Hyde Park, London, July 6 - July 8
After criticism from some quarters for schizophrenic line-ups, Wireless has found itself a delicious groove this year by turning the focus to R&B and electro. For Friday at least, they’ve got lucky, because despite chilling weather forecasts, the air is precipitation-free and there are male torsos in floral beachwear as far as the eye can see. Bucking the trend in a simultaneously frumpy and flirty nun-like get-up, Santigold and her dancers deliver half an hour of pristine electropop before filling the stage with gyrating fans for a rendition of ‘Creator’. It’s a welcome diversion from the imminent bass overdose about to overwhelm in the form of dubstep and house DJs, as are venerated hip-hop legends The Roots, whose eclectic, showstopping tunes make perfect sense on the main stage. The more conceptual elements of latest album ‘Undun’ are a bit lost taken out of context, but their loping rhythms and knack for the off-kilter are undeniable.
Former Pendulum folks Knife Party draw younger members of the crowd, but are outdone by rising young mash-up pup Jaguar Skills at the opposite side of the arena. Although there’s a suggestion that Deadmau5 was punching above his weight headlining Wireless, his deft way with straddling each divergent strand of electro, house and dubstep is admirable, and those giving it the old ‘big-fish-little-fish’ at the bitter end can say they were at the closest thing to a rave Hyde Park’s ever seen.
So Saturday comes, and so does the rain. But the vastly larger-than-Friday crowd is in high spirits and there’s the agreeable advantage that everyone’s fully clothed. Newcomer Lady Leshurr puts up a brave fight in a tricky slot up against Wiz Khalifa, injecting some lightning-fast rhyming into her sprightly showcase and handing over a box of £240 trainers to one bemused audience member. Mikill Pane is one of the most exciting young British rappers around at the moment and his easy way with a classic hook slips down nicely, while chart-bothering motormouths Professor Green and Example both deliver their respective hits dutifully. So it’s left to bloggers’ favourite The Weeknd. The enigmatic Canadian draws a tent-busting crowd on the strength of his three mixtape releases, and they’re hypnotised by his slinky, downtempo R&B. They may or may not have noticed his use of Beach House samples. Less reserved is Nicki Minaj, who’s on vivacious form. She’s a formidably looming stage presence at the very worst of times, but at her best, as on rap-heavy tracks like ‘Beez In The Trap’, she’s tough to follow. Some of her big pop numbers are naffer than naff, but as a rapper she’s hard to match. Happily for Drake, his fanbase are more than happy to lap up his oft-tepid closing set, brightened at least momentarily with a guest turn from Minaj on ‘Make Me Proud’. Minimalist singles ‘The Motto’ and his remix of SBTRKT’s ‘Wildfire’ are highlights, but the syrupy ballads can turn a fragile stomach.
With the ground turning from grassy delight to ocean of mud overnight, it’s hard to see why anyone would bother turning up early on a Sunday for douchey pop-rapper Pitbull. Far less Club 18-30 and a thousand times more likeable is the codeine-rich swagger of A$AP Rocky, a man on the brink of big things. The lazy, hazy likes of ‘Wassup’ and the excellent set-closer ‘Peso’ purr with irresistible lethargy. The (repeatedly) self-proclaimed “pretty motherfucker” works the crowd like they’re a fresh set of gold teeth, despite offering up little new material to tantalise with.
Equally revelatory is Californian upstart Kreayshawn, whose infectious drum’n’bass-inflected hip-hop brims with ’tude. Whether she’s namechecking Amy Winehouse and Courtney Love, rapping about stealing cats on ‘Wavey Based Freestyle’ or slamming fashion victims on hit ‘Gucci Gucci’, there’s a brazenness to her that just about justifies the high expectations surrounding her can-we-hear-it-already? debut album.
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She may not be famed as a belter of songs, but it’s easy to forget as Rihanna opens with ‘Only Girl (In The World)’. Performing on an Egyptian-themed stage with pyramids of light, the Barbadian couldn’t seem less oblivious to the torrential downpour. Aside from a couple of wimpy ballads, this is a set packed with monster hits. From singles ‘You Da One’ and ‘Where Have You Been’ to a triumphant ‘Rude Boy’, her recent hammering of the charts has provided her with an impressive armoury. In contrary fashion, the rain stops just before a gargantuan rendition of ‘Umbrella’, but by this point it would seem rather churlish to complain.