Gig Review by Ryan Beardsley with Photography by Michael Sibbons

It’s not every day you get to spend a Friday afternoon, in 30-degree sunshine watching some of your favourite artists, especially in England. So with that caveat in place, if anyone was looking for negativity from this writer, they were going to have to work pretty bloody hard to find some (sadly this did occur, sigh). The first thing that struck me upon seeing the bill was what an eclectic mix of performers had been jumbled in together, if anyone can tell me the link between Roger Waters, Richard Ashcroft, Seasick Steve, Squeeze etc, answers on a postcard…

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So as I wondered into Hyde Park on Friday afternoon with 65,000 others, surrounded by pink skin, glitter face paint and refrains of Football’s Coming Home, I was confident of a great day and Seasick Steve kicking things off did not disappoint. In the interest of full disclosure, this was my first time with the American bluesman and my knowledge of his back catalogue was limited, but I’ll soon be (legally) downloading a few of his records after this. The laid-back demeanour of Steven Wold was the perfect way to kick off the day and he was constantly engaging with the crowd throughout the set, raising genuine laughs with what I imagine is his trademark self-deprecating wit.

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Highlights included Summertime Boy and set closer Thunderbird went down a real treat, as the crowd raised their ‘party in a bottle’ to the stage in salutation to the bearded wizard, the irony of paying over £25 for a bottle of Prosecco hopefully not lost on all of them. The stand out though was You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks, a stomping rock n roll blues number, with poignant lyrics that resonated with me personally, and I think sums up Steve’s whole schtick nicely. As it happens, my companion for the day informed me that she had chosen this as her ‘Father/Daughter wedding song? I didn’t know this was even a respected tradition? I was also concerned this was her priority rather than a song for her future husband, but perhaps that’s why she’s still single. I did not voice this concern to her.

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Next up was 90’s Britpop legend Richard Ashcroft, who confidently swaggered on stage clad in a glittery number worthy of Jagger himself. In a relatively short and sweet set of 9 songs, Ashcroft treated the audience to 6 Verve classics which you can’t really argue with. Set opener Hold On was an interesting way to start, hardly his most well-known solo work and I could see a few non-plussed faces waiting for Bittersweet Symphony to kick in…

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However once he launched into Sonnet for his sophomore effort, the crowd woke up and the sing-alongs began in earnest. He stormed through more of his solo work but disappointingly, neglected his biggest hits, for example there was no Song For The Lovers, a personal favourite of mine ☹. Despite that small bugbear, Ashcroft began to build to a more than worthy finale, saving the biggest Verve hits for last. I think sometimes we take for granted what a brilliant lyricist and performer Richard Ashcroft is, and I think this was reflected in the brilliant unsavoury incident that soon transpired. Apparently, there was a young whippersnapper heckling Ashcroft, pleading with him to play Wonderwall…

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I’m not sure if this chap was inebriated, confused or trolling, but it prompted a hell of a response from Ashcroft – “I wrote fucking Drugs Don’t Work, Sonnet, Song for the Lovers! Don’t ask me to fucking play Wonderwall!” The call to arms whipped the crowd into a frenzy as he was roared on and the heckler presumably hoped for the ground to swallow him up. This angry defiance appeared to gee him up massively for a final 2 tracks, Drugs Don’t Work followed by Bittersweet Symphony with the crowd chanting along to every word to two of the best tracks of the 1990’s. He left the stage with the crowd covered in goosebumps and eager for more.

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On to the next act as I left the confines of the main stage to watch 70’s cheeky chappies Squeeze (mostly so I could tell my old man about it, big fan you see old Nige). However when I got to the stage there was already a handsome crowd awaiting Squeeze and they didn’t disappoint, as they rattled through what I imagine was a greatest hits set. Although truthfully I only recognised a couple, such as Up The Junction and Cool for Cats, but the crowd were bouncing throughout, the heat and the premium strength lager taking its toll on many by this stage in the day. Though by the set closer, Black Coffee in Bed, I was struck by how the band are genuinely excellent musicians with key and pitch, perfect throughout and to say they had been playing the songs for nearly 50 years, they definitely still had it. I think I might go for another peak through my dads old LPs the next time I’m back home…

So onto the main event, and I feel I should start with a disclaimer of sorts, I know that this might be considered an oxymoron in relation to a Floyd/Waters gig, but I really don’t want to talk about politics, and I don’t think you want to read about it either. Maybe once a or twice to get the point across I can handle. But to be constantly bludgeoned over the head, just genuinely sucked the enthusiasm out of me at some points when it really needn’t have.

