After nearly a decade at Hyde Park, Wireless Festival 2013 made the bold move to uproot to Stratford City’s Olympic Village, marking the first major event there since last years historic summer games. It was a move that had a lot of people intrigued, well that and the small fact that Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z were headlining individually and as part of their Legends of the Summer tour outfit – prompting nearly 200,000 to descend onto East London.
The gamble paid off. The great weather combined with London’s unspoken goal to rekindle last years Olympic spirit kicked off what was to be an epic weekend. Only in a city like London and only at a festival like Wireless could music fans get the chance to see: Jay-Z, Justin Timberake, A Tribe Called Quest (!!), Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Miguel, Jessie Ware, A$AP Rocky, Snoop Dogg, Big Sean, Katy B, 2 Chainz, Mikky Ekko, Joey Bada$$ and many others in one weekend.
But of course the events two superstar headliners were the main attraction across the entire weekend. On Friday Justin Timberlake did what Justin Timberlake does with seemingly very little effort – he performed a full-on set (backed by his incredibly sharp band) of songs spanning his three-album catalogue for 50,000 spectators – all of whom to sung every line and ad-lib the boy wonder has ever recorded. ‘Like I Love You’, ‘My Love’, ‘Cry Me a River’, ‘SexyBack’ along side some #deepalbumcuts like ‘LovedStoned/I Think She Knows’, ‘Until the End of Time’ & ‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’ were all received to rapturous roars. As were some of JT’s most recent records like ‘Pusher Love Girl’, ‘Tunnel Vision’, the crowd pleasing ‘Mirrors’ and ‘Suit & Tie’ – which naturally prompted an appearance from Mr. Carter.
On Saturday Jay-Z commanded the attention of the weekends biggest crowd; An estimated 75,000 people stormed the village to see Jigga perform material from his 20 year career, as well as new records from his “#1 in 59 countries” app-released album Magna Carta Holy Grail. Like any Jay-Z show, his performance was slick and fluid but all the while frustratingly over-familiar. With the exception of new songs like ‘Tom Ford’, ‘Holy Grail’ (performed with Justin Timberlake) and ‘Picasso Baby’ Hova’s set was more or less the same as it always has been. Understandably Jay has a long list of hits to get through and a huge mainstream audience to appease, but digging a little deeper into his discography to perform some rarer cuts for those who’ve supported him from before ‘Empire State of Mind’ or Watch the Throne wouldn’t have hurt, in fact it would have skewed the experience entirely.
It wasn’t until Sunday however that the stars literally aligned to kick off Jay & JT’s worldwide Legends of the Summer tour. In support of their new albums and in lieu of their mutual respect, hip hop & pop’s biggest megastars took to the stage together for the first time anywhere. The two commemorated the moment with a respectful handshake before kicking off into ‘Holy Grail’ (the first the song had been performed anywhere in the world). For a 2 hour show, the fear was that it wouldn’t be able to keep up it’s momentum but it’s only when both stars began reeling off their endless hits back-to-back-to-back-to-back that reminded of astonishing achievements both have made in their given careers… and in pop culture generally. The shows musical direction was pristine and exciting and their band was extremely sharp – but the highlights came when Jay & Timberlake would merge their classics together as they did with ‘Rock Your Body’ and ‘I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)’ (God bless The Neptunes). For fans of either or both artists the Legends of the Summer show was assuredly a monumental event and most likely a once in a lifetime moment. When two artists, at the peak of their careers join forces in this way – it’s always bound to be special. Oh, and Rihanna’s guest appearance was nice too. #HiRihanna
That said, although the headline festivities were a treat and most probably the biggest draw for the majority of attendees, it cannot be ignored that Wireless achieved something very few UK festivals achieve – they put on one of the most relevant line up’s of the year, a fact particularly poignant on the final day. Emerging acts with a genuine buzz like Joey Bada$$ were given a rare opportunity to take their online attention offline, while A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar & Miguel were given main stage attention and the chance to perform in front of thousands of people who may or may not have been all too familiar with their all of their work. Nas, Jessie Ware, Sinead Harnett and a whole host of others were there soaking up the energy often reserved for bigger, more mainstream acts. And of course one cannot underestimate the defining moment of seeing the legendary A Tribe Called Quest reunite in the UK for the first time in far too many years – a moment many fans had never thought they’d live to see. Despite incredible (and historic) performances from everyone on the bill, watching Q-Tip, Phife and Ali Shaheed Muhammad perform their iconic catalogue live was unequivocally the highlight of the weekend.
Well done Wireless. You certainly outdid yourselves this year.