O2 Wireless 2008
Day one of the Hyde Park festival
Greg Rose - 10 July 2008
Wireless is the festival for people who don't like festivals; with mud replaced by sponsors and organisation so regimented
you feel artists will be struck down by some omnipotent overlord of the telecommunications world, should they have the audacity
to be three minutes late for their timeslot.
Yet it's all rather fun. Hot Chip get the crowd moving following earlier sets from the likes of Wiley and Lethal Bizzle, their latest single 'Little Thoughts' a bubbling, slow-burner that displays the band's status at the classier end of electro. The set lags at times; often the overriding feeling is that a DJ set would suffice, as the minimal stage presence of the uncomfortable-looking collective adds little to their overall effect. However, the gargantuan closing duo of 'Over and Over' and 'Ready For The Floor' heralds the arrival of the sunshine and illustrates just how good Hot Chip would be in a filthy little tent instead of a spacious stage.
Mark Ronson is far more suitable for this type of crowd, many arriving late after long days at work filled by 'Valerie' on Radio One ten times a day. He's as self-righteous as ever, orchestrating affairs from his post on bass, introducing each special guest with smarmy charm and mutual back-scratching. 'Just' is horrendous – if Radiohead thought there should be trumpets on it, there shouldn't be trumpets on it. Other tracks from his debut 'Versions' shine, notably when Tim Burgess takes to the stage for The Charlatans' track 'Only One I Know'. He's all floppy hair and careless cool, while the track is a real departure from the original and the alterations are worthwhile.
More collaborations ensue, with Wiley racing into view for a hyped-up rendition of 'Wearing My Rolex' and appearances from Candi Payne and the Rumble Strips singer Charlie. Then, it all goes terribly Lily Allen. Strolling onstage with pink hair and leopard skin bottoms, she proceeds to come in at the wrong time on her own song, 'Littlest Things' before blaming Ronson in an excruciatingly chummy rapport. Next, Kaiser Chiefs' 'Oh My God' brings a rabble-rousing response, but Allen forgets the words.
Daniel Merriweather closes the show with a playful version of The Smiths' 'Stop Me', as the whole cast joins him. Ronson, who has continually referred to Jay-Z during the gig, sets up the rapper's arrival with a flawed mix of inspired cuts and thoughtless, throwaway tracks.
They mirror Jay-Z"s set well. Though the setlist from Glastonbury has changed, not much else has. Talk of special guests is thwarted, with only Memphis Bleek joining him, but it’s still wholesome entertainment. This isn’t the edgiest festival anyway, and Jay-Z's intertwining of numerous crowd-pleasing samples keeps it that way. 'Rehab' is given a mischievous slant, 'Smack My Bitch Up' is all too brief, even 'Back In Black' sneaks in during '99 Problems'. The songs race by with ferocious pace, but there is no element of danger – he's playing safe.
A skit on George Bush and Hurricane Katrina showcases his political conscience, with the President's face garnering boos, which change to cheers when it morphs into Barack Obama. Mainly though, there's 'Girls, Girls, Girls' and 'Show Me What You Got' and an atmosphere of passive enjoyment rather than intense engagement. Though there is a pleasant sense that it's not all choreographed to within an inch of its life when Jay-Z cuts 'Excuse Me Miss' after one verse because he senses it isn't working.
There's falseness when he asks the crowd a carbon copy of his Glastonbury questions. "London – they say you don't want me in London...where's the love?" However, it gets the right reaction, with hands in the air and all manner of bouncing as a speedy version of 'The Blueprint' classic 'Heart of the City' signals the end of the set.
The final act of 'Encore/Numb' is a joyous affair, the perfect mix of bravado and skill and one of the few tracks everyone knows the words to. There's nothing to grumble about here, everything is done professionally, but the spark is missing. Far from disappointing, it’s also far from life-affirming. Which is exactly what Wireless is too.