The Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time festival at Hyde Park finished on a high, with a fantastic family day.
A chilled-out atmosphere, a gorgeous summer’s evening, some great music and entertainment in a beautiful London park – blissful is the best word I can think of to describe it.
Here are six thoughts I had after attending the finale to the 10-day BST:
1. Little Mix were the low point on the bill. Capable of holding their own against any power-pop girlband currently out there, the girls can obviously sing well enough and there were some impressive vocals here and there during their hour-long set. But their performance overall was insipid and instantly forgettable.
It felt like they were going through the motions with their own hits such as DNA, Move and Salute without pushing themselves to knock out killer live versions, but these songs were still decent enough. The problem was with the large number of uninspired cover versions that littered their performance, such as Word Up, Can’t Hold Us and Dark Horse. By the end my 11-year-old daughter was bored and complaining about how they were “copying” other people’s songs so much.
Aside from veering into karaoke territory, the girls also seem to be suffering from an identity crisis. Are they trying to be role models to young girls or with their skimpy outfits, sexy moves and songs like Talk Dirty (another cover – and a questionable choice too for a ‘family’ day) are they trying to appeal to a pervy male audience?
2. Generally I despise all boybands and wasn’t looking forward to seeing Boyzone. I wanted to hate them but ... I actually enjoyed their performance. While Little Mix tried so hard to grab attention, the Irish lads looked relaxed and comfortable as they moved effortlessly through an accomplished hit-laden set. It looked like they were glad to be there and were enjoying themselves on stage, which rubbed off on the audience. It was impossible not to sing along to Words, Picture of You, Love Me For A Reason and other familiar songs.
Much of Boyzone’s success has been built on covers but at least those songs are now seen as their own rather than just being there to pad out the set. Maybe this will be the case with Little Mix in 20 years’ time, if they’re still around.
Some of the four-piece’s newish songs were pretty good such as Who We Are and If We Try, containing – dare I say –a slightly rocky edge in places. The mid-set tribute to the late Stephen Gately was a lovely emotional moment, if a little overdone.
3. Tom Jones has an incredible voice. OK, this really isn’t news but it was my first experience of hearing him live and I was blown away. There are some singers whose records you listen to or who you see on TV and you think “wow, that person’s really good” – only for them to be a disappointment when you watch them in a raw, live performance. This wasn’t the case in Sir Tom’s case, with his voice being even clearer and more powerful than I imagined.
His setlist contained a decent mix of classics and newer songs, with What’s New Pussycat? being the only notable absence – although with such a vast back-catalogue to call upon for his 85-minute show, there were bound to be one or two disappointments. The slightly reworked, French-tinged (or I thought so anyway) versions of Delilah and It’s Not Unusual were memorable, while Tower of Song was the standout song from his lesser known work.
Tom, who showed warmth and humility during the show, had the audience eating out of his hand with virtually every note sung and every word spoken between songs. He’s one of the few people who genuinely deserve ‘star’ billing or ‘legend’ status, so it was a privilege to finally watch him live.
4. Hats off to the organisers for putting together an assortment of entertainment for the family day. While much of the main music was aimed at ‘oldies’ (10cc and Bootleg Beatles were also on the bill), there were enough other things going on to keep kids interested and happy throughout the day.
The highlight of the ‘other’ entertainment for me, my wife and our daughter was the Horrible Histories performance, which provided a funny half-hour taster for the upcoming West End show. This kept the young audience enthralled from start to finish with its mix of education, goriness and catchy songs – the showpiece being the delightful but disgusting song about dying from the plague!
5. Food was another strong point of the festival. It wasn’t burger vans, ice-cream trucks and other things you might usually see at outdoor events, but rather high-quality street food vendors. There was great variety on offer, including Japanese, Mexican, Italian, Spanish, barbeque and many other types of cuisine. I had some gorgeous paella while my wife was more adventurous and had an ostrich burger. Aside from being tasty, the food was good value too – around £6 to £8 for very good sized portions. At no stage did I feel ripped off by the prices.
6. We all had a great time at BST family day but there are a couple of small criticisms.
For one thing I’d like to see a lot more stewards there next year. It would also be good if the people on hand supposedly to help know something about the venue. Trying to find our way to the theatre for the Horrible Histories show, I struggled to find anyone to ask for directions and the three people in hi-vis vests I finally found didn’t know what I was talking about. A couple of other queries during the day were met with similar cluelessness.
It would also be good, especially on another family day, if the consumption of booze could be better controlled. There were pockets of drunkenness and leariness towards the end. Smoking was rife across the site too, including in confined crowds. Many kids would have got home last night stinking of beer and fag ash despite obviously not partaking in either!