A lot can change in 12 months. If you’d have asked those leaving Frank Ocean’s headline-grabbing performance in Victoria Park last year ‘where else could you see Lovebox taking place’, it’s safe to assume not one would thrown the sleepy confines of Acton’s Gunnersbury Park into contention. But here we are, after much deliberation Lovebox begins a new life in West London and with that conveniently one of it’s weightiest line-ups in years, with the likes of NERD, Wu-Tang Clan, Skepta, Anderson .Paak and man of the moment Childish Gambino to inaugurate the occasion.
As one of London’s most-loved weekenders in the festival calendar, it was only right we went down to run the rule on the action. With temperatures suitably scorching and tickets long sold out, here’s what we took from the Saturday of Lovebox 2018.
It’ll take time to adapt to the new location
Although Gunnersbury Park is undoubtedly attractive and relatively easy to get to, the site itself is visibly smaller, making proceedings feel more packed in and condensed then its predecessor. However with that, getting from one stage to another was stress-free and meant dashing across site from Jamz Supernova’s Carnival-prep set at the Kopparberg stage to the main stage in time for the unmissable sounds of The Internet wasn’t an issue.
One of the only downsides was the sound leakage from stage to stage and the world’s longest/slowest walk back to Acton Town afterwards, which took a solid hour of trudging, according to our clock. Something that needs to be rectified moving forward, everyone would agree.
The line-up was a who’s who of urban royalty
Having traditionally been recognised more for its electronic and dance-leaning lineups, Lovebox has over the years began to shift the pendulum, sonically moving with the times as the biggest and the best in R&B and Hip-Hop begin to take the spotlight, and continues to bring some of the best names to the capital on a yearly basis.
Where Wireless is recognised for bringing the likes of Migos and Drake in for those current singalong anthems, Lovebox has always showcased those left of centre, somewhat, booking Snoop Dogg, Frank Ocean and Nas having previously graced the stage and having rightly been applauded for never taking the easy route.
Coming back to the action, and with the likes of SZA and Anderson Paak having entertained the afternoon crowds the day before, we were pleased to see the captivating presence of eye-catching Colombian-American Kali Uchis stepping up early afternoon, as she delivered a confident and composed set of hits off her impressive debut LP ‘Isolation’, which included cameo’s from The Internet’s gifted guitarist Steve Lacy on ‘Just A Stranger’ and Jorja Smith – fresh off her own headline show at Somerset House the night before – for the undoubted people’s choice ‘Tyrant’.
After our disappointment at the news mysterious London rapper Casisdead had cancelled (what’s new), it was compulsory to stay for a prime view of the unmatchable tones of Atlanta legend Big Boi – who rolled through his and Andre’s legendary back catalogue in quick-fire fashion with the help of Organized Noize’s Sleepy Brown, much to the delight of an increasingly busy main stage audience.
Having been on an almighty roll over the last five years, in the build up to the release of ‘Hive Mind’ there were sceptics as to whether R&B collective The Internet would be able to maintain momentum, with most members focusing on solo projects in recent times. However with an expectant main stage crowd ready and waiting, the LA five-piece nonchalantly roll through the latest jams off their funk-fuelled fourth album, as well as thankfully rolling through the crowd pleasers, with ‘Girl’, ‘Special Affair’ and ‘Dontcha’ getting the singalong treatment. The only downside came from the level of Syd’s vocals, with her soft and tender tone often struggling to hold up outside of an intimate, indoor setting.
Away from the main stage Noisey Presents had a tasty lineup in play, with Canadian duo and OVO’s finest DVSN delivering an exhilarating, soulful showcase, and the ever-dependable sounds of Bonobo never failing to deliver anything less than a perfect performance in a festival setting. The biggest crowd of the day however, turned out for production maestro Mura Masa who, even with Annie Mac on the main stage to compete with, successfully shrugged off any competition to deliver an onslaught of hits, with Octavian collab ‘Move Me’ hyping up proceedings and giving us a moment to digest the fact that maybe life outside of East London’s gonna be alright, after all.
Another major lure and reason behind this years speedy sell-out was this evenings supporting cast N.E.R.D who, having experienced an epic stage invasion during another recent UK festival set (through every fault of Pharrell’s own) deliver a trademark performance of charisma, action and relentless hits, with a sea of activity and dancers on stage for an unforgettable rendition of ‘Lemon’. To see the group in the flesh was a special moment, especially with rumors circulating this could be one of their last tours, fans were appreciative of the energetic performance.
Childish Gambino really is a superstar
Billed as a UK festival exclusive, there’s no hiding from the fact that everyone, quite literally everyone, is here for one man. Having become something of a cultural icon and figurehead in the US for his exploits on screen and on record equally, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino is, quite simply, an entertainer. Straight off the bat he asks “London, are you ready” before jumping into a stunning execution of ‘Me And Your Mama’ off 2016’s “Awaken, My Love”. Ramping up the levels even further with an unbelievable performance of ‘Boogieman’ that sees the inevitable unbuttoning of the shirt, the beauty of his performance is in the level of dedication he injects into it, finding a perfect balance between old and new, with his latest ‘Feels like Summer’ and ‘Summertime Jam’ both getting a run out, and with weather conditions to match, both receive suitably raucous reactions.
Despite pre-set murmurs circulating that a full on-stage show reminiscent of NERD’s earlier in the evening that a serious visual feast was in store, the fact it remained simply himself along with a small choir and his band throughout and to put on such a stunning spectacle is testament to a man at the very top of his game right now. Between humorous mid-song moments, personal pleas for togetherness and an enlightening tale of his time living in London, this was a performance that delivered everything you could’ve wished for. Of course throwing classics ‘3005’ and ‘Sober’ in to the set list drew huge applause, there’s only two songs we all needed, which came in the form of a stunning ‘Redbone’ complete with faultless falsettos and dedication, followed by the explosive energy and elation that came from closing track, ‘This Is America’.
Having witnessed a superstar in his prime, a diverse and impactful lineup to suitably bring in the launch of West London’s Lovebox debut, its hard to complain with the entertainment on offer, even for the diehard East Londoners who had to make the 60 minute trek across to town, and one things clear for all to see – there’s plenty more life in the festival yet. Roll on 2019.