Ray Davies at Barclaycard British Summer Time review

A British summer evening with British Summer Time

Ray Davies at Barclaycard British Summer Time review

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

Matt Miles - 13 July 2013

With British Summer Time, Hyde Park is transformed into a pop-up party village. With Elton John’s last minute cancellation, BST decided to make Friday free-for-all, the ensuing influx of people ready to thoroughly enjoy themselves lent to the event's carnival atmosphere. Yet with rock legends Ray Davies and Elvis Costello still topping the line-up, taking the free tickets feel a little like thievery.

The whole affair feels like a cute little village fete, there is a sense of community and everyone is there to have fun. Carousels, helter skelters, sideshow games, pricey beer and food stalls all help add to the quaint charm. Most of the stalls are decked out to look like permanent structures, from town hall to local village pub, Hyde Park currently has it all. BST certainly lives up to its name on this particular Friday evening, not a cloud in the sky as the summer sun smiles down on the lush green park. It’s almost as if Barclays have somehow managed to bribe the weather gods specifically for their event.

Taking to the stage wearing a black suit and a pink trilby, Elvis Costello (6) is blessed by a set kissed by the sun. The crowd would like nothing more than to sip on their cold overpriced beer and be blown away by the new wave punk forefather, however the set does lack a certain gusto. Whether this is owing to the stage, sun or setting is unclear. Opening up with ‘I Hope You’re Happy Now’, it took about a minute for The Imposters to find their stride, leaving the opener to feel a little muffled and shambolic. Once they hit ‘Watching The Detectives’ though they were in full swing. As he launched into Notting Hill’s famous ballad ‘She’, Costello took the time to get the crowd to join him in singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to his 86 year old mother. ‘Pump It Up’ was to be the only song that really shone out and proved the powerful songwriting and performance Costello is capable of. Closing on ‘(Whats So Funny ‘bout) Peace, Love and Understanding’, Costello played a set that won’t go down in history, but on such a beautiful sunny evening it hits exactly the right spot. As he leaves the stage he encourages everyone to enjoy Ray Davies.

As they assemble on stage Ray’s Imaginary Friends (his band) tease the crowd with the colossal jarring main riff of ‘You Really Got Me’, obviously saving that gem for a big finale however when Ray Davies (8) joins them on stage they open with ‘I Need You’ and then ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone’. Davies takes to the stage and to the set with an effortless charisma and skill, it’s hard to tell that Ray wasn’t the intended headliner all along as he delivers an incredibly tight set to an utterly enthralled crowd. An echoing version of ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’ may have fallen on deaf ears amongst the largely upper class crowd, not to be discouraged though Davies then takes a well-deserved seat before playing ‘Sunny Afternoon’ right as the sun finally sets, a song that everyone can connect too today. Ray Davies takes a moment in between songs to tell the crowd that “in nine months time babies will be born because of this” speaking of the beautiful boozy evening everyone is enjoying in Hyde Park. Next up is a self proclaimed “mean stomping” song that Davies encourages the crowd to shout along too, ‘Dead End Street’ comes complete with heart tickling blues guitar solo.

Dedicated Follower Of Fashion’ is delivered with a second verse channeling and tribute to Johnny Cash, Davies does a fine impression. As they tear into ‘All Day and All Of  The Night’ Davies has just enough time to dedicate that particular song to every great British rock’n’roll band, a fitting tribute with it arguably being one of the classics itself. Whilst Davies may not still have the energy and vigour to properly do songs like ‘All Day and All Of The Night’ and ‘You Really Got Me’ justice, when he sits down and starts strumming ‘Waterloo Sunset’ an electric tingle is felt at the base of every spine in the audience. I doubt that song has ever felt more sincere or true than it did that day in Hyde Park, the entire crowd joining in for a massive sing-along. Halfway through Davies discards the chair he was perched on and lets ‘Waterloo Sunset’ evolve, incorporating the entire band they dial it up a notch, completed with wailing guitars and powerful rhythm the sing-along too steps up a gear as the crowd engage the material completely. Recorded in a basement in Marble Arch just a stone’s throw away from The Great Oak Stage in Hyde Park, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ made a homecoming of sorts and was an absolute stand out. Making a total of three shirt changes throughout his set, Davies returns in a brilliant white shirt as he closes his set how he started with a crowd frenzying ‘You Really Got Me’. After an extremely short absence (convincing no one) Davies comes back to the sage donning a union jack jacket for the inevitable encore of the suspiciously absent ‘Lola’.

A great British band on a great British evening for the great British Summer Time.


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