Thunderstorms threaten Saturday night but it's Erykah Badu's neo soul set that keeps things shining
East London served up typically unpredictable weather for an August Bank Holiday at All Points East, though it was suitably Amazonian for the evening’s headliners, Jungle.
After New York’s noughts indie rock stalwarts The Strokes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs descended on the capital the day before, it was a selection of jazz and neo-soul sounds that would meander throughout London’s Victoria Park on Saturday. Despite the best efforts of the weather to halt proceedings, that is, with big old fat monsoon rain and lightning strikes lighting up the afternoon sky. Once 40,000 punters were soaked through however, there was a glut of sunlit soul to bask in.
On the West Stage, Charlotte Day Wilson’s soothing, laidback presence brought Toni Braxton-esque emotion during her mid-afternoon set, sauntering through tracks like ‘Whisper’, ‘Mountains’ and ‘Take Care Of You’ with the backing of a fluid yet hefty rhythm section. Decked out casually in twisted Balenciaga sunnies and #gorpcore cargo trousers, her effortlessly longing vocals opened up just as the heavens did the same. Sadly, a weather warning cut her gorgeous set short, but thankfully it wouldn’t be the last time she’d appear.
“So the rain tried to stop us,” Jacob Lusk remarked, the triumphant voice fronting gospel powerhouse Gabriels on the East Stage, “but the sun came out!”. Little were they aware that they’d summoned a double rainbow which beamed over Tower Hamlets behind them, much to the amazement of an audience having trudged through an incredibly soggy hour beforehand.
It was virtually clear skies from then onwards, as BADBADNOTGOOD treated hazy eyes and minds to a jammed-out, psychedelic jazz jaunt, entering to Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ which bled into their 11-minute opus, ‘Signal From The Noise’. For those that rued Charlotte Day Wilson’s truncated set hours before, luckily the jazz trio brought her back onstage to sing ‘In Your Eyes’ as well as a brand spanking new, unnamed track.
As RAYE bared her soul to the East Stage crowd, it was the “Queen Of Neo-Soul” who presented All Points East with the weekend’s stand-out performance, if not the greatest in the festival’s short history.
Saturday night’s penultimate headliner was none other than Erykah Badu, the shamanic and ever-charismatic soulquarian – turning up 15 mins late after her backing band warmed everyone up. But it was worth the wait. Opening with ‘On and On’, Badu conducted her band with an intricate, James Brown-level of control and care. Her outfit changes were as bold and radical as Erykah herself – a flailing multi-coloured fringe jacket and trademark top hat became a boxy shouldered power-suit, which then became bandana and baggy green tee, with her gleaming silver grill ever-present. ‘Window Seat’ drew the loudest cheer, Badu’s voice as impeccable as it’s ever been. “I love you London. I love it. Now somebody scream in this motherf*cker please!” she insisted as she brought her supreme set to a close with ‘Tyrone’, everyone recognising they’d witnessed a bonafide original.
City boy soul duo Jungle, designated headliners for the evening, were next. Though their stark, crimson visuals were impressive and their easy-going sound went down well, they lacked the stage presence – and expected guest appearances – required to cap off the day’s events after a tour de force like Badu. Though going by the overall loose, hip-shaking atmosphere, it was far from a complete damp squib. A bit of rain can’t keep a good crowd down.
Photo credit: Jim Dyson / Contributor