Known as “Last Night of the Proms”, XS Noize was invited to the sold-out event at Hyde Park, London which in line with tradition took place on the second Saturday in September. Traditionally seen as a “winding down” of the Proms, our experience and the forty thousand audience members experience suggested otherwise. Things got livelier and more exciting throughout. As well as music from an array of popular and classical artists; politics was in the air too as Hyde Park waved European Union flags alongside flags representing the United Kingdom.
Presented by Michael Ball who himself demonstrated at different points that he had not passed his vocal peak by captivating forty thousand people singing “Stars” from Les Misérables and getting the Hype Park to sing along to “We’ll Meet Again” which has been sung by many artists from Vera Lynn to Johnny Cash. Early to mid-afternoon performers included soprano singer Aida Garifullina, Aled Jones & Russell Watson, The Cardinals and Jon Robyn’s who reprised his role as George III in Hamilton.
Gabrielle’s performance was a game-changer. She reminded the UK why she had deservingly won two BRIT Awards and two MOBO’s. Until she came onto the stage, the audience elation with the artists was a stoic and mostly mute; Gabrielle from the outset, as she opened with “Out of Reach” (from the Bridget Jones’s Diary soundtrack) got Hyde Park to sing and relaxingly groove. Gabrielle’s heart and soul was still with the music as she announced that her Rise LP turned twenty this year. The right side concealed lady dressed in back reached her musical crescendo by playing out with a stadium guitar-based version of her first number-one single “Dreams”.
Building on the rapport Gabrielle built; The Lighthouse Family took to the stage and appropriately opened with “Lifted”. Things have certainly changed for them since their heyday in the nineties; for instance, frontman Tunde Baiyewu now has an eight-year-old daughter. Timing and sequencing was something the duo perfected and poignantly ended their Hyde Park set by playing out with “High”.
Audience participation became the norm following The Lighthouse Family’s performance. The kingdom choir (who performed at Prince Harry’s wedding) got Hyde Park to join in the gospel renditions of popular songs including “Stand by Me”. Even Bonnie Tyler whose microphone failed to operate through the entire set got forty thousand people to sing along to her hits from “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to “Hero”.
As the sun set on Hyde Park, the beautiful and rich utopic summertime weather did not part as Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) played an adroit jazz-inspired set reflecting the musical direction of her new LP. With so many hits to her name, the crowd would have wanted more, but Hynde nonetheless impressed by playing “I’ll Stand by You” and “Brass in Pocket”. Jack Savoretti performed his hits of love songs to his Paolo Nutini ethereal style vocal style.
The headline and highlight was Barry Manilow. Despite having headlined Proms in the Park ten years earlier; at seventy-six, Barry seemed hungrier and more enthusiastic. Whilst the majority of the songs were the same, Manilow made full use of supporting lyric screens and emoji’s for songs such as “Can’t Smile Without You”. The star who has a BBC 2 radio show called “They write the songs” also sung his hit “I Write the Songs”. Manilow paid homage to Donna Summer who made a disco version of his “Could it be Magic” and Take That who also made an up-tempo version whilst also playing his downtempo original ballad version. As a true professional musician (who first came to the UK in 1978); Barry left the best to last playing out with Copacabana (At the Copa) whilst releasing technicoloured confetti into the audience.
The concert concluded with Hubert Parry’s “Jerusalem”, and the British national anthem. Proms in the Park supported the artists with the 60-piece BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Richard Balcombe.