Rope-a-dope

Dots And Dashes: Josh Holliday: 12th July, 2013.

There’s a somewhat inevitable air of anticlimax lingering about the
final Friday of the itself inexplicably odd British Summer Time shindig,
which was this summer somewhat hopelessly staged in London’s Hyde Park.
The inaugural event in a way fits in succinctly with the brain-numbingly
perennial blandness of Zone 1, with headliners for the homogeneously
progenitor-friendly ‘festival’ of sorts including geriatric types the
Rolling Stones, Lionel Richie, and various other old crocks the like of
which time really ought to have forgotten long ago. Lest we ourselves
forget, it was only last year that ‘The Boss’ hobbled over his allotted
stage time, provoking reputedly vociferous uproar from the proprietors
of the surrounding penthouses, and it’s for this that the Royal Park
relinquished both Hyde Park Calling and this weekend’s Yahoo! Wireless –
both of which relocated to what so disappointingly appears to be the
only tangible legacy of London 2012 in the now paradoxically AstroTurfed
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

And so with all those 24-Carat kinds of contemporary pinup (Frank Ocean)
and precocious-cum-impudent superstar (Kendrick Lamar) all flexing their
figurative sinew somewhere somewhat more prestigious elsewhere, and the
senescent Jon Bon Jovi et al. instead headed westwards toward the
elaborate frills of Belgravia, it wouldn’t be too far wide of the mark
to contend that Hyde Park has wound up with something of an inequitable
deal this year. And with not only his great big red piano but so too
this evening’s intended headliner – Sir Elton of John – so notably
absent, the afternoon gets off to a decidedly flaccid start.

Tickets were, admittedly, then rendered freebies in the wake of the
revelation that John had contracted appendicitis and could no longer
comply with any already scheduled touring arrangements but in all
honesty, you’d likely have to healthily remunerate many of today’s
attendees were you wanting to indulge in mass Schadenfreude and cruelly
compel them to relive the experience ever again. For with Hyde Park
defaced by ineffably grotesque, pseudo-Mediterranean fasciae made to
make the place out to be a little more accommodating than the
oppressively commercialised perdition it really is, the whole
cheapskate’s paradise has been hideously branded beyond all recognition.
It’s another instance of industrialisation – replete with fake plastic
trees – further disfeaturing nature, with the high street rather
literally uprooted and relocated to one of the capital’s few truly
revitalising sanctums of expansive verdancy.

Incomprehensibly, a Brazilian carnival flares up in a far corner and yet
not only does it feel a wilful exertion of wholly artificial ‘British
eccentricity’, but it’s met with an ultimate disinterest with barely a
glassy eye lifted from ferociously savaged Pizza Express box, nor
brutally overpriced beer trough. And lamentably for somebody of his
enduring eminence, the arrival of domestic pub rocker Elvis Costello is
met with equivalent ambivalence. You’d empathise with his plight too,
were he and The Imposters not only too happy to return the call and
apathetically phone in the likes of She and an unnecessarily honky-tonk
rework of Pump It Up so oxymoronically void of all form of audible
phwoar that it lacks all the prerequisite oomph to carry across such a
vast expanse.

Trussed up in a sequinned pink trilby, he doesn’t exactly look the part,
either: his teeth blackening, hair thinning and songs now seemingly
rotting away into utter insignificance, it’s a thorough grounding
Costello gets this afternoon. For if this is “rock’n'roll like it used
to be in Pimlico back in ’52″ then I’m nothing less than thrilled at
feeling decidedly youthful amid a throng that recedes from the front as
has Elvis’ hairline from his withered features. Indeed it’s frequently
been remarked upon how often the lyrics to Oliver’s Army are mistaken
for “all of the zombies” and only they are “here to stay” today, with
even Costello himself resembling an old codger scarcely capable of
recalling the haggard songs of his own collection. When he naturally
contrives to cover Nick Lowe’s (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and
Understanding, it sounds more decrepit than even he.

Thus sucked dry of all vigour, quite what Lowe himself – who opened
proceedings to nigh on absolutely nobody a little earlier on in the
afternoon – must’ve thought to it I flinch from even the mere thought
thereof, and indeed there’s a little more vim to (The Angels Wanna Wear
My) Red Shoes. “Oh I used to be disgusted/ And now I try to be amused”
he apprises in a snivelling croak, although he ultimately bemuses with
greatest frequency and even this crowning moment – a remark needless to
say tempered with relative moderation – veers off into atrocious
travesty once he’s managed to somehow interpolate Purple Rain in the
most ungainly manner imaginable. At the exact second he starts to
caterwaul its enervating coda, all feels irredeemably lost and you’re
left yearning for the implausible return of his deceased namesake.

It is, to all intents and purposes, perhaps the most vanilla live
experience I’ve had the displeasure of yielding myself to in quite some
while and indeed heatwave notwithstanding, the entire event is a squib
of a thing damp enough to have you longing for the meteorological
cruelties of Greenwich Mean Time to come back with increased verve.
Britain, please reassure me our summers get better than this…