What an exciting few days we’ve just seen in our very fine city; two days enjoying Europe’s biggest free festival and then our beloved Canaries go to Wembley and secure a place in the Premiere League! According to BBC Radio 1 Controller Ben Cooper, tickets were so in demand for Radio 1’s Big Weekend that people were trying to tunnel their way in – I’m not entirely sure about that, but it’s easy to see why people not lucky enough to get free tickets would feel the need with a star-studded line up; Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, Muse and Florence & The Machine to name just a few. Read on for Epic TV Studios ‘ BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend Norwich Review!
That’s not to mention the excellent BBC Introducing Stage and In New Music We Trust Stage, which was opened on Saturday by the awesome Slaves. The duo from Kent have seemingly exploded in the last year and gained masses of popularity; they delivered an energetic and raucous performance to a packed and up-for-it tent and, with the help of Skepta for a rendition of ‘Shut Down’, set the lively and fervent mood for the rest of the weekend.
Snoop Dogg, on just after Slaves, only heightened the festival spirit and atmosphere. I have to admit I was cautious; I’d previously heard reports of lacklustre and karaoke-esque performances from him in previous years. Arriving on stage earlier than expected at 2pm (rumour has it, he insisted on playing earlier in order to make his son’s graduation) in a Norwich shirt, the crowd were quickly on-side and singing along to Mr Dogg’s hits.
It was great to see some local talent getting a spot at the weekend, so of course a highlight of Saturday was seeing Norwich’s own Context perform on the BBC Introducing Stage. The obvious thing to do is compare him to Mike Skinner, but it’s so true it’s unavoidable. Context had the hard job of getting a new crowd involved but he did the job well and bought some diversity to what was otherwise a very accessible and pop-friendly line up. Full credit also to Kill It Kid and Port Isla, both local acts who respectively opened and closed the BBC Introducing stage!
Over on the main stage, the day was wrapped up by Florence & The Machine followed by Muse. Florence recently broke her foot in Coachella so her usual spinning and dancing was reduced to being sat down for the duration; whilst this meant that the sense of performance was perhaps lost (through no fault of her own), it did mean Florence could instead channel every aspect in to a raw and convincing vocal performance. Muse, however, really picked up what Florence unfortunately missed, with impressive visuals and an enthuastic performance. It was great to hear a few older songs (‘Bliss’and ‘Plug In Baby’) and the material went down a treat despite the smaller than expected crowd – a great (but chilly!) close to Saturday.
Sunday’s BBC Introducing Stage openers Claws’ set stands out as one of the weekend’s highlights. The Norwich band played to a packed tent, which at first I partly put down to the poor weather but it was quickly apparent by the singing along and dancing that the band attracted a dedicated audience through their own undeniable merits. Their surf-rock sentiments distracted from the poor weather and the atmosphere was unforgettable. Claws really are ones to watch out for and are quickly creating a well-earned buzz – we’ve got an interview coming up with them in the next few days so keep your eyes peeled!
The BBC Introducing Stage was the place to be for most of Sunday; Thetford lad Franko Fraize popped down along with a full band and continued the effervescent spirit Claws created. With bundles of personality and a lively set, it was great to see a tent full of revellers dancing and celebrating new and upcoming music. Of course, there was also Aylsham’s Harry Edwards who delivered an entrancing and enigmatic set of ambient eletronica and provided the perfect breathing space needed amidst the chaos. I also have to give props to Hot Cops, who I checked out during some down-time and won me over completely with their Weezer/Pavement-esque style of slacker-rock.
After a stop by the In New Music We Trust stage to party with Jungle, who’s blend of impressive musicianship and neo-soul lead led to a great dance-filled set, it was time to wrap the weekend up with Taylor Swift followed by the Foo Fighters. Ms. Swift really knows how to work a crowd; she had the audience practically eating out of her hands. It wasn’t until after her performance I clocked that she had no backing dances, choreography or major sets on stage with her; her prowess and solo abilities meant she put on more than enough of a performance all on her own. She really is endearing as everybody claims – her set may have been on the short side, but she is one hell of an entertainer. She of course brought out all the hits, and delivered them with the perfect aplomb.
Despite claims that Dave Grohl has been to Norwich before (Nirvana fans, double check who was drumming for them when they played here…), it was still pretty cool to see a band as huge as this play in Norwich. Playing “as many songs as they could fit into an hour” it probably wasn’t a dream set for hardcore fans (claiming ‘Best of You’ is a song for the “long term fans”? Ermm…) but opening with ‘Everlong’ and sticking ‘My Hero’ in there certainly did them some favours. Dave Grohl was the perfect front man, as ever, making jokes about Taylor and the Swifts being his opening band. Rock n roll, sing-a-longs and fireworks sure make for a nice closing to the event.
With around half of the 50,000 tickets available across the two days going to local-folk, the sense of community was high and it certainly felt as though everyone had an in-it-together attitude. It was great to see Norwich take part in such an high-calibre event, especially with free tickets. It did feel, however, that the free tickets came at a cost; expensive food and drink, a sense of Radio 1 constantly target-marketing you and the feeling that the acts were giving you a hard-sell because you’re potentially a casual audience, a lack of total diversity in the line-up. But these small gripes aside, it was an incredibly well run, well organised and fun event that meant a lot of people got to watch a lot of live music they perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to check out.