It was a wonderful day for a festival. I have to be honest, I’ve never quite done one before, and the day ahead with the amount of music I was going to take it seemed quite overwhelming, but the sun was out and I was with some good friends so I was really looking forward to it. The music in store was, of course, the key ingredient, and I trusted it not to let me down. It didn’t – emphatically. A great day with some sensational performances, let me break it down for you…
The venue was the Olympic Park in Stratford, London. Now this was a terrible place to host a festival for two reasons: (i) there is one tube stop for access, and it’s half hour walk away (ii) the stages are too far away. The fake grass and dusty walkways weren’t too attractive either. My companion who is far better versed in the ways of Wireless than I am believes that Hyde Park, where it’s typically held, is far, far better and I can see why. Seems to me like a desperate attempt to use a construction for the sake of it, to show that it’s not dead. There was also the ridiculousness of putting on Joey Bada$$ at the same time as A Tribe Called Quest and straight after Nas, an act for the same crowd and one I really wanted to see, but unfortunately he wasn’t a priority and since he’s young there’ll be plenty of concerts he’ll play in the future.
A$AP Rocky wasn’t actually the first act I was there for. We got there in time for Rizzle Kicks… but the less said about that the better. Anyway, so on came A$AP, backed with some live instrumentation which I was slyly impressed by but unfortunately they were drowned out by the DJ’s beats, which was a shame. Anyway, either because it was so hot or because it wasn’t the right crowd, the audience wasn’t too on it but I still enjoyed the performance. He’s not typical of what I listen to, so he definitely falls in to the realm of ‘guilty pleasure’, but at the same time I think there’s a time and a place for A$AP Rocky and this wasn’t it. You need to be REALLY hyped and despite his best efforts the crowd was pretty static.
After A$AP and his cohorts disappeared off stage and a few more minutes of set up, Nas entered the stage, complete with full rock band and DJ Green Lantern (which was dope). I actually saw Nas at the o2 back in December and it was the same set, by and large, in a different setting but I don’t think I could ever get bored of watching him live. He brings so much energy and authority when he performs that it’s impossible not to, so as he went through all of his classics – ‘NY State Of Mind’, ‘Represent’, ‘Get Down’, ‘World Is Yours’, ‘One Mic’ et al – intertwined with some new stuff (‘Cherry Wine’ with the live band was dope, especially because Amy Winehouse’s home is in London), with mad energy. Again, the crowd was disappointing, but at this point I don’t know whether it’s just me and this is expected at festivals or not. I’m far more used to rock concerts where if you’re not beating someone up you’re doing something wrong.
A Tribe Called Quest were next up, and trufuly they were the main reason I bought the ticket. Their first show in London for 20 years, and a genuine old school act, it was authentic and I can imagine them doing the same show when they were last in these parts. A lot more niche, not everyone in the audience was feeling it but those that were were going crazy. Honestly, I was impressed that Wireless had the conviction to put an act like Tribe on the main stage. Jarobi White was absent but Phife Dawg and Q-Tip took to the stage with the mics and Ali Shaheed killed it on the decks. Honestly, it was more like the Q-Tip show than anything else with his immense energy, charisma and enthusiasm dominating the stage, strolling from side to side and commanding the audience charmed by his flamboyance, whereas Phife looked a little worse for wear. It was what I expected though, and in old school manner they playfully exchanged verses, high fives and all that. Q-Tip also took a bit of time to emotionally appeal to London to “pray for America” following the Trayvon Martin verdict, and rue the “inability to be introspective” in his shores. ATCQ were actually taken off the stage early, but after some protest they stormed back on and finished with aplomb. My favourite act of the afternoon definitely, I was in my element.
As soon as they gave way and Ali Shaheed’s decks were whisked off stage, the curtain behind them was torn off, unveiling two platforms with two separate drum kits. This was an upscaling of epic proportions, as later singers, two guitarists, a mental bassist, horns, three keyboardists hopped on stage. I couldn’t help but feel this is a reflection of old school hip hop, modest and humble, compared to modern hip hop, full of showmanship and ego. Whether one is better than the other, I’ll leave up to you. Anyway, after finetuning the guitars and the piano, Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake opened up the finishing act with ‘Holy Grail’, the opening track from Jay-Z’s latest album. Now, if you are like me – and judging from twitter a lot of you are – Magna Carta was underwhelming at best. Let me reassure you however, expect a phenomenal show live. Two and a half hours of epic lights, extraordinary musicianship, ego, presence, the whole crowd was
hyped for this one. As the Sun dipped down behind the horizon and the lights got more emphatic, it seemed to become an even more epic show. The two superstars of music would be on stage together, then one would disappear behind while the other took centre stage before swapping roles. There were a couple of criticism I would have, in that Justin Timberlake’s slower numbers didn’t really fit in amongst hisupbeat swingers and Jay-Z’s bangers, and the two didn’t share the stage enough (they should have done more arrangements where they mash up songs). I can get over those though, and the whole show was a wonderful spectacle. There was also an issue with the crowd which had way too much aggro to feel comfortable in at times – two people were stabbed during the performance. To finish off Wireless 2013, and one of the grandest performances I’ve ever seen, Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z donned blazers to perform ‘Suit & Tie’, and I left feeling pretty epic myself.