Love Saves Sunday Festival review
Bristol, 26th May 2013
So if I had some minor doubts about Love Saves the Day Day 1 – the narrow age range of the audience, the slightly repetitive nature of the acts – was Love Saves Sunday going to turn it all around? Hell yes. A balmy barnstormer in beautiful Bristol.
In early afternoon, attendance looked a little light. Whereas the first day was completely sold out weeks ago, there were still tickets available on Saturday for today’s performance. It seems incredible that a bill that included Chic and Soul II Soul could have failed to sell out – however, by the end of the day my fears were assuaged as the main stage became absolutely thronged.
You do wonder about the suitability of certain acts to work festivals, though. I first catch Sam Smith in a very early afternoon slot. The poor guy croons his RnB stylings in a manner slightly reminiscent of Plan B. Sadly, it feels a little inconsequential, and the audience keep their asses firmly on the grass. In the first hour I attend, no-one dances in front of the main stage until a maniac knight in padded costume swashes his buckle and shows off his sword’n’shieldy moves to the loudest applause of the day so far.
I’d been looking forward to seeing Lulu James and she didn’t disappoint. She hopped and she strutted and she danced and she boogied. She was sassy and funny and worked the audience hard. “I’m Lulu James, bitches!” The crowd lapped it up and the highlight of a short set was the new single, ‘Closer‘. She’s going to be a huge huge star.
Following Lulu James, Clean Bandit are the second band of the day to bring the strings (after Sam Smith). It’s a brilliant noise – the band incorporate a string quartet into hip-hop and electronica. Imagine ELO but done good. There are proper soulful rhythms and a boogieing string section. I love Bellowhead and their clog-dancing take on folk – this lot do the same for house and it’s a great spectacle. They build on Lulu James’ momentum and leave the audience in a better place.
Before 5 – in a surprisingly early slot for one of Bristol’s biggest ever acts, and one presumes low on the bill for their own convenience – the incredible Soul II Soul. Before the first four bars are finished the field is alive and it’s as if a single continuous smile stretches across the face of thousands of people. They are phenomenal. Jazzie B is a self-deprecating, funny MC with the huge confidence of a man with the audience in the palm of his hand. There are more strings and synchronised backing singers with some sweet moves and belting vocals from the amazing Caron Wheeler. It’s been a glorious warm day already but I swear to God you could feel the love emanating from the field. One of the highlights of my gig-going life, to see Soul II Soul on their home turf – just wonderful. (I saw the great man posing for photos with fans afterwards too – I love that a legend like that makes time for the people.)
I miss Babyhead, though I’m told that they were great, returning in time to see Ms Dynamite. I’d forgotten just how good she is. She’s a proper ‘act’, and you forget how rare that mix of charisma and talent is. In a moment that couldn’t be more Bristol, hot air balloons pass overhead between acts.
I had been looking forward to Ghostpoet. He gets a lot of plays on 6music and he’s got an eerie, uncertain vibe that makes you want to constantly keep checking over your shoulder. Was he the right act to open the evening’s proceedings? Not so sure – but then there’s always space for a little contemplation.
Everybody looks fantastic today. Is it the second day of the break? Is it just that the tunes are a little less relentless? Either way it’s gorgeous.
The penultimate set comes from local DJ, and hugely successful songwriter, Julio Bashmore. Whist the stage looks a little bare – just a DJ, two turntables and a microphone – the crowd absolutely bounce. On Saturday night there had been a huge departure early in the evening for whatever entertainment the studes had cooked up for end of term; tonight the audience are intent on staying right here.
And who can blame them?
At 6am this morning they were playing Monaco for the Grand Prix. Now they’re here, live in Bristol, the one and only Niles Rodgers and Chic. One slight problem? You can’t hear anything. In the weekend’s only significant technical issue, the headliners are forced to wait around on stage for nearly 25 minutes as crew dash back and forth. Eventually spare kit is found and the sounds of ‘Dance, Dance, Dance‘ finally fill a delightedly grooving arena. The kit cockup means that they can only do 35 minutes or so, much to Niles’ chagrin – but in that time we get ‘Le Freak‘, ‘Upside Down’, ‘We Are Family’, and a climactic ‘Good Times‘ complete with Grandmaster Flash-style rap. I saw them last year, supporting the Flaming Lips in Manchester when the one and only Johnny Marr joined them on stage, but I have to say I thought they were better tonight – to turn a mildly p’d off audience around in under half an hour and have them shouting to the Bristol skies for an encore is a rare talent.
So how will I remember Love Saves The Day / Love Saves Sunday? I’m on my back with my eyes closed and the sun is scorching the epidermis from my features. There’s heavy bass in the foreground and a mass dance off behind me and the #bathales gem is coursing it’s way through my bloodstream and I am thinking: this is how Bank Holiday Sunday is supposed to be…
I haven’t even mentioned the many other stages, the multiple DJs, the fabulous foods on offer, the excellent bar provision. All I know is, the Love Saves The Day team delivered an amazing two days. Did Love Save The Day? It really did, and let’s hope it keeps it in its pocket and returns with it next year.
Review by Steve Noble