O2 Wireless 2007 (London): Friday Review
Daniel Fahey on 18 June 2007
Saturday stomped in like an angry elephant as dance veterans and festival favourites Faithless rolled into Hyde Park. The line-up also included British troubadour Just Jack, American hip hop daddy, Pharaoh Monch and breakbeat specialist Mark Ronson.
The early afternoon saw Aim take to the XFM stage and deliver a summery set to complement the sunshine like ice in a cocktail. Their blend of samba and salsa grooves driven by funky breakbeats, babbling baselines and bongos proved irresistible to the hundreds that grinded down in the tent.
With the sun still beating Just Jack took to the stage and announced “I heard there was going to be thunder storms and we chased them away.” And if I was a thunder storm I would’ve run for my life. The North London rapper/RnB good guy hollered his way through his album sounding like a cheap imitation of The Streets. It’s like going abroad and coming back with your own pair of Bay Rans. However the sunshine artist does blend his hip hop beats well with disco baselines straight from Chic’s sock draw which gets the ladies and red faced bucket hat boys nodding along.
Watching Pharaoh Monch gives you the same rush as your favourite football team scoring. Fans of the early Westwood compilations will think of him as a household name as he lays savage to the XFM tent with his dirty baselines and heavy breakbeats. The Monch and his six-piece crew are energetic as they thunder through ‘Fuck You’, new offering ‘Body Baby’ and the classic ‘Simon Says’. The outfit produce a live set that shadows anything that has come before it leaving hip hop fans funking and crunking in the packed tent.
Ahead of their headline slot Faithless find time for an exclusive acoustic set in the Tiscali tent. Maxi Jazz and his backing singers are joined on stage by a bassist and an acoustic guitarist. The group lay down tracks which show why they are deeper then most generic dance acts. Jazz’s gravely voice tremors through ‘Bombs’, ‘Music Matters’ and 2004’s meaningful anthem ‘Mass Destruction’. The music resonates in such a gentle way demonstrating why Faithless have been around for so long. The hip hop/dance crossover has been trampled on and the stripped down songs sound perfectly suited for when you arrive home after clubbing. Faithless have got everything for the perfect night out, except perhaps the kebab.
Kelis struts on stage in a dress given to her by a cockatoo. Sporting green and yellow the RnB princess lazily mellows through some of her hits as if she’s singing in the shower. Even tracks like ‘Keep It Down’ with its massive off beat drumming barely strums up the audience’s affections. Like a jazz diva she sits down for her top three hit ‘Lil Star’ which does rouse a few hands in the air, but they may’ve been waving at their friends. The American is silent between most of her songs until she says, “you’ve been with me for what seems like forever,” – well put.
Now the next bit may not have happened. Either I fell asleep drunk or Paris had up rooted and travelled to Hyde Park. The Gotan Project arrived like Johnny Borrell, head to toe in white taking to an all white stage. It was white enough to be Christmas at the pearly gates as the Parisians launched into a selection of their laid back sounds strangely driven by raucous dance beats. With a harpsichord, three violins and a double bass the Project hurl into their Mr Scruff-eque tunes to a tent so packed that it was one in one out.
‘Epocha’ is a favourite after it featured on a Boots advert last year before the band’s DJs drop Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’. A year ago the track would have gone down as well as a fart in a lift but the crowd nod appreciably to the 1982 hit.
Mark Ronson is the perfect festival act. His album of covers has more horns then the devil and bigger breaks then John Virgo. Storming through funked up versions of Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’, Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘Oh My God’ and The Zutons' ‘Valerie’ the New York scenester delivers a set of gigantic proportions.
Ronson may have stars like Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse deliver the vocals on his new album, 'Versions' but they aren’t needed live as their replacements explode through the summer stompers. Daniel Merriweather comes on stage to murder The Smiths classic ‘Stop Me’ and Phantom Planet's Alex Greenwald covers the vocals for Radiohead’s ‘Just’ before launching into his bands hit ‘California’.
A cheeky version of The Shadows ‘Apache’ with The Incredible Bongo Band’s beats is followed by Mark Ronson’s own ‘Ooh Wee’. Ronson is a machine built for festivals and if any of his sets emulate today’s performance he’s definitely worth catching at any cost.
Then when I say huge I mean massive, and when I say massive I mean Faithless. The festival kings donned their party acts to produce a set so big it blew all the other acts away like a gale force wind. They may describe themselves as a cross between hip hop and dance but tonight is all about the dance.
‘God is a DJ’ launches like a nuclear weapon with an addictive haunting piano loop that instantly raises the crowds arms in the air. Revellers pound the ground and bounce enough to create an earthquake as Faithless’s classic festival anthems shatter London. The rave-tastic ‘Insomnia’ builds to a riotous piano lick that defines 90s dance.
The crowd roar along to the huge ‘choon’ as Maxi Jazz moans, “I can’t
get no sleep,” and that’s just fine with the fans because nobody wants this party to end any time soon.
A few album numbers were lost on all but the fans but the epic encore of ‘We Come 1’ is arm-achingly fantastic.
Faithless have restored belief in a slumbering genre as most
stumble from the festival looking for a party.