Written by Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)
Still on a high after Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester benefit concert, Manchester hosted its next big music event on the 10th and 11th of June when Parklife Festival took over the city’s Heaton Park. The weekend luckily went ahead without any incidents and everywhere inside the festival grounds seemed to radiate a party atmosphere. Further to this, Parklife boasted an incredible lineup, including Frank Ocean himself as the Sunday night headliner (and he actually turned up!)
I travelled to Manchester from Glasgow for Parklife and, if I’m honest, probably spent more time at a huge pyramid in the middle of the festival than at any stage, and drank far too much spiced rum than it takes to be anywhere near objective, but I’ll scramble together a few mini-reviews of acts at the festival.
One of the stranger names to appear on the lineup actually proved to be a personal highlight of the festival. Appearing on the main stage in mid-afternoon on Saturday, Khan was joined by a huge live band including backing singers, and ended her set with one of the biggest singalongs of the weekend: the double-header of undisputed anthems I’m Every Woman and Ain’t Nobody.
Two Door Cinema Club
Appearing on Saturday’s main stage before headliners The 1975, the Irish indie trio’s set was aided by the day’s nicest weather, as the rain cleared up and some early evening sun descended on Heaton Park during the band’s slot.
The setlist further warmed the crowd up, with Two Door Cinema Club almost shunning their newest album Gameshow completely, with a set mainly comprised of acclaimed debut Tourist History. It’s easy to see why as their debut is a perfect festival album, with tracks like I Can Talk and What You Know which feel as if they were written with this atmosphere in mind.
Parklife saw one of the last shows on The 1975’s seemingly never-ending tour in support of their second album, I Like It When…you know the title, as well as their first ever festival headlining slot. How would the Manchester 4-piece rise to the occasion? By doing exactly what they’ve done the entire tour. The set opened as the second album campaign did with the sugary Love Me, and the tempo barely dropped throughout, as the band’s short discography boasts an incredible amount of brilliant pop songs.
The headline billing never seemed to affect the band, and definitely not lead singer Matt Healy, who took his top off after 3 songs and quipped “is he a rockstar? Does he just think he’s a rockstar? Is he too fucking hot? Who the fuck knows?”. The 1975 remain polarising, largely due to Healy’s persona, but with tracks as good as The Sound, soon it’ll be near impossible to deny them.
Sunday at Parklife was absolutely full of clashes, which left us with some heart-wrenching decisions to make. One of the day’s toughest decisions meant we could only see the first half of Stormzy’s set, so missed out on some of his biggest hitters. However, the Sounds of the Near Future tent was completely packed for the entirety of the London MCs set, with even the back of the tent bouncing to every beat. Stormzy rallied the crowd with ease, repeatedly asking for his “energy crew” as he played tracks from his debut Gang Signs and Prayers as well as older tracks. Before we left, we got to see the roof almost blow off the tent for new single Cold and tracks like Shut Up and Big For Your Boots undoubtedly had the place on its knees.
While leaving Stormzy was heartbreaking, I never even contemplated watching the end of his set, as we left to see Frank Ocean on the main stage. Actually, as it transpired, we could have seen the end of Stormzy as Ocean didn’t appear until 40 mins later than his scheduled slot for only his second performance since 2014.
When he appeared, Ocean walked to the end of a walkway emblazoned with scribbles of his song titles and lyrics in a Brad Pitt t-shirt, no doubt in reference to a GQ article where Pitt lavished praise on the R&B enigma. After Pretty Sweet was played over the intercom, Ocean properly opened his set with Solo from 2016’s Blonde. However, he restarted this track 3 times, mumbling “uh, sorry” in between attempts, and appeared visibly nervous in this rare live performance.
After Ocean finally finished Solo, he launched into Chanel, which he played twice as he “liked that one” and from that point, visibly grew in confidence and grew into his performance. It was a set-list clearly curated for diehards rather than casual fans, as Thinkin Bout You was the only track from 2012’s Channel Orange that Ocean played, with the set-list dominated by Blonde and Endless, as well as the “Blonded Radio” singles.
Unsurprisingly with this set-list, the reaction to the set was mixed, with many blasting Ocean for being over-indulgent and pretentious for a festival headline slot. However, you cannot blame him, as Blonde tracks like Nikes and Nights rank among Ocean’s very best tracks, and when a small band join him on stage for the ethereal Self Control, there is no doubt that Ocean is among this generation’s finest musical talents.