Festivals in principle seem like a fabulous idea, thousands of like-minded music fans congregating in beautiful natural surroundings to the joyous, life-affirming sounds of their favourite bands. Their problems forgotten they are united in musical union, blind to the differences in colour, creed or religion. Festivals are modern day places of worship where Madonna replaces Mohammed and Jay-Z steps in for Jesus. That's the theory anyway.
However, these lofty ideals are normally shattered by the wet-fish-to-the-face that is reality. Once you factor in the exorbitant ticket prices, seas of mud/mind-bending heat (delete as appropriate), mediocre food, lack of sleep, shit-encrusted toilets, mongs, twats and piss-heads the divine takes on a more attritional air. With this in mind, the most I can tolerate are the one day festivals where a comfortable bed is never too far away.
Magic Summer Live sees the resurrection of the old Guilfest festival which folded due to financial problems (i.e nobody was coming). As usual it is set in the unremarkable grounds of Stoke Park in Guildford and this year played host the likes of Soul II Soul, Chic, Beverley Knight, Ocean Colour Scene, Joss Stone and Jamiroquai. It was as if it was 2003 never happened.
With the bands on the bill this was always going to draw in a diverse clientele and it was nice to see a few old timers, families and kids baking in the 30 degree heat along with the usual festival crowd. It may be touted as family friendly festival but I felt a bit sorry of the nippers as it was scorching hot. A lack of shade and children's entertainment reminiscent of Father Ted's "Fun Land" in its paucity and lack of imagination meant even the most accommodating of children would have found a whole day a struggle.
For adults Jamiroquai were the big draw on the day as they were performing their only UK gig this year. The warm up acts weren't too shabby either with a Nile Rodgers-led Chic reprising their fantastic Glastonbury performance with a heavy hitting set that drew on Rodgers talents as songwriter/producer/performer for hire. Musical tastes may vary but class remains permanent.
He showcased not just Chic's extensive back catalogue but his work with Sister Sledge, Diana Ross and David Bowie. Rodgers topped it off with a crowd led stage invasion and the longest thank you speech since Gwenyth Paltrow blubbed her way through the Oscars.
I'll put my cards on the table here; I'm a big Jamiroquai fan. I've seen them on numerous occasions in the UK and in Europe and they have always delivered live. Its been a while since I've seen them in the UK and the misfiring Rock Dust Light Star album made me worry that Jay's magic touch may have deserted him. I am happy to inform you that reports of his demise are greatly exaggerated..
Jay looks relaxed and happy to be back on home soil but starts the show with a little grumble.
"People say we don't do music anymore"
He then proceeds to read off a list of places he has performed to this year "Bogota, Belgrade, Budapest... " in the manner of an embittered Alan Partridge.
The current incarnation of Jamiroquai may be shorn of many of its original band members due in part to JK's egomania (only drummer Derrick McKenzie and percussionist Sola Akinbola remain from the peak of the band's powers) but the replacement rhythm section of bassist Paul Turner and guitarist Rob Harris keep the funk flame burning. Harris in particular is in inspired form, channelling Nile Rodgers' musical vibes with his scratchy disco chords and urgent rythym.
"Ve have a list and ve must use it!"
jokes a playful JK in a cod German accent when the crowd shout requests. The band launch into an blistering opening six songs starting with Alright and ending in Canned Heat that guaranteed even the fans in the disabled area up on their feet.
It would be easy for Jamiroquai to come out on autopilot and bash out the old hits but they routinely mix things up by reworking, extending and amending their tracks ensuring that no two concerts are never the same. Virtual Insanity gets a thorough going over tonight and emerges like a funked up butterfly on steriods.
By this time JK is drenched in sweat from his hip swivelling dance routines that belie his 43 years (he seems to have a particularly sweaty arse and knees for some reason) and he understandably brings the tempo down with an acoustic version of Rock Dust Light Star. This kills the mood somewhat, as A: its much slower and B: not a very good song.
Its was April 1993 when Jamiroquai's retro jazz-funk refreshed a grunge-scorched music scene. Their debut single When You Gonna Learn? celebrated its 20 years anniversary this year. It is landmark that Jay is justifiably proud of but he wearily acknowledges Father Time with the axiom:
"we all looked so much younger"
Years of fast living may have given him a few crows feet but the music still sounds as fresh now as it did in the early 90's. The pace picks up a again with a 90mph version of Travelling Without Moving, Love Foolosophy's extended keyboard wig outs and culminates in Deeper Underground's thrash pogoing. They should have left it there rather the Jamiroquai-by-numbers White Knuckle Ride which ends the set on an anti-climax. It's a minor quibble on a day of great music, clean(ish toilets) and blazing sunshine.
As it gets dark Jamiroquai unleash their laser show which combined with strobe lights going off in our faces feels like we're at an Orbital gig with a gaggle of aging ravers. Sadly, JK isn't the only one not getting any younger.
Use The force
Rock Dust Light Star
When You Gonna Learn
You Give Me Something
Travelling Without Moving
Deeper Underground Encore:
White Knuckle Ride