The camp-as-Butlins vibe to Lovebox reached its apogee on Day 3 of the festival and every aspect of the final evenings entertainment was drenched in over-the-top exaggerations. Gothenburg duo Niki And The Dove opened the main stage with their shimmering electronics and scant respect for vocal norms. Their relentlessly big sound was followed by the theatrics of Sam Sparro who thrilled and underwhelmed all and sundry, depending on your point of view.
Festival veterans The Rapture have been around the block for so long know, everyone knows what to expect from them. This doesnt mean theyve become tedious; the entire set erupted into an ego-battle between wiry frontman Luke Jenner and Gabriel Andruzzi on keyboards, saxophone and general histrionics. Whoo! Alright! Yeah! Uh-huh! best transmits the bands onstage kinetic charms and they provided the main stage with its first wave of frenzied festival intoxication for the day.
Chics Nile Rogers announces “All these songs are our own. Ive produced every song youll hear tonight”. This disclaimer ensured the sharply besuited funk veterans managed to get away with playing Like A Virgin and Notorious alongside their own suite of superhits, the sporadic slap bass solos and mass sing-alongs straddling the line between mindless muso meandering and inspired pop workouts.
The appearance of Lana Del Rey on the Second Stage was an anomaly within the day’s programming. Accompanied by piano, guitar and string section, the graceful melancholy of her set clashed strikingly with the outr flamboyance on display elsewhere. And, despite a few haltering moments, Del Rey managed to transcend the comparatively sombre nature of her material, captivating the predictably large congregation into an adoring church of acolytes. Accompanied by found footage and opening with a towering performance of Blue Jeans, steeped in mystique and bewitching charms, Del Rey was an unexpected highlight the only disappointment being the relatively short nature of her set.
The relentless disco delirium of Azari & III created a Bacchanal vibe, also on the Second Stage, which refused to let up for the duration of their set. Despite being beset by technological problems early on, the Toronto hedonists conjuring an acid house disco, Hungry For The Power hotwiring the retro electronics to the twenty first century, providing apt inspiration for the wide-eyed mania to reach jaw-breaking levels.
The true headliners of the festival though were undoubtedly Chaka Khan and Grace Jones, who aptly summed up everything Lovebox has to offer with their displays of showmanship. Khan vamped it up dressed in a frighteningly tight denim catsuit as the crowd roared their approval of the goodtime disco anthems Im Every Woman and Aint Nobody. But no one could honestly even begin to outdo Grace Jones. Hot on the heels of her positively demented Jubilee performance, the sexagenarian superstar arrived a mere 20 minutes late clad in a silver cape, poised menacingly on a black crane. Accompanied by apparently both her mother and milliner Philip Treacy on stage, Jones feral eccentricities are brazenly displayed, costume changing between every song before the expected but nevertheless spellbinding finale of Slave To The Rhythm and the hula hoop party trick.
Lovebox has plenty to celebrate on its 10th anniversary. The festival has a unique urban style which instantly differentiates it from any other festival on the scene. And while the programming for this years event was sometimes wayward, there has been a certain consistency over the years which is not a reflection of lack of imagination or originality but simply redolent of an event that knows its audience and keeps it. The carnival of superstars on display, particularly on the Sunday, ensures that Lovebox is very much the vibrant, chromatic, at times frustrating but ultimately empowering queen of the festival circuit.