One of the goals with my summer in London has been to go to concerts with music that I like, that I may not be able to hear live in Sweden. Here’s a summary of them:
Lianne la Havas – BST, Hyde Park
One of Lianne’s strengths is her range; she can go from almost whispering low notes to belting high ones in the same song. I was stood quite far back, so softer songs like “Green & Gold” drowned a bit in the crowd noise. The most effective songs live were probably “Tokyo” and “Midnight”; the latter in which she let the audience sing the main hook. And her cover of “I Say a Little Prayer” with only vocals and guitar is a real crowd pleaser!
Lionel Richie – BST, Hyde Park
I hadn’t really listened to Lionel until quite recently, and you can tell when you listen to his songs that they are very effective live. Even though he’s 70 years old, he’s still got a lot of energy on stage, and it feels almost as if you’re back in the golden days of disco that was the 70’s/80’s. The program was a perfect mix of Lionel classics, some newer songs and some Commodores songs from the 70’s. He got the whole audience to sing, and we got the feeling of togetherness that certainly was his intention when he wrote “We Are the World”.
Stevie Wonder – BST, Hyde Park
They tried something new this time and called it a “song party”, which meant there was a DJ playing a set of 70’s/80’s classics, and the live performance by Stevie Wonder was like a part of it. But it felt unnecessary to play recordings of “Billie Jean” or “Let’s Dance” when we all were there for Stevie. I appreciate he had to rest sometimes because his health is failing him, but the rest of his band were so good they should have been given more space. I wasn’t too impressed with the guest soloist features either. But when it was good, it was really good. Stevie really gave it all and played all the songs you wanted to hear, in the right keys and with all the runs! The whole concert should have been more like that, we could have done without the extended synth guitar jam, or John Lennon’s “Imagine”. My favourite Stevie song is “Do I Do”, so I was really happy when they made a long jam out of it!
Jacob Collier – OnBlackheath, Blackheath Common
Instead of playing everything himself, Jacob now has a band with a keyboardist and a bassist (who also provide some backing vocals, guitar and percussion when needed), and a drummer. I felt a bit bad for Jacob, because his set was so early that not many people had arrived yet, and I’ve seen clips on Instagram from much bigger concerts in other countries. I was happy that I knew all the songs already, because it felt like he wanted to improvise a bit and try something new with them, which was sometimes good and sometimes a bit much. The musicians were great, but I think they will sound more together when they’ve toured more. The sound was not great, too much sub bass, which drenched the harmony a bit. The concert as a whole was a nice experience, with a good mix of old and new songs, but it was nowhere near the quality of his Proms concert last year.
Incognito – OnBlackheath, Blackheath Common
This was just as nice as I thought it would be. Three outstanding female lead singers, some backing vocalists, smashing horn section and a tight band, all kept together by the laid back, funky guitarist Bluey. They played some of their hits, like their funky cover of Stevie’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and “Always There”. But they’ve made so much music over the years that they could pick and choose some more unexpected songs from their catalogue too, which was also nice. At the end of the concert Bluey exclaimed something like: “London, the way you’ve been in here, that’s how you should be all the time!” and then they started playing Bob Marley’s “One Love” in the speakers while the band walked out, which is a message that really summarises the essence of this band. It makes me impressed that someone can run a project like this with such passion for almost 40 years!
Jamiroquai – OnBlackheath, Blackheath Common
Jamiroquai was the headliner of the day, and having never seen them live before, it all made sense this evening. They are more than a band, they’re a concept, with their space-themed costumes and the old fashioned computer semblance on the screens, although it feels like they’re doing it with a smidge more self distance now than in the 90’s. They’ve also kept the original musicians over the years, unlike most bands from the same era. But with all of this said, I still feel like they’re a bit overrated. They’ve got a lot of funky songs, but most of them sound quite the same, and there is a lack of melodic hooks. Something about their music leaves me unaffected, but I guess it’s also different when you don’t know the songs that well. There were some nice songs that I hadn’t heard before that might be worth giving a listen in the future.
