Live Music + Gig Reviews

Wireless 2009: Day 1 @ Hyde Park, London

4 July 2009

Wireless 2009: Day 1 | Day 2

This year’s Wireless festival, under new sponsorship, is a much leaner version of last year’s slightly rotund model. Now halved in length to two days, the new, improved version looks all the better for its diet, this year offering fans genuine dilemmas as to who they saw and where across four stages.

Picking a spot where the party could start was a doddle, mind. With Paul Oakenfold given an early afternoon slot to rouse the masses, the sound from the second stage eclipsed those round about. Though the DJ played things relatively safe, the tent was bursting at the seams, as people know that ‘safe’ for this long-established DJ means diehard fans generally end up in raptures. That was most definitely the case here, with established anthems from the likes of Josh Wink leading to remixes of The Killers and Bob Marley.
The latter’s Sun Is Shining was particularly relevant as temperatures peaked, and it was over to the main stage to catch Delphic. Though slightly withdrawn from the audience the men from Manchester kept a most impressive stature throughout their half-hour set, which reached a climax with a heady version of Counterpoint, all chattering synths and reassuringly full bodied breakbeats.

Saint Etienne have of course perfected their own synthy beats interface over two decades, and with the re-release of early albums they are enjoying a period of rejuvenation. Sarah Cracknell was wreathed in smiles throughout their all too brief but sublime set, noting with barely concealed delight the Foxbase Alpha placards waved down the front. Only Love Can Break Your Heart inevitably struck a chord with its sunshine pop, as did Method Of Modern Love, Burnt Out Car and a subtle, slightly reserved version of He’s On The Phone.

Choosing between Digitalism and Jack Peñate was never going to be easy, but the former won hands down, whipping the second stage into an electro-house fuelled frenzy with little more than some laptops and a crash cymbal. The tent jumped as one, which is more than can be said for the main stage, where a rather stroppy Peñate soured the end of Torn On The Platform by angrily trashing his guitar, before thinking better of total self destruction and saving his set with a sublime Tonight’s Today. Or is that Today’s Tonight?

Whichever, Afrika Bambaataa stepped up with aplomb to cross us over from afternoon to evening with a colourful, high energy set to keep the crowd hooked. It seemed only natural to include a Michael Jackson medley, which worked well as a tribute of celebration rather than mourning.

Over on the packed second stage The Streets were also wheeling out their own King of Pop tribute in Billie Jean, while delighting the crowd with Weak Become Heroes. Mike Skinner and co are much more assured live performers these days, and if songs like Never Went To Church can be bellowed out by a whole audience, that shows just how far this particular wordsmith has come.

Back on the main stage, Dizzee Rascal reprised his Glastonbury appearance almost to the letter. This, of course, was food and drink to a big crowd, who got all they wanted in the shape of biggies Just A Rascal, Dance Wiv Me and Bonkers. All set a fierce precedent, followed closely by Fix Up Look Sharp, a Michael Jackson tribute and Dirty Cash.

All that was needed now was a headliner to provide a sunshine party set – and Basement Jaxx delivered on every level. Bringing stunning musicianship and good vibes to the masses, the boys Buxton and Ratcliffe were largely content to play second fiddle (and guitar) to their many vocal guests, who came and went in a carnival of spangly shellsuits, colourful in the extreme. Established favourites Where’s Your Head At? and a slowed-down Romeo were hollered from every corner of the park, while even new song Raindrops sounded several levels better than on the radio.

As darkness fell the musical sunshine remained firmly in place in the form of two late ’90s classics, Rendez-Vu and Bingo Bango rousing the crowd for one last stompathon – the end to a hugely affirmative day.

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