Set in the iconic surroundings of London's Hyde Park, Radio 2's Festival in a Day is renowned for bringing you the best artists and bands from around the planet. This year was no exception with a star studded line-up including Stereophonics, James Blunt, Blondie and headliners Take That.
The weather forecast looked changeable, it was inevitable that rain was on its way but how long it would hold off was anyone's guess. It's a good job us Brits approach outdoor entertainment with our tongues firmly in our cheeks, ensuring that ponchos and waterproof items were packed and ready to be worn at the first glimpse of any wet stuff falling from the sky.
Stereophonics did a tremendous job of kick starting the festivities, drawing on their catalogue of classic tracks, they kept the 45000 strong audience entertained with hits such as "Maybe Tomorrow", "The Bartender and the Thief" and "Dakota" which went down a storm (no pun intended) ahead of the adverse weather that was on its way.
Devon based vocal harmony trio Wildwood Kin took to the stage and launched into their opening track. They encountered some technical issues during their second track and sadly, the set was cut short. I was glad that they managed to get to play as their new top 20 album Turning Tides is a joy to hear and I hope that they whet the appetites of the masses at the event and they invest more time in this very talented group of young ladies who have won the admiration of famous names such as Bob Harris who does so much to champion new music.
Seth Lakeman took to the stage and managed to whip the crowd into a frenzy in no time at all with his music. Being a super talented multi instrumentalist, it wasn't long until the park was up and Bobbing along to his folk tinged sound that appeals to so many people. It was great to see Wildwood Kin joining him for a couple of tracks later in his set. He is about to reissue his latest album on Sept 15th and will shortly be embarking on a nationwide tour alongside Led Zeppelin's front man Robert Plant. We chatted to Seth before the show and he told us that he's been having a great time learning some of the old Led Zep back catalogue (hooray) though he wouldn't share any of the tracks on the setlist for the future tour (boo)!
Rick Astley graced us with his presence after attending the 'We Are Manchester' benefit gig on Saturday night, his set was a mixture of new and old, the 80's tracks sounding as fresh and current as they did back in the day and proved a great tonic in getting people up and dancing. Some might say that he's a guilty pleasure but having met and chatted with him after his performance, it was clear to see that having a worldwide fan base meant more to him than anything, he even went on to tell me that he visited a bar in Japan lately where the toilet plays music, Rick Astley music to be precise, I asked if he minded this and he laughed saying that he thought it was great!
Emilie sande nailed her colours to the mast from the get go and wasted no time in getting the crowds singing along to her upbeat tracks such as "Next To Me", "Read All About It" and "Hurts". She's done so well for herself and has really helped in putting great Britain on the map for talented young songwriters.
In between the main acts, we were treated to DJ sets from the likes of Craig Charles who dropped some turbo charged funk and soul classics, Ana Matronic span some cool disco numbers whilst a plethora of radio 2 DJ's including Zoe Ball, Claudia Winkleman and Fearne Cotton took to playing Pop-Master (hosted by none other then Ken Bruce) and a game involving John Culshaw performing impressions of radio 2 DJ's with 2 teams guessing who it was.
Up next was James Blunt who created a storm in the media tent, he was happy to do a couple of video interviews ahead of taking questions from the press. To say that he was amusing was something of an understatement, he was utterly hilarious and the way he 'owns' Twitter in the way he responds to internet trolls, you can easily see that he's a very quick and sharp witted guy. His set was impressive, filled with uplifting numbers such as "1973", "Bonfire Heart" and everyone's favourite, "You're Beautiful" which sounded immense with 45000 people singing it back to him. As a finale, James decided to up the ante by setting sail from the main stage in a union Jack rubber dinghy, managing to get about 30 feet out prior to some unexpected 'choppy waters' capsizing the vessel, leaving him stranded amongst the capacity crowd. It took the voice of Ken Bruce to request his safe return to the stage, I believe he made it back unscathed.
As the light started to diminish over the park, the weather started to turn for the worst and out came the waterproof gear just ahead of Shania Twain rising through the stage floor to prove why she's the best selling female country music artist in the world with over 100 million sales under her belt. As the rain came down, people's inhibitions subsided (possibly assisted by alcohol) and thousands of people danced and sang along to classics such as "Man! I Feel Like a Woman", "That Don't Impress Me Much" and the heartfelt ballad "You're Still the One". Her set was exactly what we needed to lift spirits, even if they were a little soggy come the end of her blistering performance. I must also add that I saw Seth Lakeman throwing some rather impressive shapes in the guest area throughout her set.
We saw Blondie being interviewed in the backstage area by Zoe Ball and I heard that they might be popping into our press area to chat to the BBC journalist. My dreams soon came true as in walked Debbie, Chris and Clem (3 of the original members), taking a seat right next to me. After a quick chat they were ready to leave and I just managed to speak to Debbie, telling her that I've been a fan of her's since I was very young as she kindly signed an autograph for me, a true legend indeed.
Soon after they left the press area, there was somewhat of a commotion, security guards lined the main route into the backstage compound as a minibus with blacked out windows reversed up to the main press area, it was none other than Take That! They dashed in to do a live interview with Jo Whiley and exited soon after, I managed to get some great video footage of them dashing back to their minibus.
Blondie's set was nothing short of legendary, the hits coming thick and fast as the park joined forces in singing along to tracks that spearheaded the late 70s Punk and New Wave scene both in the UK and across the pond in the USA. Tracks such as "Maria", "Atomic" and "Hanging on the Telephone" led the charge, offerings from their recently released long player Pollinator sounded tight but it was "Rapture" that did it for me, that hypnotic bass-line and drum pattern, exquisite indeed. Debbie Harry moved about the stage in a similar manner to someone half her age, proving she was still the queen of punk, injecting a healthy dose of sass and style into the performance.
After a short break, the stage was prepared and bang on schedule, Take That took to the stage amidst a sea of colourful confetti that showered from cannons around the front of the stage. Gary, Howard and Mark looked on top form as they ran about the stage, putting on a show that would leave bands in their 20's gasping for breath! They dazzled the audience with classics such as "Shine", "Greatest Day" and "Relight my Fire" before wrapping up the event with a fantastic version of "Never Forget" which saw everyone's hands in the air, wishing that the moment would never end!
Despite the somewhat unsettled weather, their were smiles all around, people had enjoyed a stellar day of entertainment put on by the BBC and it is them to which I am thankful for allowing us into their 'inner sanctum' to chat to the stars, meet the Radio 2 DJ's and generally have an awesome day! Until next year folks....
Review by Steve Muscutt