Live Music + Gig Reviews

Wireless 2009: Day 2 @ Hyde Park, London

5 July 2009

Wireless 2009: Day 1 | Day 2

The second day of the Wireless Festival had a very different vibe. With a line-up reading like a roll call of what’s what in hip hop, the atmosphere was much younger and a lot more urban.

The Main Stage had a strong list of chart-friendly acts playing, and as such Noisettes found themselves flailing around towards the bottom of it. But it turned out to be a good spot for them as, with the sun shining down for a second consecutive day, the combination of their breezy summery pop tunes with a lively, charming frontwoman in Shingai went down well, ending off with a cover of Children Of The Revolution – always appropriate at times like these.
New Yorkers Ratatat on the other hand suffered in their mid-afternoon slot in the Tuborg Stage. They persevered, and people did venture in, curious to the sounds emerging. What Ratatat do is they take some simple power chords, give them some electronic beats and then flesh it all out with loud guitars. It doesn’t really make for a riveting live act as essentially it’s all pre-programmed and you’re just watching a couple of blokes performing some guitar solos, but it’s easy on the ear and while their material is perfect for a Sunday morning come down, it’s not so ideal during the afternoon inside a tent when there’s blazing sun outside and N-Dubz are playing nearby.

For N-Dubz are one of those acts that are marking the generation divide in 2009, and they pulled a big crowd for their gig on the main stage. Marking a shift in proceedings, from here on in, the day was devoted to all things hip hop. Over at a stifling, busy Second Stage, Kid Cudi showcased some of his material from his forthcoming debut album. Impressive in his breadth of musical influence and style, there is something a little bit special about Cudi, which would explain why Kanye West picked up on him and made him one of his current bunch of protgs. But today it was all about his biggest commercial success so far, Day’n’Nite, and when he finally dropped it at the end of the set, the crowd responded in kind. As the Crookers remix kicked in and took over, the tent worked itself into a frenzy, providing one of the day’s best moments.

Apart from being obviously brilliant location-wise for London locals, another benefit of the Hyde Park location is that somehow they’ve managed to fit in four stages in a pretty small area, and so navigating between venues takes no longer than five minutes. This means that there’s just enough time to dart over to the Main Stage for a musical breather to see recent Britain’s Got Talent victors Diversity wow a huge audience live on stage. And while, for those who saw them beat Susan Boyle to the title, the routine was largely familiar, it was nice to see them do it in person and to so many people. They’re still tossing that little one with the glasses around with no regard for his personal welfare, but it’s a mightily impressive act.

Back on the Second Stage, Cudi, a new American star, gave way to a new British star in the form of Tinchy Stryder. He put on a solid performance, calling on Sugababe Amelle Berrabah for their collaboration Never Leave You before N’Dubz made another appearance to join him for their recent summit-reaching single Number 1, closing another hot, packed-out gig.

Stryder though can’t help looking a little lightweight by what comes next. Flo Rida, one of the most commercially successful people on the planet at the moment came on to a hero’s welcome. Pleasing those in the crowd who were baying for it, he gradually stripped down to the waist to show off his ridiculous physique, but also proved that he was more than a muscle man with a populist taste in samples by giving a good show, encouraging audience interaction and causing riots to the beats of Low and Elevator. Flo Rida was more of a highlight than some would have expected.

It’s one thing to have a current rap phenomenon doing his thing, but it’s another to have a true legend performing. And Q-Tip is a true hip hop legend. The former member of iconic group A Tribe Called Quest turned in an excellent performance on the Main Stage, showing a different side of the genre. Toning down the attitude and upping the musicianship, his chilled vibe was hugely popular with the young crowd, many of whom wouldn’t have been familiar with the man. With his DJ showcasing some old-school scratching talent, they mixed up a variety of Quest classics, including their first ever single Bonita Applebum, with some of his solo output, the most familiar to the crowd being Vivrant Thing. While it was a shame that both Breathe & Stop and Can I Kick It? were overlooked, both of which would have pricked up a few ears in the crowd, he was an inspired final warm up act.

So on today’s main draw, Kanye West. Unafraid of risks and challenges, he’s turning himself into one of the iconic superstars of this generation, pushing cultural boundaries that had seemingly been imposed on the urban hip hop genre. His artistic, cerebral leanings could have left him a failure, but they haven’t. The love from the crowd was palpable, and as he began the set with Coldest Winter, it was clear that his fans have embraced his potentially divisive 808s And Heartbreak album.

Some may have complained about how much of the setlist depended on that recent material, but the fact is that that is where West is right now, and he balanced it out pretty well with a wealth of his previous work. Still treated to the likes of Touch The Sky, Gold Digger, Jesus Walks and American Boy, there was little room for complaint here, although bearing in mind how many of his collaborators were in the vicinity it would have been a nice touch had the likes of Mr Hudson, Kid Cudi or Young Jeezy made an appearance. Doing his thing from an elevated gold platform surrounded by four half-naked models, West knows how to stand out from the crowd. For all the ridiculous bombast, it’s a privilege having him around.

Once Kanye leaves the stage to the strains of Stronger, the message gleaned from Wireless Day 2 is that hip hop is itself stronger than ever. The acts today demonstrated how wide and varied the genre is. It’s not dead, it’s not even dying, and with innovators like Kanye and his cohorts there to keep developing and moving forward, there’s still a lot to look forward to.

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