After the success of yesterday and particularly exciting sets from The James Taylor Quartet and Squeeze, OnBlackheath continues into its second day. Today, the mix of music becomes even more eclectic, and includes a particularly exciting few hours, as the soulful rap of De La Soul is connected to pop superstar Paloma Faith via an experimental DJ set from world champion snooker player Steve Davis.
Early on in the day, the excellent London Astrobeat Orchestra take on the bizarre catalogue of Talking Heads, with a musically perfect performance of their unique arrangements, which incorporate bluesy guitars and authentic African kora. Their perfect set ranges from a David Byrne-esque solo performance of ‘Psycho Killer’, to an enigmatic rendition of ‘One In A Lifetime’. Everyone on stage is having just as much fun as the audience, which unsurprisingly grows in size throughout.
Next up on the main stage is nostalgic 90’s band The Lightning Seeds, who experienced a resurgence this summer as ‘Three Lions’ became the unofficial anthem of the England team’s world cup campaign. Football, however, didn’t come home, and less than 24 hours before this set England suffered their third defeat in a row. Fittingly, there wasn’t even a mention of the tune, despite the band’s drummer and roadies being dressed in England shirts. Instead, we were treated to a set of singalong tunes, culminating in the excellent ‘Pure’.
‘Girl Put Your Records On’ singer Corrine Bailey Rae is almost overshadowed by a man in the middle of the crowd who has an unnatural talent for creating huge bubbles. At first, she seems into it, but when the audience end up intermittently applauding him while she’s mid-song, she seems decidedly less supportive. Meanwhile, the second stage plays host to Dat Brass and The Mariachi’s, whose exciting and energetic arrangements of popular tunes bring them both a sizeable crowd.
One of the most anticipated parts of this years On Blackheath was snooker player Steve Davis’ experimental DJ set. Though maybe the concept of it being actual snooker player Steve Davis was so far-fetched that the usually packed tent was quite desolate, with only those truly committed to this odd ritual gathered towards the stage. Musically, it did exactly as it said on the tin, with experimental noise and minimalist repetitions filling the speakers, but performance wise, it really was just Steve Davis standing there. Perfect if your intention was just to see him in person, but the reality of gathering in a tent to watch a retired man press play on some music he likes is a questionable one.
After a host of technical difficulties delayed De La Soul’s set by almost 30 minutes, the US rap group took to the stage alongside their excellent live band to perform a set dominated by their bouncy energy and comedic timing. Standout moments came in the form of the Yes-sampling ‘The Grind Date’ and their hit single ‘Me, Myself And I’ as well as the virtuosic scratching of DJ Maseo. Despite not fitting the typical crowd pleasing, local style a lot of the performers of the weekend followed, De La Soul proved to be the perfect choice for this open minded crowd. And of course, if there was one way to go up from here, it was with the funk/soul Craig Charles DJ set, full of unexpectedly funky versions of tunes, such as Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’.
Closing the weekend was the most commercial of all the weekend’s acts, Paloma Faith. Opening with ‘The Architect’ from her most recent release of the same name, her strong vocals and alluring stage presence (equipped with huge white hair for good measure) kick her set off well. Then she starts to talk. And doesn’t stop. This isn’t Billy Bragg style, annoying political ramblings full of admittedly good messages, this is shameless self-promotion and bragging. At one point she talks about homelessness, a real issue that should be fought, and rather than promoting acceptance and help, she manages to twist the story into a strange brag about how she talks to homeless people and is therefore better than everyone in the crowd, who she almost accuses of not talking to homeless people. It’s odd, and almost uncomfortable.
More odd rants like this fill the gaps between songs, with the committed fans who swarm the front of the stage screaming in agreement and excitement, and the outer edges almost drowning her out with their shouts of ‘play a song!’. When she eventually does, it is her final three tracks (which seem to make up the basis of every advert in the country at some point or another) which lift her otherwise surprisingly poor set up. ‘Play Your Own Kind Of Music’ is a great cover which most people wandered across Blackheath humming afterwards. Though I can’t help but wonder if this year’s festival would have been better off having Squeeze close proceedings, and the audience wandering off humming ‘Cool For Cats’.