Review: 13 Performances That Made London's New Look Wireless Festival Worth The Trip
July 7, 2015 - 4:12 pm
Stacy-Ann Ellis and Iyana Robertson
With a 1:30 p.m. set time—the earliest time slot available—Vince Staples had the hefty task of officially kicking off London's highly anticipated festival, and it's safe to say he rose to the occasion. The U.K. first-timer looked as comfortable in the Pepsi Max arena as he would be on a stage in his native Long Beach, Calif. To hear the relatively thick crowd spit back lyrics to Summertime 06 tracks like "Lift Me Up" and "Norf Norf" visibly charged him up as he went along. He was feeling the moment so much that he almost got swallowed up by the sea of fans when he crowdsurfed for "Blue Suede" from Hell Can Wait.
The Beast Coast made its way back to London by way of Joey Bada$$. Upgrading to the main stage after his 2013 Wireless Festival appearance, the Brooklyn native showed gratitude to his loyal fans across the pond, performing tracks from his 1999 mixtape, including “Hardknock” and “Waves,” as well as standouts from his B4.DA.$$ debut such as “Christ Conscious,” “Curry Chicken” and “No. 99.” Fellow Pro Era cohort, Nyck Caution, also took the stage alongside Joey, as the two later made their way into the crowd for some direct contact with the fans. Needless to say, the crowd went H.A.M.
A$AP Rocky’s set was filled with technical issues, yet he still managed to ride it out. Though he made an effort to stop at one point and demand a better sounding mic, the muffled sounds persisted along with the struggle to play his scheduled tracks. Nevertheless, the Harlemite delivered renditions of tracks such as “Lorde Pretty Flacko Joyde II,” “Max B” and “Multiply.” Joined on stage by his A$AP Mob and the contortionist dancing of Les Twins’ Laurent Bourgeois, the main stage appearance was salvaged by good vibes. And, of course, he didn’t forget to call himself handsome.
Sir Aubrey Graham really needs to visit London more often. Pure pandemonium ensued from the Young Money rapper’s performance in one of his favorite cities. With his Jungle tour set in tow – massive trees included – Drake offered favorites from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and his healthy catalog of certified hits, including “0 to 100,” “The Motto,” and “We Made It.” Showing off his quite accurate English accent in between tracks, Drizzy also shared the stage with grime rap star Skepta, who rocked Finsbury Park with “Shutdown,” sending the crowd of thousands into an even bigger frenzy. If Drake came up short in any area, it would be his set list, which could have included a few less predictable offerings. There was also that one time he said, “I’m single as sh*t. I need somebody to rub on tonight.”
Mary J. Blige
A Mary J. Blige set is usually filled with the singer’s aunty-friendly hits that never stop being classics, but a MJB set in London is a little different. While the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul did bless the crowd with the “Love Is All We Need’s” and the “Family Affair’s,” it was Mary’s The London Sessions album that fittingly took centerstage. It was the perfect way to pay homage to the city that inspired her latest LP.
Travi$ Scott has an angst about him that's polarizing. Some hate it because it prompts him to pull d*ckhead moves like kicking photographers, VIP fans and his own sound staff off the stage with a couple cuss words and a "shoo" flick of his wrist. On the other hand, it makes for one hell of a spirited performance. With a fire in his eyes, Scott marched and hopped ferociously across the small Capital Xtra Re:Wired Stage with a mic in one hand and a bottle of water to drench the crowd with in the other (ladies in the front row, R.I.P. to that blowout). In between scaling the stage scaffolding and pacing the stack of speakers, the "3500" rapper and producer ran through selections new and old, from Owl Pharaoh to Days Before Rodeo to Rodeo.
