Wireless Festival Review

I got 99 problems and the festival animal is one.
I’m pretty sure this ain’t a lyric from one of Jay-Z’s signature songs, but it’s something that was embossed upon my Wireless experience none the less.
Perhaps the venue was the root of the problem?
Having made my way to Hyde Park for the multi corporate sponsored Wireless affair last Sunday, I guess it was inevitable a few Jekyll’s would lose themselves;  unleashing their inner demons upon the festival.
Making a somewhat outdated late entrance, I quickly familiarised myself with the circus inspired stages of Wireless.

Narrowly avoiding ravenous festival goers making beelines for the nearest gourmet burger joint – which were plentiful, although they seemed to have a particularly tenuous on the word “gourmet” mind – I carefully sidestepped Elliot Sumner’s video blog on my way to the main arena.
I blame Sting, not Coco, for the rise of pop royalty’s musical progeny.

Hell, let’s throw nepotism – that staple law of the successful – in for good measure too?
The first act to grab my attention was former Guns & Roses axe man Slash, who eschewed rock star tradition by promptly taking to the stage with his band for their allotted timeslot.

Which I missed the start of.

Damn him.

If there was one musician I was relying on to share in my strange allergy to timepieces, it was Slash.

Perhaps this location has the opposite effect on the Mr Hyde’s in this world; drawing the Dr Jekyll from even the most free spirited persona.
After running through some predictably guitar heavy material from his new album, Slash made sure the older festival revellers – which lamentably included myself – left in Paradise City; finishing with a medley of classics from his past.

Though two decades worth of excess has left a lasting impression on his waistline, Slash’s musical virtuosity and showmanship remains intact as he ended Paradise City with a solo played behind his back.
As is the nature of festivals, the main stage moved swiftly on with Friendly Fires bringing their brand of sunshine prog pop to Wireless.
Having never really listened to their music before, Friendly Fires provided enough instant gratification to merit inclusion on the bill; sullied only by their whining of Slash’s self indulgent finale that meant they had to cut their set short.
Next up was Lilly Allen, and I was intrigued to see how her trademark witticisms and observations on modern life would translate to a live performance.
Lilly’s brand of empowered female pop soon had the vast number of teenage girls in the audience chain-snaking their way through the masses to catch a better glimpse of their heroine.

Yet as lyrically savvy as the majority of Lilly’s songs are, her music pales in comparison due to its simplicity and nursery rhyme nature.

In spite of the mash ups and duets incorporated into her set, Lilly’s material suffers a little from South Park syndrome; her songs work well in short bursts ideal for mtv and radio, but lose their impact the longer you’re exposed to it for.
She has a fantastic stage presence though and is a very natural performer, totally at ease when connecting with the crowd.

And, in keeping with someone who’s found their own voice and isn’t afraid to say what they feel, Lilly stands up to the Mr Hyde’s dotted throughout the festival who cowardly hurl empty drinks bottles into the assembled legions before them.
Presented with the tearful faces of victims at the front of the stage, it’s laudable to hear Lilly berate the idiotic minority on their childish antics.

Of course, this doesn’t stop them.
The Fear was the pick of Lilly’s numbers, cleverly distilling the vacuous nature of celebrity and pressures young people feel in modern society.

Without hint or trace of irony, this was accompanied by an impressionable audience screaming along loudest to every sarcastic, materialistic couplet.
All of a sudden, Lilly’s fear was far too present in my mind.
Nothing encapsulated this more then the sight of every random boy and girl the camera happened to rest upon lifting their shirts as soon as their phizog was projected onto giant tv screens.
Of course, this was all just a light aperitif to the main course people had packed out Hyde Park for.

After an interlude of superstar proportions, lightened by a D12 performance under a nearby big top where every one of their tracks predictably punctuated by gunshot effects, the tv screens began to countdown.

And Jay-Z took to the stage.
Being a casual fan of the guy, I was a little less enrapt than the majority of revellers in Hyde Park who swooned on his entrance.

But its clear Jay-Z has huge stage presence and is used to dealing with massive audiences from the effortless way he gets the crowd going.

His first track has everyone jumping and I can literally feel the ground begin to shake to the vibrations of bodies bouncing up and down.

But after the initial adrenaline surge died down, I was left feeling a little underwhelmed.

It was a pretty eclectic musical performance, featuring an imposing number of musicians on stage backing up Jay-Z’s words as well as snatches of classic Doors and Prodigy riff’s.

His band’s horn section was particularly impressive, backing up Jay-Z as he cranked out tracks that agilely blended rock with hip hop.

But there are only so many times you can hear someone rapping about how much money they have before getting bored.

One is more than enough.

Yet this doesn’t stop Jay-Z spitting out rhyme after rhyme about his material wealth.

By the end of the night, I’d begun to draw parallels between Jay-Z and Hugh Grant; both have enjoyed massive success in their respective fields.

With their increasingly transparent one trick shows.

Perhaps the most pressing of Jay-Z’s problems is his lack of new ideas.

As for the festival animal present in the Mr Hyde’s of Wireless, I imagine they’ll be kept in check as they play out their hum drum, nine to five existence; their everyday frustrations waiting to be unleashed the next time these spineless individuals have a crowd to hide behind.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

July 2010