REVIEW: British Summer Time Festival (with Massive Attack)

In what’s probably the most quintessentially British summertime experience of all, the poncho tradesman are doing a roaring trade on the 1st of July, as the heavens open for the second time this afternoon. It’s not put a dampener on proceedings though, as the first day of British Summer Time at Hyde Park bustles into life.

Featuring an eclectic mixture of food and drink outlets, such as the baroque inspired bars leading towards the unmistakably Cuban Casa Bacardi stage, the festival manages to distil the proud eccentricity of British festivals into miniature form, even if some of the more corporate activities land a bit flat. Where would we be without sponsorship money though?

Being a Friday, the atmosphere slowly builds as those in attendance filter through the gates after finishing work for the weekend. It’s only when TV on the Radio take to the stage at teatime that proceedings really get going, with their anthemic indie rock blowing away any cobwebs that may have been lingering amongst the crowd.

Next to impress are Warpaint, who light up the Barclaycard stage in the evening by bringing their unique fusion of ephemeral acoustic and psychedelic rock to Hyde Park in a perfect slice of Californian sunshine.

But today is all about one thing, and even the weather is playing its part. The sun manages to break through the ominous rainclouds overhead, gifting revellers with a double rainbow as trip-hop legends Massive Attack take to the stage. Uncompromisingly political, the group rage against the recent Brexit vote, whilst enthralling the crowd with their gripping light show as they play hits from their career spanning nearly three decades.

While their anger at the referendum result is palpable, with song Shame dedicated to Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, the overall set was one of unparalleled positivity, featuring guest appearances from acclaimed vocalist Tricky and roots reggae legend Horace Andy, amongst others.

But despite the political rage throughout the set, the humanity of the situation wins through. Emotional and gripping imagery beams out from the big screens at the side of the stage, highlighting the horror being faced by those in the migrant crisis currently gripping Europe. Joined by a full chamber orchestra, the haunting beauty of Unfinished Symphony echoes to the compassionate LED backdrop, reminding all those in attendance that ‘We are all in this together’.

Sombre it may be, but in the politically volatile times we face, Massive Attack’s uncompromising commitment to the people, and their plight, provides a welcome reminder of the power that artists can play, and some vital hope for better things to come.

The Verse Staff

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