The Big Chill, Eastnor Castle, Ledbury
Tuesday 09 August 2011
The Big Chill may not be one of the largest festivals in the UK, but this year it attracted an impressive array of talent. Electro, pop, hip-hop, dance and rock were all represented, from Wild Beasts to 2ManyDJs.
Inevitably though, one man created the most conversation. Before, during and after his Saturday-night set, everyone was talking about Kanye West. His headline show began half an hour late, as he battled a throat problem which partially restricted his vocals and for which he apologised on several occasions. But what West was missing in vocal range, he more than made up for in bombast and spectacle. Initial boos – prompted by a belief that his lateness on stage was the act of a diva – vanished during tracks like "Jesus Walks" and "Good Life", the former pounding with the kind of raw energy which propelled the Chicago rapper to worldwide acclaim. West threw himself around the stage with an infectious, tireless energy.
Yet it wouldn't be a Kanye West show without a little controversy. After a brilliant "Monster", he went into an unnecessarily long story about collecting an award, his well-documented self-obsession getting the better of him and prompting some warranted criticism from sections of the crowd. When the music returned, however, such irritation was vaporised as West fired off a series of hits revealing the devastating talent behind the drama and a back catalogue any artist would kill for.
While West's colossal set prompted the longest discussions, other acts created their own buzz. Janelle Monáe lit up Saturday afternoon with a sensational performance which appealed to everyone without compromising her soulful roots, and Ghostpoet's jaw-dropping, intimate set ensured that his star will continue to rise.
The Chemical Brothers' terrific Friday night show was an irrepressible sensory assault, while The Bullitts' oddly beguiling gig, featuring Idris Elba and Lucy Liu as guests, was a totally original blend of rap, funk, performance art and post-rock, unlike anything else.
But as you gazed across the numerous empty patches of land dotted across the festival site, even in a year when such a host of talent was on show, you had to wonder, somewhat forlornly, about the future of the Big Chill.
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