Boy George, Nile Rodgers and Noel Gallagher rock Kenwood House
- Credit: Rupert Frere Schmooly
Boy George, Nile Rodgers and Noel Gallagher headlined a second weekend of concerts in the grounds of Kenwood House.
When Bananarama hit the stage on Friday, it was clear that this was the '80s disco everyone in Hampstead and Highgate wanted.
Really Saying Something, Cruel Summer, Love In the First Degree, Robert De Niro’s Waiting – history might have forgotten what a hit machine the ‘nanarama were, but Kenwood hadn't.
For many acts, this gig has been a long time coming, but for Boy George the feeling is acute as it's something of a hometown celebration.
“How good to finally be here in London, where I’ve lived nearly 40 years - in Hampstead," he tells the crowd. “I know every tree personally here. I love walking here, but I’m not going to tell you when.”
And it’s not just our Boy, but Culture Club or most of them, at least. There is a cheeky dig at another Hampstead resident, drummer Jon Moss, who is in a legal dispute with the band over earnings: “Right now there are three of us because one is having a strop.”
But it’s said with affection. After all, he’s “all about harmony”.
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The Club really are a powerhouse of a band and, on top of the hits, a few choice covers are thrown in. This is the place for Wham!’s I’m Your Man, an appreciated tribute to former Highgate resident George Michael, inserted into Church Of the Poison Mind. Boy George can play it down all he wants, but Do You Really Want To Hurt Me is every bit the “moment” it should be, adjusted for his mature voice.
Saturday night was the turn of an even bigger hit-maker in Nile Rodgers. Chic themselves are legacy enough and this line-up is as sublime a funk/disco/rock pop outfit as you could hope to find.
But the set is not just Chic smash hits (Le Freak, Everybody Dance), but also a greatest hits of Nile, the producer and guitarist. We get Modern Love and Let’s Dance (both would make my 10 Bowie tracks), Madonna’s Material Girl and Like A Virgin, and Daft Punk’s huge Get Lucky. Is this the greatest wedding band ever? I’m joking, of course. Nile Rodgers is king collaborator, and rightfully draws a crowd for a disco in a field. Magic.
For north Londoners, Sunday brought an uncomfortable array of Man City t-shirts as Noel Gallagher headlined with his High Flying Birds. He also referenced walks in the woods – only this time the jokes were about "dogging". "Our kid" apparently enjoys walking his locally. Gesturing to the back of the crowd, the former Belsize Park resident was well aware that Hampstead wasn't as rock'n'roll as Knebworth: "What's that up there, Henman Hill?"
But first, Jake Bugg won over some of the less knowledgeable in the crowd with a set that showed how far the Nottingham singer songwriter has come since his self titled debut 10 years ago. Still only 28, Bugg was hailed as a successor to Gallagher when he emerged, and judging from the reaction, it's the early hits that are still bread and butter pleasers. Two Fingers, Lighting Bolt and Seen It All are huge indie anthems that Bugg has struggled to top. But playing live has always been his strongpoint and recent single All I Need closes the 15-track set proving there's more to come.
Trim in trademark black denim, Gallagher is at ease to the point of being laid back. Opening with a flock of "Birds" tracks (Wandering Star, It's a Beautiful World), it's polished rock music, accompanied by multiple guitar changes and a highly professional outfit. Gallagher knows what the crowd wants but is doing his thing first.
"Nearly there," he teases, keeping them waiting with an ethereal Dead in the Water, before launching into a foot-stomping Oasis singalong; the stadium filler Little By Little, the jaunty Importance of Being Idle, and straight bat renditions of Wonderwall and Stop Crying Your Heart Out.
If Gallagher doesn't look bored he not exactly euphoric either. Playing guitar on stage in front of thousands is clearly his thing and comes with practised ease.
Pointing out a sign saying "Noel do you know how cool you are?", he deadpans: "Yeah, I do."
It's only on a full-throated Half The World Away that emotion flows, and by the final encore of Don't Look Back in Anger there's a reciprocity of band, crowd, song and place that sends everyone home happy.