BT London Live: Paul Carrack and The View
BT London Live’s two-week programme of free live music drew to a close on Saturday with performances from Paul Carrack and The View.
Thousands gathered in Hyde Park beneath perfect summer skies to bask in the Olympic glow. Many of those at the BT London Live stage were there for the musicians; others were transient, milling about between food stalls, stages, and screens broadcasting live Olympic coverage. The atmosphere was a strange combination of music festival, beer garden, picnic, aimlessness and dust.
Unlike earlier London Live performances, Saturday’s programme was meticulously timed. Both acts were punctual to the minute, and transitions were slick and snappy. However, compared with the energy and spectacle of previous acts, Saturday’s presentation was somewhat lacking, finishing the series off with something halfway between a bang and a whimper.
We arrived just as Paul Carrack took to the stage, looking comically minuscule between two massive projections of his own face. It was just him and a steel-stringed guitar; he couldn’t bring his band, he joked, because security was so tight. “I’m on my Jacksy Jones and I feel a bit nekkid,” he added, trying to enlist some crowd participation for a rendition of How Long. I’m not sure if it worked or not – perhaps we were too far back to hear – but it hardly mattered; Carrack and his guitar had a powerful stage presence that commanded widespread attention. Kudos to the sound engineers here, too: the sound was remarkably clear and intimate considering the booming competition from neighbouring stages and the gentle roar that comes of many humans in a small space.
After just four songs Carrack finished with the upbeat yet bittersweet Over My Shoulder, and was quickly replaced onstage by a bouncy MC rallying the crowd. The pot of Olympic fever was well stirred (“Who wants to see some Olympians? I can’t hear you!”), and a handful of British medal-winners were trotted out for interviews, photo opportunities, and general adulation. After a while it began to feel as if the bands were filling in time between Olympians, rather than the other way around.
Eventually The View were introduced (“Who wants some more live music? I can’t hear you!”) for a forty-minute set featuring several songs from their new album, Cheeky for a Reason. Their straight-up indie-rock appeal was a good choice for the evening, and spectators continued to flock as the set wore on. Unfortunately the sound was nowhere near the standard it had been for Carrack’s performance, and it was no match for The View’s fast-paced lyrics and sudden about-turns. Bulges of amplification shifting between speaker banks were distracting and distorting, resulting in that disappointing phenomenon peculiar (mostly) to outdoor performance: the feeling that you’d rather be listening to a recording than seeing the band live. From what I could see, The View were performing with great energy and intensity – but the sound quality just didn’t do them justice. They closed with Shock Horror and a peremptory farewell, and were quickly replaced by the MC wielding an entire hockey team.
All in all, the focus on the BT London Live stage seemed to be much more on Team GB than the music – which is fair enough at an event devoted to Olympic coverage and experience, but disappointing when the music seems to take second place on its own centre stage. We left quickly, an uplifting chorus of “WHEN I SAY TEAM, YOU SAY GB!!” ringing in our ears.
For further information on BT London Live events visit the festival’s website here.