Barclaycard's British Summertime Festival has become an annual staple in London, this July meant the festival fell on a wonderfully (and exhaustingly) hot weekend. However, we have steered clear of the heavily corporate event until Bruno Mars announced his headlining slot. Here's what we thought...
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© Ryan Taylor & Trouve la Groove
Charlie Wilson had just begun his set when we arrived and he performed a number of hits from his solo career (including some new material), as well as a few of The Gap Band classics - 'Outstanding' and a brief snippet of 'Oops Upside Your Head'. Charlie loved getting the crowd to sing or chant his name, which they joyfully did. The man was great with his crowd, remembered by the older fans and (re)discovered by the younger crowd, Wilson was still smooth as hell. Everyone was loving the 80s funk and 90s R&B style set list - a great choice of a support act for a music festival headlined by Bruno Mars.
We also caught a number of glimpses of The Cuban Brothers, who are always a delight, on form both times we saw them that day. The latin disco, funk, soul, and hip hop band (they cover a lot of ground) always pull an excitable crowd for their fun performances. It's unsurprising that The Cuban Brothers had a residency across the entire festival (playing every one of the six days the festival was on) and a few cracking DJ sets from Archerio Mantovani with classic and rare groove mixes. Whilst nothing can compare to a live band (see our review of their show at The Jazz Cafe), The Cuban Brothers never fail to get a crowd moving and they always provide an uplifting experience.
After a ridiculous queue for the toilets (particularly the women's), as there were only two toilet sections across the massive Hyde Park area (completely daft idea), it was time for the headliner.
Bruno Mars is arguably one of the greatest male performer, writer and all-rounder in the charts pop music. Although no one comes as close to MJ, The King of Pop, I would boldly claim that Mr Mars is now beginning to reach similar heights, without the background MJ had with The Jackson 5 and Motown. The dancing was mostly in sync with band members, who were somehow able to play their instruments with ease whilst simultaneously performing choreographed numbers.
There are also Bruno's pitch perfect vocals, he may have slightly less range than MJ but his voice sounded on point for every single note, which he is able to deliver with effortless swagger. The man encompasses both entertainer and musician perfectly, his sound is accessible and creative, taking influences and bringing them into the 21st century, but his stage presence and production spectacle are on a level few often reach.
The setlist reminded the audience of just how many hugely successful hits Bruno Mars has under his belt, Bruno included all of the singles from 24K Magic (see our album review here), 'Chunky' is a particular favourite, along with bangers like 'Perm' and 'Calling All My Lovelies'. Mars took a brief step back in time to his debut in the B.o.B. song 'Nothin' On You' from 2008 - Bruno has been climbing his way to legendary status over just 10 years. Of course, one of the highlights was 'Treasure' (possibly his best song...) along with the crowd-pleasing encore of 'Uptown Funk'.
Whilst the acts we wanted to see were all bloody phenomenal and great fun, there was something lacking at British Summertime. The festival does not provide many activities or alternative entertainment, granted there is a huge amount of character and colour across the site - the bars look like awesome set pieces - but we couldn't help feeling that there was not a lot to do (if the line-up was not all to your liking, sorry DNCE).
The neon signs and screens, extravagant technology based "activities", huge queues for a number of alcohol vendors, and the Gold Circle VIP Area (DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE STAGE!!! NO. Just no.) were all designed to promote big brands and therefore incited a fake corporate feel. We'd recommend Bruno Mars any day, but the festival itself is not for those who want to immerse themselves in a musical experience (and actually see the stage rather than screens) alongside others of the same mindset. However, Barclaycard often get some great headliners (both Paul Simon and Eric Clapton were there this year), so if you want somewhere to sit down and relax all day with some music then this is more suited to you; unless you don't like extortionate drinks prices, uncontrolled crowd-flow, or ostentatious promotional material shoved in your face...
Anyway...Bruno Mars is the man, funk lives on, go and see him!
© Ryan Taylor & Trouve la Groove