FRANK Ocean headlined the last day of Parklife 2017, but before the elusive singer took to the main stage, we had a whole day of excellent acts ahead of us.
Danny Brown (7.5) took to the temple stage with trademark energy, bouncing around the stage as he spat complex rhymes word for word. His mixture of upbeat beats on tracks like “Smokin and Drinkin” and the circus stomp of “Ain’t It Funny,” along with introspective lyrics, particularly from cuts from last years “Atrocity Exhibition,” make for a thrilling combination, and Brown’s on-stage energy is almost unmatched.
Jess Glynne (6) provided a lightweight, bubble gum pop thril-filled set over at the main stage from 6pm. Tracks like “Hold My Hand” and “Take Me Home” are sung back by a packed out mainstage crowd to the 27-year-old and brightly-dressed backing band. Jess seems spritely and commanding on stage; she’s used to big stages and it shows, getting the crowd dancing along in the sunlight,
The idea of seeing Run the Jewels & London Grammar at Parklife makes me so happy.
— Will. (@strodewilliam) June 6, 2017
American hip hop duo Run The Jewels (8) fired up the Main Stage on Sunday as the sun started to wane to begin the end of Parklife proceedings. The duo, formed in 2013, is made up of rapper/ producer EL-P and rapper Killer Mike. Drawing one of the biggest crowds of the weekend to Heaton Park’s main stage, it was easy to see why.
The crowd made RTJ’s fist and gun trademark as the pair were welcomed onto the stage with a backdrop of Queen’s We Are The Champions. Intertwined with favourites including Stay Gold, Nobody Speak and Talk To Me, like many of the acts across the weekend, the set was politically charged with rallying cries of unity.
Once dusk fell, a short spell of rain preceded the act everyone was truly gathered for: Frank Ocean (9). After cancelling a spate of festival shows in the leadup to his Parklife appearance, the superstars 40-minute delayed start caused many a concerned frown around Heaton Park.
Eventually though, Ocean emerged. After a short intro tape, he erupts into the vocal acrobatics of “Solo.” It’s hard to comprehend that the reclusive singer is there in the flesh; he sports a Brad Pitt T shirt and a pair of over the head headphones in place of in-ear monitors.
After restarting “Solo,” and playing Blonded Radio single “Chanel” twice, Frank settles into a groove for the rest of the night. His setlist is picked almost entirely from his latest Blonded Radio singles and last years’ critically acclaimed studio album; only one song from Chanel Orange (Thinkin’ Bout You) gets an airing, whilst his visual album Endless is represented only by “Comme Des Garcons” and “Witer.”
As he says himself, he hasn’t been on stages “regularly in about seven years,” and Parklife is his first UK performance in four years; second in the world in the past three. So, his nerves are understandable, but they don’t affect Ocean’s vocals, which remain pitch perfect through high notes, anxiety-ridden throaty lows and deft, rapping flows.
The production is minimalistic, but entrancing. The man himself stands next to a set of speakers on a platform extending from the stage, accompanied by guitarists who play the instrumentals live, eschewing the DJ decks that often accompany rnb and hip hop performances.
Admirably, Ocean refused to be cowed by the 80,000 strong crowd. He neglected some of his biggest tracks – Calvin Harris hit “Slide,” or Chanel Orange’s big hits (Pyramids and Super Rich Kids both fail to get an airing) – this was a gig for the fans. Possibly even more importantly though, this was the gig that perfectionist Ocean truly wanted to deliver.