London Pride was still a week away, but you'd have thought it came early as the uber-gay line-up of Kylie Minogue, Grace Jones, Chic and many more took over Hyde Park for the latest Barclaycard Presents British Summer Time in Hyde Park festival yesterday. Mika, Bright Light Bright Light, Foxes and Mylo were among the smaller acts filling stages across the afternoon - here's our verdict on the main headliners:
Years & Years: Olly Alexander and co's early 2:30pm slot ensured a big crowd made it to Hyde Park for the start of the festival, and the earlybirds weren't disappointed, with the so-hot-right-now electro-poppers delivering an enjoyable 45-minute set, peppered with tracks from their soon-to-be-released debut album. While their number one hit King got the biggest cheers (and featured some side-of-stage dancing from one Kylie Minogue, something that became surprisingly common as the afternoon wore on), it was their unlikely cover of Blu Cantrell and Sean Paul's 2003 hit Breathe that really got the crowd warmed up:
Chic featuring Nile Rodgers: Kicking off at 5pm, disco legend Nile Rodgers took it upon himself to get the sedate afternoon crowd up and dancing - and it wasn't hard, given he's responsible for some of the most undeniably joyous pop songs ever written. His setlist was wall-to-wall number one hits, be they Chic originals (Everybody Dance, Le Freak), songs he'd penned for other people (Upside Down, Let's Dance - which saw his singers and drummer filling in for Diana Ross and David Bowie respectively), or songs from his new career renaissance (Daft Punk's Get Lucky and Chic's brilliant first single in 22 years, I'll Be There).
Ever-generous, Rodgers invited a vast swathe of backstage folk onto the stage for the final song, Good Times - among them Sam Smith and The Edge from U2. Finishing up, he asked the audience to give a big hand the the celebrity revellers on stage - but there was only one man we were applauding.
Grace Jones: Sandwiched in between unashamed crowd pleasers Chic and Kylie, Grace Jones was always going to be a slightly pricklier proposition, given her back catalogue includes just a handful of big hits. Icy disco classics like Nightclubbing and Private Life trade on cool disaffection - brilliant songs, but harder to unite a casual festival audience. Thankfully, though, a Grace Jones performance is all theatre and spectacle: the 67-year-old changed into a new elaborate, revealing costume between each and every song, leaving her microphone on backstage so that she can treat the audience to such between song pearlers as "My nipples are sweaty!" By the time she finished her set with the epic, Trevor Horn-produced signature anthem Slave to the Rhythm, she'd well and truly won the crowd over. And we even got a handful of (very promising) new songs! Could a follow-up to 2008's brilliant Hurricane be imminent?
Kylie Minogue: The eternally ageless Aussie pop icon's 19-song setlist was unapologetically geared towards the casual Kylie fan: wall-to-wall hits for 90 minutes. Dusting off oldies like Better the Devil You Know and The Locomotion? No problem. Singing a few bars of the Neighbours theme tune, just to remind everyone of her days on Ramsay Street? Done. Warbling I Should Be So Lucky acapella, while being carried into the crowd atop two security guards? TOO EASY, MATE. There was little Kylie wouldn't do in the pursuit of a good time, and in this 'nothing but the hits' context, even the somewhat overplayed hits (Kids, On A Night Like This - those staples of every Kylie live show for the past 15 years) got a new lease on life.
The nicest surprise? Her underrated 2010 single Get Outta My Way - not a big hit at the time - went OFF. Kylie fans know a lost classic when they hear one:
We're just gonna say it: Kylie Minogue is just about the perfect festival performer. KYLIE 4 GLASTO PLS.
British Summer Time Hyde Park continues into next weekend with shows from The Who and (GASP) Taylor Swift. info: BST Hyde Park website.