I’d be lying if I said Radio 2 wasn’t my station of choice. Aged 19, I’ve always thought I wasn’t their target audience and looking around Hyde Park I found my suspicions confirmed. You see, I was at the country’s second most Middle Class festival of the weekend (The Chipping Norton Set heading en masse to Harvest at Jimmy’s on Saturday had already won that battle.) In amongst the crowd of M&S picnic hampers and bottles of Prosecco, I found myself bring the age average down quite a bit, but when the music started none of that mattered.
Jools Holland was the first to take to the stage, accompanied by three different strong female vocalists his band’s performance alongside Sandie Shaw was particularly impressive. Bellowhead were up next and failed to keep the energy levels as high as Jools had. In fairness, when a song is introduced as “a song about dating dead people” there is always bound to be a surge of reluctance and confusion through the crowd. The same uncertainty could be felt through Beverley Knight’s set. She started strong with Keep This Fire Burning but then the crowd seemed unsure of her lesser-known tracks before getting everyone dancing to the world’s greatest song containing three modal auxiliary verbs: Shoulda Woulda Coulda.
With up to 40,000 in the park, Caro Emerald’s vocals held strong with the Dutch native clearly bewildered and humbled to be on the line up. Illness sadly saw Will Young’s set cut short – though the compensation of him flashing some skin and performing miming actions to Who Am I? did keep everyone entertained. A relative newcomer to Radio 2 listeners was Jonathan Jeremiah whose voice was reminiscent of a young Tom Jones and the bearded Londoner certainly seemed at home on the large stage.
Lenny Kravitz defied any time restrictions that had been placed on him and performed an incredible set with It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over keeping everyone’s feet tapping despite the onset of grey clouds and precipitation. Anoraks on and umbrellas up, Imelda May brought then sun out again with Roadrunner before James Blunt stole the afternoon for many with another long set featuring all his hits. Dedicating a song to the soldiers and everyone whose been affected by what, he said, began ten years ago today, his song choices and sombre tones seemed all the more poignant. But a quick crowdsurf and a jump off the top of his piano suggested he was still very much there to enjoy himself. The Pierces were oddly placed on the bill after Blunt and before the headliners, but held their ground with a slightly egotistical rendition of Happy Birthday keeping spirits high.
With Lionel Richie having bailed out of his headline slot last week due to illness, it was left to last minute replacements Chic and Gary Barlow to fill his place. It was impossible not to dance along to Chic with Nile Rodgers blasting out Le Freak and We Are Family as though they were always meant to be there. And as for Gary Barlow? He single-handedly proved that the other four Take That members may as well be purely decorational. A tribute to the absentee by way of Hello was thoughtful and a selection of the band’s classics were a perfect end to the night.
Despite the rain and a few ill acts, the first Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park event was definitely a success. Well, with the Radio 2 listening public at least. Bring on next year, I say.