Wireless 2014 review: Kanye West's rant doesn't deserve to overshadow festival

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Wireless 2014 showcased British urban music at its best

Kanye West's 15 minute rant at Wireless has cast a shadow over this year’s festival for all the wrong reasons.

After drawing boos from the crowd on Friday and Saturday, the rapper’s self-indulgent soapbox speech about the media’s apparent false perception of him will be remembered over the shining performances from some of Britain’s biggest talents on the urban music scene.

Birmingham Wireless was promised an extended Rudimental set after headliner Drake cancelled at the last minute, with Londoners feeling smug they had been offered two nights of Kanye West instead. But Birmingham was lucky if Rudimental’s set in Finsbury Park was anything to go by.

The young band from Hackney gave everything to their performance on the main stage, emanating a magnetic presence on Saturday with the help of a bluesy trumpeter and funky drummer. Joined by Ella Eyre and John Newman for their songs “Waiting All Night” and “Feel the Love”, the band clearly looked like they were having as much fun as everyone else dancing in the crowd.

 

British DJ Naughty Boy also proved he was more than just a one hit wonder on the boombox stage on Sunday. As the rain poured down outside, his dynamic set lit up the tent with vocals from Shezar who stirred up the crowd before Emeli Sandé ran onto the stage in a surprise appearance to sing her Naughty Boy collaborations “Lifted” and “Wonder”. To the delight of the crowd, he ended on his YouTube sensation “La, La, La” with Shezar working up the already animated audience and adding some soulful vocals in Sam Smith’s absence.

As the rain began to clear, a rainbow appeared in the sky almost on cue for cheesy crooner Bruno Mars, the closing act in Finsbury Park. With the help of a jazzy trombone and trumpet and a Rat Pack-inspired band, the mediocre hit-maker proved he knew how to put on a show, winning over sceptics.

Mars helped build Sunday up to the crescendo it was billed to be. Salt-n-Pepa started off the day on the main stage, getting the crowd’s vocal chords warmed up with retro hits “Push It” and “Let’s Talk About Sex Baby”. From then on, festival-goers were spoilt for choice, rushing between an over-spilling Clean Bandit set to Ellie Goudling performing on the main stage and then back again to see Sean Paul bring Jamaica to north London.

A number of acts, including Naughty Boy and John Newman, couldn't help but send up Kanye when talking to the crowd. As for the rapper, performing "Jesus Walks" in front of a smoke-filled stage straight after giving a sermon-like speech about himself is unlikely to have done much for an artist who blames the media for depicting him as a joke.

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