July 4 (Bloomberg) -- Grace Jones, in a black corset, pole-danced through “Ma Vie en Rose.” Jarvis Cocker performed an ungainly striptease and reunited his band Pulp after a decade.
Both were highlights of the Wireless Festival, an annual event that took place over the weekend in London’s Hyde Park.
Plan B’s grimy blue-eyed soul was an exception to Friday’s line-up mostly dominated by British urban hopefuls. The ruthlessly reductive pop automaton that is the Black Eyed Peas headlined.
Sunday, dedicated to more alternative sounds, was more interesting. Roky Erickson played ragged psychedelic rock that harked back to his pioneering 1960s band 13th Floor Elevators. The Naked and Famous from New Zealand assimilated the grandeur of U2 and the synth hook genius of MGMT’s first album. New York’s TV on the Radio astounded with a mix of musical complexity and sing-along energy.
Jones, 63, cut a formidable stride, with her posterior-exposing lingerie accessorized with outlandish hats. The music was both cool and carnal.
Jones’s vigorous thrustings during “My Jamaican Guy” left no room for doubt as to the song’s concerns.
Pulp frontman Cocker, bearded and bespectacled, was as gangly as ever as he removed his tie and jacket. He chatted amiably about Franz Kafka and singer Laura Branigan and read an excerpt of a poem by Shelley.
Pulp, one of the leading bands of the mid-90’s Britpop scene with 10 million album sales, ran through songs like “Common People” and “Mis-Shapes,” which still retain their gloriously easy ways with a big chorus. It was thrilling to hear them again, like old friends, after so many years.
The performance had an endearing air of awkward naivety: rock played with hope more than musical precision. Part of Pulp’s charm was that it was definitely not the cool kids at school. If “Disco 2000”s title date might have passed, its musings on growing old have gained poignancy.
Saturday was the dance-music day. Chemical Brothers featured two nondescript men bobbing up and down amid a battery of interconnected synths. Whatever buttons they were pressing unleashed thunderously euphoric dance grooves to the distinctly inebriated crowd.
Janelle Monae’s music was as dazzling and daring, her black-and-white stage show super-stylish. Katy B is also a superstar in waiting, albeit for different reasons. Her everyman vocals skip along to cutting-edge beats effortlessly.
Aphex Twin, one Richard James, unleashed a torrent of jumbled electronic beats interspersed with only jittering snatches of melody. Wholly uncompromising, he kept his large and devoted crowd transfixed.
Pulp plays summer shows across Europe, including the Reading and Leeds festivals in the U.K., with more dates being announced.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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