The Strokes @ Hyde Park, London (18 June '15) // Words: Saam Das
Thanks to the good folk on this here internet, I unexpectedly and happily pick up some last minute tickets on the cheap to British Summer Time at Hyde Park, thanks to a fundraising promotion with Teenage Cancer Trust. The big draw is, of course, the return to London of The Strokes but Beck and Public Service Broadcasting are in tow and I'm eager to also catch them.
Having been stuck at work all day, the race was on as to whether I could catch Public Service Broadcasting - an outfit who truly and surprisingly charmed me when seeing them at last year's Glastonbury. With remarkable ease, I fly through security, and I'm in just as the band kick off on the relatively intimate Barclaycard Stage.
They may be lacking in their usual array of visuals but they have brought along a light-up model of Sputnik, befitting of the space race theme of their latest album, aptly titled 'The Space Race'. Music aside, Public Service Broadcasting are well known (in some circles, anyway) for their dry, robotic-voice-led between-song chatter. They're on top form both in terms of their banter and musically, running through tracks, new and old.
A brass trio even appears on occasion, with a somewhat bizarre stage invader dressed up as an astronaut also appearing. It's not quite as huge a spectacle as you'll be likely to see at their forthcoming Brixton Academy headline date but it is a fine effort and they end triumphantly on 'Everest' - my work colleagues are suitably impressed. (They also have positive words for Future Islands earlier in the day.)
Beck is next on the agenda. I must admit that I'm quite unfamiliar with many of his songs. And yet, his set is easy to enjoy - there's bigger hits like 'E-Pro' and the seminal 'Loser', and much of the rest of his material swims along pleasantly. He perhaps unnecessarily engages in an encore, having set up a fake crime scene almost solely for the purpose of changing his attire. Still, he's built enough goodwill to earn this self-indulgence.
I wander over by Temples to meet a pal, and while their brand of psych-rock isn't really my cup of tea, they seem to performing it well. More importantly, after an elongated wait at the bar, I get hold of a pint of Three Hop lager - quite possibly the finest beer I've had all year. Get on it if you're at BST in the next few days. It's a good omen for the upcoming main stage performance from The Strokes.
It's five years since the last time The Strokes graced London, and there's an air of excitement and expectation. The band have a rather large back catalogue to choose from, and it's unsurprising that they miss out plenty of tracks that I'd consider worthy of airing - '12:51', 'The End Has No End', and 'The Modern Age', just some offerings that failed to make the cut.
Not that the crowd is especially disappointed by any missing tracks - there are certainly lulls, thanks mostly to newer material, but the pacing of the set means that a peak is never too far away. Even with a ridiculous mullet-laden Julian Casablancas mumbling away confusingly between songs, the likes of 'Someday' and 'Last Nite' pop up with pleasing regularity. The band disappear early for the ever-predictable encore, finishing strongly though with 'Juicebox', 'You Only Live Once', and 'Take It Or Leave It'. Job well done.
Find more info at bst-hydepark.com.