Live Review: Ray Davies and Elvis Costello

Ray Davies - British Summer Time

Ray Davies - British Summer Time - Credit: Archant

FOR most event organisers having your headliner pull out last minute due to illness could spell catastrophe. Months of preparation and promotional campaigns instantly become void and the success of a show has to reluctantly hang in the balance. But as the promoters of British Summer Time shrewdly decided - the show must go on.

Sir Elton John’s name had to be swiftly axed from the penultimate concert’s running order after a bout of appendicitis meant the piano pro could no longer play. Although initially disappointing, this last minute development unknowingly created a unique evening, giving of hundreds of music fans a memorable evening of entertainment for free. With a little help from the sunshine uncertainty quickly turned into an unexpected spectacle.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed by Reginald Dwight’s departure from the lineup, but upon arrival at Hyde Park all my fears disappeared as BST had succeeded in their quest to bring a new outdoor experience to the capital. People marvelled at the intimidating oaks flanking the main stage and the starry midsummer’s night dream inspired backdrop, while a party atmosphere ran throughout the crowds and the bars disguised as Mediterranean buildings, giving the whole event a festival-like feel.

In a bizarre way, the absence of Elton made it more apparent how spoilt ticket holders were - even without him there were still two outstanding musical greats ready and able to entertain. An energetic early evening set from Elvis Costello got the celebration off to a smooth start, and he blasted through hits such as Pump it Up to an eager crowd.

The Cuban Brothers also provided entertainment in between acts and dancers kept morale high in the build up to the new headliner - Kinks legend Ray Davies. Seventies glam rock and dedicated love songs were replaced by the melancholy, groovy rhythms of Ray, which went hand in hand with the waning sun. Waterloo Sunset and Sunny Afternoon were destined to be played in this kind of environment and both tracks helped to create a poignant performance, with Davies looking teary-eyed yet happy as he surveyed the sun-drenched crowd in his hometown.

It was the kind of night that makes you fall even more in love with London, and gave those that were lamenting not having a Stones ticket - myself included - a chance to have a “rock’n’roll” weekend anyway.

It would be an understatement to say the team behind British Summer Time handled Sir Elton’s withdrawal impeccably. There’s never been a quicker and kinder response to a cancelled artist to my recollection and they still managed to bring the magic to Hyde Park. So here’s to next year’s series of British Summer Time events - headliner or no headliner, there would still be a great British party.