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In truth, by the time Trump’s image was superimposed on the giant screen with a micropenis between his legs, and then wearing a Klu Klux Klan hood, I just honestly felt embarrassed. I understand wanting to voice your opinion and using your platform for doing so but we’re talking about preaching to the converted. For the people who have shelled out over £200 a ticket in some cases, for the so-called ‘Diamond enclosure’, a few feet from the stage (didn’t really feel like socialism), it just seems disingenuous to me and more than a touch hypocritical.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense and onto the music and the show itself, which were genuinely mindblowing. You know when you’re watching a genuine living legend, they have a kind of energy around them. No one can take their eyes off the performer and you’re fully aware you’re in the presence of greatness, someone who has changed the way the world thinks about music. I can only say that I’ve experienced this a handful of times in my life, Paul McCartney, Amy Winehouse, Morrissey (pre racism) and Radiohead spring to mine, but Roger Waters exuded this and more on stage, it looked as though he had a bright light emanating from him, but that may have been sunstroke.

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Kicking off with Breathe, the sound system was incredible and I knew we were in for something special. Soaring through Time, The Great Gig In The Sky and Wish You Were Here, the Hyde Park crowd were being treated to some stone cold classics. A moment here for the band that Waters has assembled; note perfect. A lot of the additional performers including two hugely talented backing singers were taking responsibility for the majority of the vocals but there were no complaints each time Waters converted his energy into each mind-bending guitar solo.

Another Brick In The Wall was an incredible sight as 65,000 people chanted the chorus in one and gave me my second case of goosebumps for the day. Waters had invited several children from a local school who he later explained had not rehearsed at all, but were clearly having a great time and that showed, everybody was enjoying themselves and why not?

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A short intermission followed as the sun set over Hyde Park and the sight of the famous Battersea Power Station, rose up behind the stage to create an amazing visual spectacle, especially considering this tour was designed for arenas, not outdoor gigs, now we were in for a visual treat as well.

Upon their return, Waters and his band launched into more classics, starting with Dogs, before bleeding into Money and eventually Pigs, each performance more spine-tingling than the next as Waters bounded around the stage looking to engage with as many as his devoted fans as he could. By this point I was fully aware I was watching a true legend on stage and the feeling was palpable and genuinely emotional for long time fans around me. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more perfect, a spectacular light show, displaying the 3D pyramid and famous image from The Dark Side Of The Moon cover appeared as if out of nowhere before the stage as Comfortably Numb began to kick in, perfection. The crowd sang back at Waters as he marched across the stage, acting as composer for his 60,000+ orchestra and I have no doubt he was getting off on this just as much as we all were. Then like that, they were gone.

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So all in all a smashing day, Seasick Steve earned a new fan, Richard Ashcroft swore at an adolescent and Roger Waters performed some of the greatest prog rock ever composed. It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been all about the music, so to quote Roger himself, despite having an amazing time, ‘I gotta admit that I’m a little bit confused, Sometimes it seems to me as if I’m just being used’

4/5

Footnote:

About Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park

Set in London’s beautiful Royal Park, the event kicked off in 2013 with The Rolling Stones reliving their legendary 1969 gig and has not let up since, featuring now famous shows from Carole King, Stevie Wonder, The Libertines, Blur, Florence + The Machine, Kendrick Lamar, Black Sabbath, Taylor Swift, The Who and so many more.

Every year, each headliner is joined by a full supporting line-up across multiple stages, from major superstars to handpicked developing acts performing for fans from across the UK and the world.

One Response to “British Summer Time Hyde Park Ft. Roger Waters + Squeeze + Richard Ashcroft + Seasick Steve, London, UK – 6th July 2018”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Wonderful review
    Loved the confused fan and the Waters’ review really made me wish I was there. Top photos too!

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