June 1, 2019, Victoria Park. A boy in the audience did the worm to 'Dance Wiv Me'
“Big up Mumford & Sons!” So proclaims Dizzee Rascal at the end of his absurdly enjoyable main stage set at All Points East, the Hackney shindig set across two weekends in the borough’s Victoria Park. Last weekend bestowed on us the return of The Strokes and Christine & The Queens’ impeccable headline set, while this weekend saw Dizzee rub shoulders with likes of Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons, who curated the Saturday line-up. Funnily enough they ended up headlining, preceded by Dizzee, who proves their unlikely hype man.
After the Bow rapper’s ringing endorsement, Marcus and the lads open with a robust rendition of ‘Guiding Light’, taken from 2018’s eclectic fourth album ‘Delta’, while the career-spanning set sees the London band on impassioned form, clearly happy to be on home turf at the end of a sprawling world tour. Marcus slips into the crowd as the band rocks out to ‘Ditmas’, a track from electric guitar-heavy third album ‘Wilder Mind’; throughout Mumfords sound surprisingly like a rock band, adding credence to the frontman’s insistence that they “came here to have a good time,” continuing the party Dizzee started.
Although there are sombre moments – an a capella ‘Forever’, a heart-wrenching ‘Wild Heart’ – there’s a celebratory air to the evening, a mood best summed up when Marcus asks, “Shall we stop fucking around then?”, before the band launches into ‘I Will Wait’, which sounds more explosive than any banjo-based pop song really has any right to. Fireworks! A rock star podium! Winston Marshall’s roaring guitar solos (and louche electric blue suit)! After a rocky start to the tour, due to technical hitches, they seem reignited tonight.
Their line-up choices, billed under their Gentlemen Of The Road banner, are similarly inspired, with London-based Marika Hackman’s alt-pop stylings an ideal soundtrack to a sunny afternoon beside the second stage. Opener ‘Blahlahblah’ sounds like a parallel universe version of Weezer’s ‘The Sweater Song’, albeit accompanied by ghostly vocals, while ‘I’m Not Where You Are’ could pass for a lost banger from the short-lived B-Town scene. At the end of a jangling ‘Bath Is Black’, Hackman announces, “My guitar teacher’s here! I was at school the first time I played that, wasn’t I? And look at me now!” As the old saying goes: those who can’t do… look on as their former pupils outdo them in every conceivable way.
Americana-influenced Jade Bird’s doing well for herself, too; her main stage set draws a massive crowd. There is an endearing, knee-slapping rootsiness to the Northumberland-born singer’s onstage persona, never more evident than when, by way of introducing ‘Ruins’, she mugs, “This one is a love song – and if you know me, you’ll know I never write love songs.”
She covers The Bangles’ ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’, thanks the crowd for being “the best… we’ve ever had” and, on the rollicking ‘I Get No Joy’, nearly sings fast enough to make Dizeee Rascal blush. The audience knows the songs back to front: she’s clearly set to be massive.
By contrast, The Vaccines – providing the day’s shot of indie machismo; Sam Fender, who was meant to precede them, has dropped out due to illness – sound somewhat beleaguered, their dated set filled out almost identical songs, with the exception of ‘Nørgaard’, written about the Danish model Amanda Nørgaard, which they play at about twice its normal speed. Perhaps they’re hoping no-one will notice the lyrics “Teenage hormones / Young complexion… She’s only 17 so she’s probably not ready” don’t hold up so well nowadays.
And then it’s down to Dizzee Rascal to amp up the party that Marcus and chums had in mind. By accident or otherwise, these acts are all London-bred (Bird attended the BRIT School), making the second Saturday at All Points East feel like a real celebration of the capital. And who better to epitomise everything London has to offer than the Boy In Da Corner? He bounds onstage to Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’, bellowing, “London city! My name is Dizzee fucking Rascal!”, and opens with ‘Wot U Gonna Do’, an anthemic caution against complacency, taken from 2017’s ‘Raskit’. And then he gives us what we really want.
‘Bonkers’. ‘Sirens’. ‘Bassline Junkie’. ‘Holiday’. ‘Dance Wiv Me’. Dizzee has such an unbelievable volley of bangers that it doesn’t even seem particularly weird when he transforms ‘I Luv U’, an early paranoid missive from his Bow estate, into a jubilant dance smash. If his longevity’s in any doubt: a boy in the audience does the worm during ‘Dance Wiv Me’.
Dizzee only risks losing the crowd, and this London love-in, when he points out that Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final earlier: “Thank you for coming out tonight when you could have been at home watching Tottenham lose to Liverpool.” A West Ham fan, he basks in the good-natured boos, quipping, “Where my Scousers at?”
Luckily Mumford & Sons restore the sense of intimacy, a task they’re well-equipped for, since they use that podium to imitate the atmosphere of a tiny venue, the four of them bunched up at its pinnacle, marooned way out in the audience. At one point, Marcus proclaims, “All right, Vicky Park – listen up: let’s try an experiment,” before the band abandon their instruments and crowd around a single mic. Amid the ensuing silence, he jokes, “I know we’ve all had a bevvy, but if you think this is your time to say something… it’s not.”
And they do their show-stopping, impassioned a capella version of ‘Wild Heart’. They round off the night by bringing out musicians who’ve played throughout the day – Jade Bird included – for a joyous, chaotic singalong of The Beatles ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, a gesture that feels like a summation of everything – inclusivity, the capital, celebrating each other – that the day stood for. Also! Remember when that kid did the worm!