British Summer Time Hyde Park London
British Summer Time is the festival for music lovers who want to get their kicks without wearing their wellies. The branding may change – it’s now ‘presented’ by Barclaycard – but the vibe remains the same.
It has laid on some unforgettable treats, from Bruce Springsteen in 2009, still buzzing from Glastonbury, to three immaculate evenings over 15 years with Paul Simon, from Garfunkel to Graceland and a glowing goodbye.
The typical Hyde Park headliner is a golden oldie who summons enough energy to supply two hours of magic. It’s been an infallible formula – until this year.
Kris Kristofferson, 83, makes up for a ropey voice with sparkling musicianship and piercing lyrics. But the big draw is Barbra Streisand. She certainly has rarity value
Stevie Wonder’s show is billed as The Stevie Wonder Song Party, which sounds about as alluring as karaoke night at your local. There’s strong support from Lionel Richie, serving up singalongs with twinkly charm.
But something is clearly amiss with Stevie.
He arrives looking frail and older than his 69 years. Later he explains why: he needs a kidney transplant. It’s brave of him to let the show go on, if perhaps unwise. His vocals, usually so effortless, are wobbly.
Stevie Wonder’s show is billed as The Stevie Wonder Song Party, which sounds about as alluring as karaoke night at your local. But something is clearly amiss with Stevie
‘Are you with me?’ he asks – not once, not twice, but 20 times. He does manage a moving For Once In My Life, a stirring Sir Duke and a disarming I Just Called To Say I Love You. Otherwise there’s too much filler.
Next day, the youngest name on the poster is Bryan Ferry, aged 73, who is smiley, artful and soulful. Kris Kristofferson, 83, makes up for a ropey voice with sparkling musicianship and piercing lyrics. But the big draw is Barbra Streisand.
She certainly has rarity value: this is only the 11th British gig of her career. But soon she is showing that even a living legend can be a bit of a bore. She reads rambling anecdotes off an autocue; she digs out umpteen old photos; she even has her dogs, which are cloned, wheeled on stage in a pram.
The youngest name on the poster is Bryan Ferry, aged 73, who is smiley, artful and soulful. Lionel Richie serves up singalongs with twinkly charm while supporting Stevie Wonder
That moment can be forgiven as it’s mercifully brief. But Streisand may still have to stand trial, accused of tossing two great songs, Barry Gibb’s Guilty and Woman In Love, into a perfunctory medley.
It’s all the more frustrating because, at 77, she still has a velvet voice. On Evergreen, from A Star Is Born, she’s in total control, intimate one moment, imperious the next. On Send In The Clowns, she turns a cliché into a masterclass.
In between, though, there’s a lot of Broadway mediocrity, and even the duets are overdone. The reunion with Kristofferson is endearing, but Richie is superfluous on The Way We Were and the musical star Ramin Karimloo, like the crowd, is wondering what he’s doing there.
All told, Streisand gives us about 20 minutes of greatness. For the second night running, the support has outshone the headliner.
THIS WEEK’S CD RELEASES
By Adam Woods
Σ(No,12k,Lg, 17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes… Out now
New Order reworked a selection of songs from their catalogue for a residency at Manchester’s Old Granada Studios in 2017. Backed by a ‘synth orchestra’, they played reimaginings of cult favourites, obscurities and old Joy Division tunes. These 18 songs represent the full scope of those nights and a glorious self-portrait of one of our greatest-ever bands. Pithy title too
Africa Express Egoli Out now
Damon Albarn’s Africa Express venture is beginning to look like some of his most meaningful work. Egoli is a collaborative album made in a week in Johannesburg, and though Albarn and other visitors crop up, the real stars are the local musicians – Moonchild Sanelly, Mahotella Queens and Radio 123
Tiny Changes: A Celebration Of The Midnight Organ Fight Out now
Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison died by suicide last May, a decade after the release of his masterpiece The Midnight Organ Fight. At Hutchison’s final shows, the band had played the record in full, and now his bandmates hand the album over to ‘some pals’ – including Biffy Clyro, Benjamin Gibbard and Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry for a full remake
Freya Ridings Freya Ridings Out Friday
Ridings’ 2018 Lost Without You was apparently the first Top Ten hit written unaided by a female artist since Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill re-charted in 2012. The 25-year-old Ridings has commendably written all of her debut studio album too, even if Adele producer Greg Kurstin and others were on hand to help record it