I had the privilege of attending British Summertime at Hyde Park in London this past Saturday 5th July, where The Libertines were the headline act. It started out as a typical British summer's day, overcast with that kind of annoying rain that's neither torrential downpour nor drizzle. But that didn't stop us from having a fantastic time. The crowds were out in full swing nice and early to catch some of the starting acts such as The Enemy. The Enemy have released three albums, all top ten, including “we’ll live and die in these towns” that topped the UK top 40 and went on to go Platinum and become the soundtrack for a new disaffected generation. Everyone danced and sang along whole heartedly to this much loved band. Make sure to check out their new mini EP “magic” on itunes today for a reduced price.
The Enemy also managed to draw a larger crowd than Maximo Park, who seemed a bit disappointing. Maximo Park are currently touring worldwide to promote the release of their new album, Too Much Information. It seemed that the band were a bit tired and as the crowds dissipated, Maximo Park didn’t quite reach the mark in connecting the fans with their new songs. Some were disappointed that they weren’t playing their singles from A Certain Trigger (released in 2005). However, they did eventually play ‘Apply Some Pressure’, ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Gone Missing’ (all earlier, much loved singles) which seemed to lift the spirit near the end of the band’s set. Ultimately though, some might say this was a bit of a dip during the day’s highlights.
Just before sunset, we saw The Pogues, led by an “off his face” Shane Macgowan take to the stage. Formed in 1982, The Pogues reached international prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The band reformed in late 2001, and has been playing regularly ever since, most notably on the US East Coast around St Patrick’s Day and across the UK and Ireland every December. Their politically tinged sound was informed by MacGowan and Spider Stacy’s punk backgrounds, but also incorporates traditional Irish instruments such as the tin whistle, cittern, mandolin and accordion. Fans were not disappointed, with Macgowan slurring his words and clutching to the microphone for dear life, strangers joined arms to do Irish jigs as the band picked up pace. When you see such iconic bands perform like The Pogues you feel a little transported back in time and I imagined them performing back in 80’s London and felt proud that they were rocking out up there, still totally owning the stage today. Early 20 somethings were singing their hearts out to ‘Dirty Old Town’, and for a band to transcend generations like that is something truly impressive. Some tweets from fans included “How is Shane Macgowan still alive?” and “Shane Macgowan makes everyone look sober”.
As it neared 8:45pm, hordes of the 55,000-strong crowd pushed towards the main stage, eagerly waiting with religious like devotion to see The Libertines. Carnage seemed to follow, with people passing out everywhere and paramedic staff arriving with stretchers even before the headliners began. Such was the level of excitement in the crowd, the gig had to be paused three times through fear that those at the front would be crushed. Pete Doherty and Carl Barat’s relationship on stage seemed fine-tuned and solid as they shared the mic, offering up brilliant lo-fi versions of What a Waster, Can’t Stand Me Now, Don’t Look Back Into the Sun, Time for Heroes and Music When the Lights Go Out – absolute gems from their immortal back catalogue that fans were dying to hear played live. However, chaotic scenes started to unfold as fans jumped over VIP areas and pushed to the front, causing concerns over crowd safety. The band scolded the audience like naughty children, asking them to behave and to stop throwing fireworks and flares. Doherty urged the crowd to move back before telling them: “We can’t carry on if you don’t calm down a bit.” Towards the end of the evening the set had to be halted again after fans climbed the sound towers, some of them naked, in order to get a better view of the stage. Around 30 fans suffering from minor injuries were treated on site and less than 10 needed hospital treatment.
All in all we thoroughly enjoyed the day at Hyde Park, deciding to just go with whatever happened as the day descended further into madness. The bands were on great form and it was a superb day of music in London. It’s all fun in rock and roll until someone gets naked and climbs a tower or has to be carried away on a stretcher. The Libertines have announced two further London concerts, at Alexandra Palace, on 27 and 28 September.