The Sunday of Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend had a lot to live up to after Saturday night closed on Jay-Z and his guest pals captivating the entire Hackney audience and those on sofas around the country. Having teased the Saturday crowd with a brief appearance at the start of Jay-Z’s set, Sunday looked set to be all about Rihanna. Whilst the Barbadian princess did not disappoint, the entire Sunday line-up proved stronger than Lana Del Rey’s hairspray with some potentially career-defining moments evidenced throughout the day.
The public excitement for Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend had been building ever since it was first announced in May 2011 as the largest music festival ever created by Radio 1 and 1Xtra. This was more than just the average music festival though, as it was preceded by the BBC Hackney Academy, an opportunity for local young people to benefit from careers advice across a range of industries, including journalism, fashion and entrepreneurship. Over three weeks the Hackney Academy shone a light on the determination and talent of so many local residents, culminating in the Hackney Weekend and a chance to celebrate the work of everyone who has helped to put Hackney on the map this summer.
With a stellar line-up the only drawback of the Hackney Weekend was not being able to see everyone on the bill. Luckily, there is the Hackney Weekend website, which can be found here, to catch up on every artists unforgettable performance. In case you don’t know where to start, I have compiled a few highlights of the Sunday line-up to get you started…
Bombay Bicycle Club may have received an unexpectedly large crowd due to the onset of a summer shower, but they definitely converted any non-believers with their set opening the In New Music We Trust stage on an absolute high. Including older favourites such as ‘Always Like This’ and ‘Ivy & Gold’, Bombay Bicycle Club started the day with a boost of positivity that had the whole tent clapping along. The best gigs are the ones where the band are clearly enjoying themselves and when guest vocalist Lucy Rose sat on the shoulders of guitarist Jamie MacColl for the finale of ‘Shuffle’, it was clear that it wasn’t just the audience with smiles on their faces.
After Azealia Banks muscled her way on to the Radio 1 playlist earlier this year, turning the air blue with ‘212’, her Hackney set was always sure to make the BBC Compliance team squirm. Despite being such a new kid on the block, the huge crowd Azealia attracted to the 1Xtra stage emphasised what an exciting artist she is. Flanked by two dancers, the self-confessed “Liquorice Bitch” owned the crowd with her effortless rapping and wide-eyed stares. Completing her set with “the one that started it all”, Azealia Banks whipped the entire tent into a frenzy with the opening bars of ‘212’, justifying her position at the top of NME’s Cool List. For such an early set on the bill, Azealia Banks had the entire crowd on her side and did what every good artist should, left her audience screaming for more.
Right from the start the folks at Radio 1 have supported Lana Del Rey and so it is only right that her appearance at Hackney Weekend would successfully prove why she deserves the BBC’s attention. Arriving on stage to the sound of a melancholic strings section, LDR graced the stage with all the poise and beauty of a 50’s Hollywood star. In contrast to the perkiness of Bombay Bicycle Club, Lana gave the crowd a set they could sway to and sing every word back to her. Delivering a performance that united the entire audience; the unforgettable moment was courtesy of breakout single ‘Video Games’ creating a duet between Lana and the voice of thousands of adoring fans. For anyone in the front row who received a kiss on the cheek from the star, please remember that it is a health hazard to avoid washing your face for weeks.
It certainly felt like a homecoming event for Florence + The Machine as Florence Welch sashayed on to the Main Stage to the plucking of a harp, declaring proudly that she was back in her hometown. With the sun finally beaming, Florence’s set created the ultimate festival atmosphere as the crowd jumped whilst Flo’s impressive vocals soared throughout the field. Florence’s ability to straddle multiple musical genres was evident as she incorporated the Benny Benassi Remix of hit single ‘Shake It Out’ into her set, encouraging the entire audience to dance in the sunshine. The masterstroke from Flo came when she picked out individual members of the audience she noticed dancing, reducing a field in Hackney to an intimate, backroom gig.
With the sun setting over Hackney Marshes, the star of the show took to the stage and Rihanna was sure to make it a performance to remember. Shifting seamlessly between offerings from her latest album, ‘Talk That Talk’, and classic tracks such as ‘Umbrella’, featuring a guest appearance from Jay-Z, Ri-Ri had the crowd in the palm of her hand. Particular highlights include the ballad ‘Love The Way You Lie’, club classic ‘Please Don’t Stop The Music’ and recent smash hit ‘We Found Love’, which finished the night on a euphoric high with the entire crowd bouncing to it.
The success of Rihanna’s headline performance really lies in how effortless she made the whole thing seem and how at ease she was with the crowd. Throughout her set Ri-Ri created a personal rapport with the audience, even halting at one point to ask a member of the front row to fix the battery back in her bra. Despite figures of up to fifty thousand onlookers the singer ensured the performance was relevant to each of them, and that is no easy accomplishment.
So for anyone who may complain about the lack of London-born headliners, Rihanna could not have seemed more at home. The star echoed a sentiment of the entire crowd when she confessed, “I don’t wanna go” because as Rihanna closed Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend, no one wanted the party to stop.
Some festivals like to educate goers with a flock of brand new artists while others like to focus on promoting a specialist genre of music but Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend was a true celebration of popular music in all its forms. The short sets given to each artist gave them the chance to showcase their very greatest works; spoiling fans with the tracks they love most. With such a diverse range of artists on the same line-up, the Hackney Weekend was undoubtedly a festival for the entire community and such a unique event has to be commended. With the entire world watching London this summer, Radio 1’s Hackney Weekend has kicked off the celebrations in style, leaving just one question remaining…what’s next Radio 1?