Sanity prevails at festivals weekend
11 July, 2019 — By Róisín Gadelrab and Luc Carrier Sanders
Lady Sanity at Wireless
TWO huge festivals took place in the capital last weekend – BST at Hyde Park, which continues to attract icons, legends and superstars, and Wireless festival, aimed at a younger crowd and featuring up-and-coming artists.
At Finsbury Park, north met south as Wireless, the celebrated urban music festival, set up shop across three days.
Sunday’s line-up included south London’s D-Block Europe collective, led by rappers Dirtbike LB and Young Adz. Their stellar rise was confirmed by a blistering set showing the range of musical genres they draw on. The pair’s vocal talents are such that they should not be pigeon-holed, as soaring voices give their act a massive soul, cherry-picking from influences ranging from hip-hop, rap and grime to nu-jazz and funk.
Other highlights included Florida-based rapper Ski Mask The Slump God, who brought his rat-a-tat rhymes and rhythms to the fore in a polished performance.
His boundless energy was mirrored by the enthusiastic moves being shown off in the crowd – backflips, handstands and standing-on-your-mate’s-shoulders ruled the dance floor. But perhaps the highlight was singer Lady Sanity, whose early show set the tone with an infusion of reggae and garage beats over which she lays vocals in a brilliant mash-up of British/Jamaican influences. She has a stage presence that marks her out as someone who surely must hit the mainstream. Her work is just too catchy to remain within sub-culture genres for long.
Meanwhile, in central London, two heroes of the past, present, and hopefully future, were also drawing in sell-out crowds. We have now seen Lionel Richie play Hyde Park twice and Stevie Wonder, three times. Lionel, who revels in his 1980s heyday in terms of his look – a red satin jacket with a blinged-up “Hello” across the back and some sincere but cheesy patter – is a seasoned professional.
Stevie Wonder at BST in Hyde Park
His stage-wide smile brings joy and his vocals are as clear, comforting and strong as ever. He runs through Commodores classic Three Times a Lady, masterfully taking crowds through singalongs in a way that made you feel like it’s just you and Lionel in a private duet, before launching into a tribute to
Michael Jackson in a heartfelt rendition of We Are The World, which, while not necessarily suited to cynical English sensibilities, was an uplifting moment.
The sound was not bad, even if it could have been a little louder. Lionel seems to love his songs as much as his followers and his beam is infectious.
Then came headliner Stevie Wonder, a man worthy of the overused term “legend”. From the start, something didn’t seem right. Billed as a “Stevie Wonder Song Party”, the crowd were expecting a hit-filled set, something to throw themselves into with the momentum to match.
Unfortunately, the patchy sound – Stevie was audible in some parts of the park but barely heard in others – cast a shadow over the show.
There were many moments of Stevie at his best. When you could hear him, his familiar warm tone inspired all too many memories, but there were times when his voice seemed strained, and some uncomfortable moments, such as when soul singer Daley had to be introduced to the crowd three times before anyone reacted – a combination of low sound levels and the fact that Daley is relatively unknown to the multi-generational crowd.
Things picked up as the night progressed and Stevie put his heart and soul into his back catalogue of classics such as My Cherie Amour, I Just Called To Say I Love You and Superstition.
Still, even with the slow start, Stevie, when on form, is unbeatable. His songs have stood the test of time and continue to make people happy.
The feeling that something was not quite right was later confirmed when Stevie announced his upcoming kidney transplant in September.
Time is precious, and we can’t always be at our best, but Stevie kept standing and gave his best. We can be grateful that he chose London for one of his last four live shows before his operation – always a privilege.