Earth, Wind and Fire have to be one of the most unlikely bookings in T in the Park’s 20-year history, but also, as it turned out, one of the most welcome.
T In The Park
Balado Airfield, Kinross
Star rating: * * *
They set the bar high, opening the Main Stage with an hour of top-drawer funk which ticked off the hits – Boogie Wonderland, their eminently groovy take on Got To Get You Into My Life, the glorious Fantasy and feelgood September – and showcased the well-oiled virtuosity of this party band powerhouse, featuring the pristine falsetto vocals of Philip Bailey and ensemble, amazing disco dandy Verdine White on bass plus an effervescent brass section, an armoury of percussion and the only kalimba solo of the weekend.
There was similarly orchestral instrumentation from Laura Mvula, who turned in one of the more esoteric sets of the weekend, gracefully blending jazz melodies, tribal incantation, angelic choral harmonies and a compositional flair which spoke to her classical training.
Despite moans from some quarters about the increasing pop contingent at T, there was a sizeable turn-out at the Radio One Stage to see X Factor winners Little Mix, a likeable girl group with strong, soulful vocals, impressive a capella harmonies and lively hoofing. Girls Aloud built a career on far less natural talent – let’s hope that these girls get the material they merit.
You couldn’t easily lose Azealia Banks in a crowd. The self-styled “yung Rapunzel” rapper took the stage in a DayGlo jumpsuit. If only her music, which relied heavily on some old school samples and clubby backing tracks for hooks, stood out as brightly.
Smooth nu soul crooner Frank Ocean had the opposite issue – all the velvety vocal chops and mellow vibe you could ask for, plus a super-suave band, but an introverted mike-stand-hugging stage presence which was a little too low-key for tea time on the Main Stage.
Across site in the Transmissions Tent, fast-rising Glasgow electro pop trio Chvrches contrasted chunky analogue synths with singer Lauren Mayberry’s shrill, girlish vocals, producing in their more forceful moments a rave-up that doesn’t try to beat you about the head to get a reaction. The inflatable penguin on a stick had a ball.
But as the sun went down, there remained a couple of options for more banging tunes than you could shake a penguin on a stick at. Producer Labrinth and DJ David Guetta both had the crowds quaking to their respective formulae, the former rolling out the dubstep bass drops, the latter going for more traditional trance and techno.
Indie fans also had two choices. In the art rock corner, New York hipster trio Yeah Yeah Yeahs were on fighting form in King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent, with yelping frontwoman Karen O looking fabulous in fringes and rhinestone, while festival headliners The Killers catered for the masses with their booming singalongs and a cover of Travis’s Side specially unearthed from their early gigging days.