GEORGE Ezra performed at Parklife 2015 yesterday (June 7), our entertainment reporter Nathan Salt was there to watch him…
The birthday boy was left speechless when the largely assembled crowd – predominantly female – sang ‘Happy Birthday’to him. Thankfully Ezra’s performance was much more in tune than the crowd’s efforts but nonetheless the gesture was a pretty special weekend highlight. For those beady eyed readers it may be recalled that I described his tone as ‘no more than tolerable’ and that he wasn’t on my ‘must see’ list. Ignore all of that…I am currently eating a rather large slice of humble pie!
Black shades firmly in position and a stripy t-shirt to match, Ezra preceded Main Stage headliners Rudimental and kickstarted with his third single ‘Cassy O’ which, through it’s upbeat folk rock tempo, elevated the noise levels in front of the main stage – not that the crowd needed geeing up; screams and wolf whistles dominated from the moment he waltzed towards the microphone stand.
The newly 22-year old based much of his set around his number one selling UK platinum album ‘Wanted on Voyage’ which was based on his travelling escapades across Europe. Tracks included ‘Barcelona’ and the infamous ‘Budapest’ which is the identifier track for those unfamiliar with the British folk-pop sensation. Ezra possesses a voice well beyond his tender years but his seductive blend of pop and folk left the largely female audience in nothing but love with the Hertford musician.
The key difficulty that faced Ezra was that he was playing to a crowd that, whilst it wasn’t openly admitted, were struggling after a solid two days of serious partying. The only minor glitch preventing a full five stars was that on occasions the crowd’s attention slipped and was rescued only by familiar tracks such as ‘Blame it on me’ and ‘Listen to the man’. A stripped back version of ‘Blind man in Amsterdam’ was one such moment where, despite the clear vocal flair, the crowd recharged the batteries ahead of an eagerly anticipated Rudimental.
Other tracks featured include ‘Benjamin Twine’ based on his best friend which had the crowd embracing their nearest and dearest as they swayed majestically to the sound of Ezra’s guitar strums. On a side note, Ezra had so many guitars at his disposal it was baffling. Changing guitars is clearly an artistic preference in the current era but Ezra changed guitars more times than a stage changed artist; it was certainly interesting. Despite looking near carbon copies of each other, it did at least keep the technical staff at the side of stage busy throughout the eclectic, acoustic performance.
His tone has flashes of blues and his bass-baritone was best evidenced during ‘Breakaway’ and ‘Spectacular Rival’ as he produced a magnificently compelling showcase. Almost hypnotic, the Heaton Park crowd were left enchanted by his hauntingly beautiful soulful tone. He admitted between these two tracks that “some of you may have been dragged here and don’t like my music” but I wouldn’t bet against a number of converted Ezra army members after his Heaton Park bluesy vocal spectacle.
Success in the music industry is often down to not just talent but also originality. Ezra is leading the industry on both fronts with no direct rival currently taking him on in the male baritone market. At his young age he still has much to learn with another level of scrutiny placed upon an artist’s second album so that remains a major test for the youngster to tackle. That won’t faze him though and given the reaction he received as he bowed out at 9:15pm, the organisers will no doubt do everything they can to have another Manchester birthday party next year!