No matter where the locale, there will never be a dull moment when Childish Gambino (née Donald Glover) hits a stage. From the moment his dancing feet touched the center of Wireless' main stage, it was a jovial celebration for all. His shirt came off after the first song. A plethora of body rolls commenced. The band grooved and shined on their own. "Worldstar!" chants resounded around Finsbury Park. The audience clamored for hit after hit. His energy never dimmed and he never broke character. Between performing selections from Camp, Because The Internet and STN MTN/Kauai and random remixes thrown in the mix, there were plenty of "Yasss!" moments to go around for all.
It had been a while since K. Dot touched a London stage, but instead of reckless barricade hopping, TDE’s MVP was met with an overwhelming level of pure love. Backed by a phenomenal band and the theatrical musings of a short film, Kendrick blessed a packed Finsbury Park with a barrage of tracks from good kid, m.A.A.d. city, including “Backseat Freestyle,” “The Recipe,” “Collard Greens.” He also performed his “Classic Man (Remix)” verse for the first time live, as well cuts from his To Pimp A Butterfly album, “King Kunta,” Alright” and “i” for the first time in the UK. Among a group of performers who recognized a few of their fans in the crowd, K. Dot also hit the crowd with Section.80 tracks for his day-one fans. But no Kendrick Lamar set is complete without “m.A.A.d. city;” he ran the song’s hook back five times to ensure the highest level of turn up.
Yes, the London women love August Alsina too. Also making his return to the UK, the New Orleans crooner was met with a healthy amount of estrogen-laced fanfare as he belted out tracks from his Testimony album such as “Make It Home,” “No Love,” and “Kissin’ On My Tattoos.” And while the yungin’ provided eye candy and vocals for the ladies, his background dancers offered a sexy alternative for the fellas, filled with twerking and feats of flexibility. August also performed his new single, “Hip-Hop” for the crowd before making his way across the entire front row to make contact with a few adoring fans.
The first thing that came to mind when Future Zahir's mama kicked off her Wireless set was: Ciara needs a bigger stage. A thick sea of fans spilled out from underneath the Pepsi Max Arena tent to see CiCi break out her best tunes paired with her notoriously killer dance moves. Technical difficulties aside—unfortunately, her mic was off for at least the first two songs—the MILF brought the house down with cuts from her Jackie album such as "BMF," "I Bet" and "Stuck On You." Ciara brought some welcome nostalgia to the fest with throwback fan favorites "Oh" and "Goodies."
If London didn't know what SremmLife was before, they learned this weekend. Although Rae Sremmurd's set felt like a short one, the turnt up duo made the most of every second on stage. With energy levels starting and staying consistently on 100, Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy brought the party to the young Wireless crowd with SremmLife cuts like "Unlock The Swag," "No Flex Zone," "Come Get Her" and "My X." Neither of the two brothers stayed still for more than a few seconds at a time. You could barely tell that Slim Jimmy injured his leg badly just a month prior. It was obvious that they were genuinely happy to be there up on that stage, whipping, Nae Nae-ing, jumping, shaking their locs, throwing water around and see their music travel across the globe firsthand.
Jaden and Willow Smith
Will and Jada’s babies are certified stars – just ask August Alsina and Drake. After gracing their own Wireless sets, Alsina and Drizzy assumed the role of fans for Jaden and Willow Smith, admiring them from backstage as they rocked out for the larger-than-they-expected crowd. Jaden, filled with a seemingly endless amount energy, scaled the stage while spitting lyrics to tracks like CTV2’s “Fire.” And Willow, serving as a representative for the young girls in the crowd, belted out tunes such as “Flowers” and “Rta.” If these are what “misfits” look like, all the kids should aspire not to be down.
For someone who hasn’t performed in a month, Jessie J’s Wireless 2015 performance could have made folks believe that she’s been on a date-after-date tour. In a personal triumph, the London-born overcame a recent surgery with some good ol’ hometown love. Performing a slew of tracks including earlier cuts like “Do It Like A Dude” and more recent singles like “Bang Bang” and “Flashlight.” Along with powerhouse vocals from the singer and her incredible backup dancers, the set was made even better by an exceptional band. And did we mention she had a golden throne in the middle of the stage?