RNB FRIDAYS LIVE
Photos by Emma Sulley
You’d be forgiven for believing that Hit 92.9 and Around the Sound don’t normally occupy the same musical universe. Wrong! We’re for anyone who can put together a line up like this year’s RnB Fridays Live. No matter who it is, we’re getting in on the action! Hosting a bill of pop gurus including Janet Jackson, Black Eyed Peas and 50 cent, every artiste performing at this years festival has proved that they’ve stood the test of time and truly earned the status and recognition they’ve garnered. This creates a very different style of festival to other popular, commercial festivals right now, which tend to focus on the flavour of the moment or the hot new thing. And being in my 30s this suited me just fine! This was a festival where nostalgia was gloriously celebrated and I could enjoy seminal hits from my high school days right up to current party anthems.
So, while everyone was getting their knickers in a twist over whether or not Janet was lip-synching, we were enjoying a rich piece of art, where an icon of our time performed timeless genre-bending, ground-breaking hits, and entertained the hell out of a stadium.
So. My highlights.
I saw Jason Derulo in the UK 8 years ago, early in his career. I certainly had no idea then that he would have such global longevity. Back in 2011, he could clearly sing, dance and write a pop song… and had already coined his signature teeshirt-lifting abs-flash. But now the boy is a man and performs with all the charisma, confidence and ownership of a seasoned pro. And he can certainly still sing, dance, and flash his (even-bigger-if-possible) six pack (I’ve never heard a crowd shriek so loud).
The Black Eyed Peas were the penultimate act. Despite their modest billing, it was clear that most of the audience were there to see them. Playing an hour of non-stop hits, every time you thought they couldn’t have another epic single… they did. BEP belted out a steady flow of massive party anthems and the crowd adored every moment. Their sound is irrefutably pure pop at it’s… well, ‘poppiest’ but attitude-wise, dare I say it, they’re more like a punk band. With their quirky daring fashion, political ethos, and genuine passion, they hurled themselves around the stage and connected with the crowd on a raw, honest, garage rock level, which was incredibly impressive and also endearing. My only complaint about their set is that Will.i.am kept showing off how many YouTube and social media views they had, which is pretty crass at the best of times, but for a band of that fame was frankly cringe.
Finally the queen of RnB, Janet. There has been a huge amount of controversy about her performance, and I’m here to set the record straight. From what I can gather, most of the scathing comments seem to fixate on the technical issues in the first two songs, and come from people who left before those issues were resolved. Not only were these problems not Jackson’s fault, she dealt with them with grace and integrity. What no one has bothered reviewing is the show itself. Unlike the festival’s other acts, Janet Jackson’s show was a complete theatrical piece, flowing without pause from start to finish. With a shit-hot band, sublime choreography and light show, Janet was supported by a troupe of deliciously androgynous dancers, the whole company costumed in what can only be described as post-apocalyptic-military chic. So, while everyone was getting their knickers in a twist over whether or not Janet was lip-synching, we were enjoying a rich piece of art, where an icon of our time performed timeless genre-bending, ground-breaking hits, and entertained the hell out of a stadium.
So was she lip-synching?
Don’t know, don’t care.