BBC Radio 2 Festival in a Day 2014

Sunday 14th September 2014

Hyde Park, London 

Now this is not run like a ‘normal’ music festival. You have one main stage and a BBC Introducing stage for the under the radar acts. I arrived at the main entrance with my mum and my best friend and we waited to enter. It was a good feeling to get to the front after an hour wait for the doors to open and the security bag check was very efficient. A steward gave us two bin bags; one for general waste and the other for food waste and I was really impressed by this as it is a little thing that makes a big difference in a park of 50,000 people. Well done to whoever came up with that idea.

The great thing with this event is they let you bring your own picnics and drinks (except alcohol) which meant that we avoided spending the whole day queuing up at expensive food stalls. Interestingly, I heard that one of the bars ran out of alcohol quite early on in the day which considering the event was running from 11.30am-9.00pm must have been quite frustrating. This has happened with vendors in Hyde Park before so maybe this is a common issue that needs to be addressed.

This year’s main stage line up was an eclectic mix that was meant to cater for Radio 2 fans with different musical tastes.  Before I go any further with this review I have to say something about BBC Radio 2 presenters in particular Jo Whiley. She arrived onstage at the beginning and said ‘It’s going to be sunny all day’ which had everyone in my group shaking their heads and saying ‘Don’t mention the weather.’

Kicking the day off was Chrissie Hynde who has just released her first solo album ‘Stockholm’. She seemed quite uncomfortable on stage but new songs ‘Dark Sunglasses’ and ‘You or No One’ show how talented she is as a songwriter. It started raining during her set and people were not happy as it was all Jo Whiley’s fault. I only bring this up because everyone had a go at Michael Fish when one of his weather predictions went wrong but she got off scot-free. She kept appearing onstage throughout the day with other presenters such as Johnnie Walker and Clare Teal and I just despaired.

Bellowhead then appeared and the lead singer started shouting and screeching so much I thought I was at Birdworld. This year is their tenth anniversary being an eleven-piece band and based on this six-song set the phrase ‘less is more’ springs to mind. Next up was 26-year old Texan country singer Kacey Musgraves. Her debut single ‘Merry Go Round’ is a heartfelt piece about growing up in a trailer park and it really creates meaning.

The new king of jazz Gregory Porter was next and was astonishing. ‘Liquid Spirit’ the title track of his third album had everyone clapping their hands whilst ‘Hey Laura’ and ‘No Love Dying Here’ really showcase how silky smooth his voice is. He is lucky to have a fantastic band with him Chip Crawford (Piano), Aaron James (bass), Emanuel Harrold (Drums) and Yosuke Sato (alto sax). Gregory Porter is going from strength to strength and deservedly so.

I was excited to see Paloma Faith as she does have some really funky songs but her set was marred by technical difficulties which meant that Paloma and all of her band could only hear half of their set. She said to her bass player ‘Turn down the bass. You know that Radio 2 listeners are the more mature audience!’ She thanked the audience and Radio 2 for supporting her three albums ‘during this difficult music climate’ and focussed the set on new album ‘The Perfect Contradiction’. I enjoyed her set but it was quite short considering how well known she is and how many hit singles she’s had.

The crowd was huge for Paloma but increased in size when Billy Ocean arrived in a white suit with a smooth band as he sang his classics ‘When the Going Gets Tough’ and ‘Caribbean Queen’ all of the crowd were singing along. The man is a vibrant performer who was very humbled by the positive reception he received and I really wanted to see more of him. Billy Ocean in pure class.

As it grew to around dinner time Blondie warmed up the crowd as they waited for Jeff Lynn’s ELO and they didn’t disappoint. I will admit I was a little unsure what to expect because of Blondie’s Glastonbury footage this year which didn’t sound that great. Well that was not the case here as they rattled through famous songs ‘One Way or Another’, ‘Maria’ ‘Atomic’ and ‘Heart of Glass’. New song ‘Euphoria’ was an upbeat song that would go down a storm in the club scene and was one of the highlights of their set for me.

Now it was time for the headliner Jeff Lynn’s ELO to take to the stage after being away for 28 years. But before we could gain access to this piece of music history we had to sit through Chris Evans in his Bisto kid hat. We waited for him to go away and then ‘I Believe in Miracles’ by Hot Chocolate came on the sound system. Chris Evans returned and said ‘There’s nothing like a bit of Hot Chocolate to build you up for Jeff Lynne!’ People booed and I found him irritating and wanted him to disappear.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO arrived to mass applause from the 50,000 strong crowd. ELO tonight consisted of Richard Tandy on piano and special vocals, Mike Stevens on guitar and backing vocals (my friend told me that he has produced albums for Annie Lennox), several members of Take That’s live touring band, two backing vocalists, a violin player and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Now Jeff Lynn is really before my time but I know of the band and the songs through music documentaries and references in television programmes such as the Doctor Who episode ‘Love and Monsters.’  This seventeen-song performance covered most of ELO’s back catalogue ‘All Over the World’, ‘Evil Woman’, ‘Sweet Talkin’ Woman’ and ‘Telephone Line’. But the really moving part was when Jeff performed ‘Handle With Care’ and dedicated it to his fellow Traveling Wiburys George Harrison and Roy Orbison. Finishing with ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and Chuck Berry’s ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ during a pitch black evening it was clear that Jeff Lynne’s ELO was well worth the wait.

I understood what they were trying to do with the line-up this year by appealing to particular shows audiences; Blondie (Johnnie Walker’s Sounds of the 70’s), Kacey Musgraves (Bob Harris Country), Gregory Porter (Jamie Cullum, Clare Teal), Billy Ocean (Trevor Nelson Soul and Sara Cox’s Sounds of the 80’s) and Bellowhead (Mark Radcliffe’s Folk Show). But they left out Paul Jones’s Blues show on Monday evenings at 7pm which is a great shame because they’re a lot of talented blues musicians who would be perfect in Hyde Park.

Radio 2 Festival in a Day is a great idea but they now have the difficult task of trying to top this year’s event. Tickets for this event had sold out in a day because the lineup was so strong and Radio 2 head of music Jeff Smith recently said in an interview ‘When artists are looking to come back into the mainstream or into the market, they can look at Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park as part of their plans as Jeff Lynne has done this year.’* So the next question is ‘Who will they get for 2015?’

By Glenn Sargeant

(* This is a quote from an interview with Jeff Smith by Tom Pakinkis in Music Week magazine released on 12/9/2014)