the KKK can get that many people chanting the ‘N’ word as he unapologetically reminded us of his more risqué back catalogue.
New new Jay is an old romantic. He reminded us that he ‘still has the hottest chick in the game wearing his chain’ with his medley of Beyonce duets. This sent the crowd wild with expectation that Mrs Carter might just appear…alas, she didn’t. However his big-brass band pelting out a brassy versions of Dirt Off Your Shoulder just about made up for it…not to mention pulling on a certain Justin Timberlake to polish off his flawless performance.
Headliners aside, Britain’s Got Talent contender & drummer extraordinaire Joshua McKenzie, aka MckNasty, pounded his way through a thumping show. Beating his drums like tomorrow would never come, he teamed furious drumming with some heady bass for some D&B remixes of club bangers. Watch this space.
This time last year the Olympic stadium might have played home to world class athletes, but 2013 saw the superstars of the music charts really going for gold. Well done Wireless, you did us proud.