“I’m so happy today to be playing a festival that is 70 percent women,” Florence Welch remarks during Florence + The Machine’s headline set at BST Hyde Park. “Which is unfortunately still so rare in the festival circuit, but look! Welcome to the matriarchy, it’s fun!”
Indeed, it’s an all too unfamiliar sight, especially at an event as big and established as the British Summer Time series. Today, then, has a feeling of progressiveness about it from the first whistle. Here, we run through Florence’s support acts.
During her early set on the giant, foliage-clad main stage, Nadine Shah continues to drive towards becoming one of the country’s premier, critically-acclaimed songwriters, complete with that Mercury nom in her back pocket. Half way through the set, she points out her family in the crowd, and one of her nieces being held aloft. “I hope one day they pick up guitars,” she remarks. “We need more musicians, especially ones like my little nieces.” Watching a powerful, snarling set of dark and delicious indie rock, they couldn’t hope for a better role model.
Let’s Eat Grandma
Let’s Eat Grandma then take to the second stage, and are absolute live wires. Last year’s ‘I’m All Ears’ LP saw the band take their kooky indie-pop to new heights. The excellently catchy ‘It’s Not Just Me’ loosens more than a few limbs, while the rest of the set sees a rendition of the Macarena, Jenny Hollingworth running into the crowd to down a pint of snakebite, and all the uninhibited fun you could want to start a big day out.
Blood Orange, meanwhile, is more restrained. More of an orchestrator than a frontman, Dev Hynes gives the spotlight to his band and guest singers on cuts from last year’s ‘Negro Swan’. His finest moment is still 2013 single ‘You’re Not Good Enough’, though, a hip-shaking pop-funk powerhouse. Lykke Li is just growing into the role of entertainer, though. ‘sex money feelings die’ and ‘I Follow Rivers’ get the biggest singalongs of the day so far, and when she interpolates Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ into ‘deep end’, her transformation into slick, sultry pop star looks almost complete.
Co-headlining with Florence today are The National, who Florence Welch describes during her set as “my favourite band”. It’s still a bit of a wonder that the band found themselves in this position, but with every next step up the band make, they show why they fully deserve it. New album ‘I Am Easy To Find’ is brought to life convincingly, with album collaborators Gail Anne Dorsey, Lisa Hannigan, Eve Owen and Mina Tindle along for the ride to add all its gorgeous textures. Somewhat predictably, though, the album’s slower, more contemplative cuts (‘So Far So Fast’ and its title track) lag somewhat in such a big arena, filled largely with Florence + The Machine fans, with the band playing in broad daylight. It’s down to the likes of ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, ‘Graceless’ and ‘Mr November’ to claw things back, and prove that the band do have enough big-hitters to command a crowd as sizeable as this. Front load them a bit more, and it would’ve been even more of a triumph.