Live Music + Gig Reviews

Wireless 2008, Day 1 @ Hyde Park, London

3 July 2008

Days after hosting the Nelson Mandela birthday bash featuring the cream of mediocrity, Hyde Park opens its gates for the Wireless festival; four days of genre-bending eclectic line-ups in the heart of the capital.

Day 1, starting bright and early on Thursday, sees a curious mix of hip-hop and electronica. No fey indie fare here thank you very much.

Due to their stage times clashing with when most people were still stuck in the office, the likes of Saul Williams and Cool Kids are already distant memories by the time we reaches the field.
But we are just in time for a torrential downpour from the skies. This is bad news for Róisín Murphy who as a result plays to a thin crowd, but along with her full band and fierce duo of backing singers, transfixes what there is of a crowd who soon forget about the quagmire-like conditions rapidly building around them.

Hot Chip suffer from a shaky start too, blaming the inclement weather on the inability to hear themselves onstage. They try again, inviting the audience to pretend the false start never happened and re-appear minutes later, just in time for the sun to come out. Sadly, this occurrence contributes to the most enthusiasm the audience offer as they plod along with No Fit State and Boy From School, with Alexis Taylor looking as bored as the punters. A closing Ready For The Floor picks things up slightly but they’d have been better appreciated in one of the tents rather than the vast main stage.

It’s in one of said tents that Annie glides her way onto the stage, now with full band, and launches straight into Chewing Gum. Her short set is an unexpected delight but with the world’s most bafflingly popular covers artist performing metres away (first letter R, last letter onson), she plays to no more than 30 people. A damn shame as people missed out on a minor treat.

It’s a similar story for Hercules and Love Affair across the field, as despite dishing up one of the most hyped records 2008 has seen, the tent is barely a third full. They still try their hardest though. Kim Ann struts across the stage and is on far superior form to the wretched Heaven gig last month whilst Nomi’s moves are never half-hearted. True False/Fake Real and Blind get pockets of the crowd moving but attention soon turns towards our headliner.

After that Glastonbury performance and firmly owning Noel Gallagher’s ass, this was always going to be a victory for Jay-Z. Looking relaxed but still on as fiery form as demonstrated last weekend, the career-spanning performance (Big Pimpin, Girls Girls Girls, Is That Yo Bitch?) is full of bite, wit and vocal skills second-to-none. That his integrity was even questioned to headline an event such as Glastonbury seems nothing less than baffling. The band is great too, the array of instruments on show a far more powerful and engaging show than any given by most stadium rock bands. He gives a nod to his duet with Rhianna on a rousing Umbrella before his own track Encore gets the mash-up treatment with Linkin Park.

As a gig, the jigga man saves what is otherwise a disappointingly soulless event. Branded advertising is a given at any festival these days, but here it was turned up to 11. Combine that and the dangerous lack of atmosphere for any set that wasn’t the headliner and Wireless may very well offer an event to appeal to those not wanting to get their hands dirty at a “proper” festival, but what comes with that is an ambience similar to that of a morgue.

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