Words by Simon Button
“That wasn’t camp at all,” Michael Ball quipped after Bonnie Tyler thundered through ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ and ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ at BBC Proms In The Park 2019.
The raspy Welsh songstress sang the hell out of her two signature hits on a hydraulic platform that thrust her above the 40,000-plus crowd in Hyde Park, and it was very camp indeed.
Bonnie was out-camped, though, by headliner Barry Manilow bringing a touch of Vegas to London with a bit of choreography, comedy quips (like jesting that to people at the back he must resemble a giant nose), soaring singalongs to the likes of ‘Mandy’ and ‘Can’t Smile Without You’, a discofied Donna Summer-style ‘Could It Be Magic’ and confetti raining down on the audience at the end of ‘Copacabana’ - surely one of the campest pop songs ever?
Bazza proved to be the greatest showman on Saturday night, where the sea of Union Jacks on flags, hats and shirts was tempered by an international line-up that also featured Britain’s wonderful Gabrielle and the Kingdom Choir (whose tribute to Aretha Franklin was freakin’ fantastic) plus America’s Chrissie Hyde (still the coolest rock chick around) and Italy-by-way-of-London’s Jack Savoretti - whose ascendancy from fledgling singer-songwriter to chart-topper is as merited as his sex appeal is tsunamic.
On Sunday it was the turn of Radio 2 Live In Hyde Park to bring the camp to the London landmark, with the Pet Shop Boys topping the bill.
Among the support acts were Bananarama (whose contribution to camp is a given this far into their career) and Westlife, who cheesed things up a bit with dance routines to ‘Uptown Girl’ and ‘World Of Our Own’ but it was their balladry on ‘You Raise Me Up’ and ‘Flying Without Wings’ that really got the audience going - proving that they’re awesome vocalists whose current renaissance is truly deserved.
As for the Pet Shop Boys, their set was truly amazing - slimmed down from their ‘Super’ tour to include all the hits from opening number ‘Suburbia’ to epic closer ‘Always On My Mind’ plus new single ‘Dreamland’ with a clearly thrilled Olly Alexander (resplendent in silver) joining them on stage.
It doesn’t get much camper than dancers in neon fat suits or Chris Lowe channeling the Mad Hatter or Neil Tennant leading the crowd in a ‘Domino Dancing’ singalong.
And it doesn’t get much better than bringing out Beverley Knight to do the Dusty bits on ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?’.
With the Boys’ greatest hits tour looming next year, here’s hoping they make Olly and Bev honorary members.
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Images by James Watson