Lovebox 2012 (Sunday): London – live review

Lovebox 2012 (Sunday)
London E9, Victoria Park
17th June 2012

Third and final days report from Lovebox festival, a day in which disco featured quite heavily & a day that was stolen by the performance of one Lana Del Rey

On Friday, Disco was kept locked outside the main gates. On Saturday, she was allowed in but forced to just hang around at the back and keep herself to herself. Today, however, she’s punched everyone else out of the way, stormed to the front of the queue, kicked the doors in, demanded champagne, adorned herself with boas and glitter, and is currently thrusting her gusset into bemused faces belonging to a passing stag do to the tune of ”ËœI’m Coming Out’. A couple of years back, Lovebox proudly announced it was to become “a freewheeling, groundbreaking, no-holds-barred, non-stop polysexual party.” Since then, Sunday has become affectionately known as Gay Day. It couldn’t actually be any gayer if a group of moustachioed gentlemen straight from an orgiastic Amsterdam leather bar in assless chaps stood on a brightly lit rainbow and began singing about fisting. And let’s face it, had Holly Johnson not cancelled, we might easily be watching that. Welcome to the day of “fierce”.

Of course, the relationship between gays and disco goes back over 40 years to when the Stonewall Riots heralded a new decadent era of rampant hedonism and the doors of flamboyant dancenightclubs were flung open to predominantly gay, black and Puerto Rican revellers, free to party without harassment or inhibitions. You can trace its history through The Loft, The Paradise Garage, Studio 54, Saturday Night Fever, Moroder, Cowley, Orlando, acid house, all the way through to Daft Punk and DFA’s productions (James Murphy is in the house today). And to think that some rock critics dismissed it as throwaway. This disco-themed day is tinged with sadness though, following the cancer-related deaths of both Donna Summer (rumoured at one stage to have been in negotiation with promoters to headline today’s event) and Robin Gibb in recent weeks.

It’s not all glitterballs and bare buttocks though. It’s early afternoon, and Niki and The Dove are making very Knife-sounding noises. From a distance, Niki herself appears to be shaking what looks like a yellow and pink dyed Komondor, but hopefully isn’t. The Rapture‘s set has a celebratory feel, particularly the piano-laden ”ËœHow Deep Is Your Love’. Patrick Wolf enjoyed getting down and dirty with his fans so much he forgot to check the his flies were done up (they weren’t). Mika, as always, yelped and shrieked incessantly over the sort of infantile dross that made the Scissor Sisters sound like Throbbing Gristle.

Lovebox 2012 (Sunday): London – live reviewDressed in pure white, Chic have the unenviable task of transforming an overcast East London park into a raging disco inferno, but they succeed with an unimpeachable back catalogue of lushly orchestrated pop anthems. Nile Rodgers insists that “Chic is not a covers band” before delivering a selection of, well, covers. Detractors could easily argue that claiming the likes of Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’, Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ and Duran Duran’s ‘Notorious’ to be your own is a bit of a cheek, Chic, but in truth these barely scratch the surface of the exquisite and immensely successful body of work that Nile has composed, produced and influenced. Yowsah, indeed.

Lovebox 2012 (Sunday): London – live reviewBy early evening, at one end of the site we find soul diva Chaka Khan in fine voice through a gold-plated microphone and tight denim catsuit. At the other end, a considerably more restrained Lana Del Rey appears. So intense has the level of scrutiny been regarding her authenticity (as if stage personas have never existed before) amongst accusations of callous marketing and fabrication, that it’s almost disappointing to find her looking rather ordinary in a plain white top, peach skirt and white trainers, and not some pre-programmed monstrosity constructed entirely of Play-Doh. At times it’s as if she’s never navigated her way across a stage before (“Can I stand on these? No?”) but she’s far from being the tuneless, awkward mess that some are keen to portray her as.

She beams a smile halfway through ‘Video Games’ into an audience which seems to be willing her on, singing every word back at her.

“Well, there’s really no words are there?” she asks as the song finishes, visibly overwhelmed by the crowd’s enthusiasm.

It’s all over in 35 short minutes, her laconic delivery reciting tales of destructive romance, but it’s a very fragile, compelling triumph from an enigmatic star.

Lovebox 2012 (Sunday): London – live review“Are there any French here?” the ultimate diva demands to know, sipping red wine through a straw whilst slipping her masculine frame into something less comfortable, prior to a soaring rendition of ‘La Vie En Rose’. Typically, it’s a breathtakingly bananas Grace Jones performance as lavish outfits and headdresses are changed with each number. Joining the dots between post-punk, disco and Jamaican reggae, she spits out the words to ‘Private Life’ and then writhes and humps her way through ‘My Jamaican Guy’. She dominates a stage like no other performer. She appears to have a large vagina attached to her forehead. She pole-dances. She becomes a human mirrorball in a bowler hat. She eats lazers.

“Ain’t nothing new,” she chuckles, hula hoop in hand, reacting to the cheers as she returns for a ten-minute encore of ‘Slave To The Rhythm’. “Just a bit more popular.”

We also covered Friday & Saturday at Lovebox.

All pictures copyright Daniel O’Connor

All words and images by Kevin Robinson. More articles by Kevin can be found here. You can follow him on Twitter.

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Kevin Robinson gained a formidable reputation as a DJ in numerous indie club nights since the 90’s, and been a correspondent and reviewer for several music publications. He lives in London and currently presents new music programmes for the John Peel inspired Dandelion Radio, and Shoreditch Radio. Twitter: @kevinrobinsondj


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