Gig review: T in the Park, Balado

Yes, that's the 'Fresh Prince' Will Smith making a guest appearance with Calvin Harris. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Yes, that's the 'Fresh Prince' Will Smith making a guest appearance with Calvin Harris. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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BALADO’S last hurrah was a damp affair on Saturday – to be precise, the ground was soggy but not the crowd’s spirits. The persistent drizzle was merely a cooling facial spritz to these guys, some of whom paid to get even wetter on the flume ride in the fairground.

T in the Park

Balado, Kinross

* * * *

That said, highlights were thin on the ground during the afternoon with featherweight showings from Twin Atlantic – the erstwhile Biffy-in-waiting, now watered down to raucous boy band with guitars – and Nina Nesbitt. But soon enough, the old guard were on hand to rouse the legions.

James were playing festivals long before the Balado days and are still safe hands in this kind of setting, even with a preponderance of new material. Tim Booth made up for his lack of vocal power with his dancing and crowdsurfing during solidarity anthem Sit Down, while fans queued up to rub his bald pate.

Their peers The Charlatans headlined T in Balado’s first year, and little seemed to have changed in 17 years, beyond the colour of Tim Burgess’s mop top. Their set was firmly middle of the road indie but The Only One I Know still ruled the student disco.

While the braying, brazen Rudimental went all guns blazing on the main stage, London’s Soul II Soul drew the crowd into the King Tut’s Tent with their far classier and timeless brew of soul, hip-hop, bass music and signature stabbing strings (Clean Bandit, eat your hearts out), starring the diva nonpareil Caron Wheeler, plus livewire MC Chickaboo, three fine and funky Soulettes cheerleading throughout the set and the group’s benevolent driving force, Jazzie B, at the controls.

Having established that Scotland likes to party through the rain, Pharrell Williams became obsessed with harnessing the crowd’s energy for a little light precipitation, perhaps not appreciating that the feelgood energy of his music and troupe of dancers were doing most of the work. His faultless pop set featured almost every hit he has ever been within sniffing distance of, either as guest artist or producer, ending on the joyful release of Happy and a special moment for his cancer survivor friend, dragged onto stage to feel the love in the field.

Paolo Nutini was more than capable of matching this on crowd goodwill alone, but he and his band The Vipers stepped up to the plate with a robust, mature and impressive set which balanced his pop, rock and soul style without ever pandering to his (co-)headline status. In fact, it is gratifying that such a subtle song as Candy has become his calling card. Rounding off his set with a solo acoustic rendition of Last Request, Nutini seemed genuinely moved by the occasion. The experience did not disappoint on either side of the barrier.

Elbow mined a similar mellow streak over on the Radio 1 Stage but, given the choice to chill or to party, the vast majority of the crowd chose the latter. Calvin Harris played the trump card of the day by inviting close personal friend Will Smith to introduce him. Apparently, the world’s biggest film star was “looking for an experience”. Let’s hope that being confronted with 85,000 screaming Scots fulfilled that need. As for the crowd’s needs, they were sated by Harris’s ruthlessly efficient DJ set, mainly comprising his own hits with multiple climaxes and numerous volleys of fireworks chucked in to keep the mindless good times rolling.