Coruscating sets from Destiny's Child, Eve, Artful Dodger and Oxide & Neutrino prove why r&b and garage are the most vital sounds around...
Teenage R&B superstars Destiny’s Child aren’t just headlining today’s Jam In The Park. By playing here in north London, they’re transforming the image of the traditionally grimy British outdoor concert into something a bit more glamorous, attracting teenage girls in headscarves, open-minded garage kids and middle-aged women in stonewash denim. Even Vanessa Feltz is here shaking her jelly.
R&B and hip-hop has always been with us, but now with garage muscling in, the ‘urban’ sound has invaded the Top Ten thanks to a lot of the acts playing today. Oxide & Neutrino are probably popularising two-step more than anyone and they offer us a stunning Sunday afternoon rave garage, elevated by bare-chested MC Neutrino’s sleepy arrogance. The trampling of The Prodigy‘s ‘No Good 4 Me’ is an amazing act of sacrilege, with Neutrino rhyming evilly while the original tune is reduced to a ring tone bleep.
Thanks to their huge ‘Do You Really Like It’ hit, one of the most popular draws of the day is DJ Pied Piper & The Masters Of Ceremonies. They bound on stage and continue bounding, either to silky piano breaks or hard, fast rhymes. Pied Piper, wearing motorcycle leathers, tries to maintain order throughout the partied-up PA but for ten minutes N4 has been totally Aiya Napa’d. Meanwhile the Artful Dodger band seem determined to literally jam at Jam In The Park. But ‘Moving Too Fast’, ‘Re-re-wind’ and ‘Please Don’t Turn Me On’ deserve the special extended treatment.
The First Lady of Ruff Ryders, Eve always expects special treatment. She wears tight red trousers, a head scarf and a sweet smile, but takes no shit. When a dancer offers her a bottle of water she fixes him with a stare until he unscrews the lid. We get to see her rage on domestic violence hip-hop ballad ‘Love Is Blind’, then skip playfully through the Latin aromas of ‘Who’s That Girl?’.
Over in the Rawkus hiphop tent, the vibes are distinctly more grimy, especially when white students stagger about in the mud, completely befuddled with ketamine while Pharoahe Monch conducts the apocalyptic ‘Simon Says’. Soon hip hop pin-up Mos Def turns up, and puts in an appearance with label-mate Talib Kweli to add a little more glamour to the proceedings. But while garage may be the sound of the moment and hip-hop still has ‘street level attitude’, Destiny’s Child seem to have it all. A pleasantly chilled day out is now a chance for people of all ages, backgrounds and musical prejudices to worship the holy trinity of Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle. When they rise through the stage and 6ft flames fire up for ‘Independent Women Pt. 1’, you realise just how much other girl groups pale in comparison.
Unlike anything else today, their show is about graceful moves, pummelling R&B and a whole lot of love for God and each other. The first half is possibly the most hit-tastic live show in the world. After ‘Independent Women Pt. 1’, they perform ‘So Good’, ‘Bugaboo’, ‘Bills Bills Bills’, ‘Bootylicious’ and ‘Say My Name’. There’s a complete absence of the provocative desperation we’re used to from other pop stars, even when Michelle shakes her butt for the guitar-scratching new single ‘Bootylicious’.
After costume changes and dancers, the second half has ballads, gospel and a moment where the girls say what they love about each other. And it’s still brilliant. By the time they reach a pyrotechnically-enhanced encore of ‘Survivor’ it’s plain to see just why R&B has become so high profile recently. With stars and songs like those on show today, there’s few other genres of music that can offer such a consummately cool form of entertainment.