The Brand New Heavies – OnBlackheath, Blackheath Common
I’ve listened to this group since 2006, so this was pure joy for me. They only played one of their newer songs, the rest was hits from the 90’s, which is what we all were there for really. Although a funk guitarist, Simon looks and acts like a rock star (the exact opposite of Bluey from Incognito!). They’ve recently brought in a new, quite young vocalist, who was good, but sounded a bit like she was making covers of BNH songs. The percussionist should have got more vocal solos, she was a better singer. The drummer is also new, since co-founder Jan quit recently, but he did a very good job I must say. The one who keeps it all together though, is the solid bassist Andrew, who dedicated the final song “You are the universe” to his kids and brought them up on stage! This was the highlight of the concert, together with the encore “Dream come true”.
Bavarian Symphony Orchestra – Proms, Royal Albert Hall
I didn’t know if I was going to make it to a Prom concert this year, but decided last minute that I wanted to see my all time favourite, Shostakovich’s 10th. When I arrived, I saw two harps on the stage, which I thought was strange because there is no harp in Shostakovich’s 10th. Then I realised the information on the Internet had been wrong all along, they were going to play Shostakovich’s 5th. To me this was a major disappointment, although I’m happy I went as a “prommer”, not paying lots of money for a seat. However, the orchestra started with the joyous 2nd symphony by Beethoven, and you could tell by the faces of the conductor and some of the players that they had fun. I hadn’t heard this symphony before, but it’s just what you would expect from Beethoven. It was a bit quiet from where I was stood, the Shostakovich symphony with a larger number of instruments filled the room better. The performance of Shostakovich’s 5th was enjoyable, especially since I haven’t heard it performed in a concert hall before. But you can tell that it’s written more as a crowd pleaser, compared to his 7th and 10th. The dramatic passages feel more sarcastic than expressing real pain. There are some passages in the 3rd slow movement though, where the composer allows himself to be more sentimental, which brings more emotion and honesty to the music. Despite its sarcastic undertone, my favourite part of the symphony is the fun and catchy 2nd movement.
Inja – Hospitality Park Warm up, Studio 338
Inja is one of the first MCs to be signed to Hospital records. Last year he released his album “Blank Pages”, and one of the producers, Pete Cannon, did the DJing for this set. For obvious reasons, this set was only half an hour long, don’t think anyone could have rapped constantly in that speed for longer. Inja is as much a poet as rapper, and he started the set with an acapella verse that I think was improvised, which to me was the best part. For those of you who don’t know Inja, check out his Instagram, he does some nice inspirational talks every week!
Grafix – Hospitality Park Warm up, Studio 338
I’ve listened to the duo Fred V & Grafix in the past, and have kept on listening to them separately since they split up. Grafix is certainly the darker side of the two, with more focus on the drums and the bass than the harmonies, which works very well on the dance floor. The basslines are rhythmic, sometimes a bit 80’s synth music influenced. There were many tracks in the same key together, which made it feel like one long track. Grafix, or Josh as his real name is, really seemed to enjoy himself and got the crowd going, unlike some other DJs i saw during the day, so it felt like this was when the real party was starting.
London Elektricity – Hospitality Park Warm up, Studio 338
Tony, or London Elektricity, is the reason I started to listen to drum’n’bass almost 7 years ago. His DJing is a work of art; not only does he transition between tracks, he also manages to find tracks that he can play simultaneously! As the founder of Hospital Records, he knows his repertoire so well, and puts in all kinds of tracks, but always makes them go together so well. He has a very musical ear, which is probably why the focus is mainly on the harmonic kind of drum’n’bass. He played some of his own hits, along with some new tracks from his forthcoming album. The best moment for me was when he played “Meteorites Danny Byrd Remix”, which used to be one of my favourite songs. He started the whole thing with a new track with features my friend Daniela on vocals, which made me very happy!