A week may have passed since Earlham Park opened its gates to ten thousand fans for the biggest free music festival in Europe, but memories cannot be forgotten and stories are still to be told on what was an unbelievable, jam-packed weekend of performances by acts from around the globe. The weather may not have been on our side in the cold and unassuming park in Norwich, but no way was it going to dampen our mood. We had been waiting months for this moment and nothing was going to get in our way of enjoying this weekend of live music.
With a pop/rock based line up, Radio 1 had included artists that frequently appear on their weekly playlist to grace the stages in Norwich. I had planned everyone that I wanted to see and luckily, for what I think is the first time ever, there were no clashes between those artists, so the day had already started well. (And as many will know, the word ‘clashes’ makes music fans weak at the knees, so I was particularly pleased that I didn’t have to miss anyone.) That alongside the fact I was three people away from the front barrier meant it was the start to a very successful day.
X Factor protege Olly Murs opened up the main stage on Sunday with a high energy set to a very excited crowd. Known for his cheeky-chappie persona and smooth moves across the stage, Olly certainly didn’t disappoint. Opening with crowd pleaser ‘Heart Skips A Beat’, Mr Murs quickly turned on the charm and delighted us with his cool but sometimes naughty dance moves. Still the same down-to-earth man that shot onto our screens back in 2009, Olly has undeniably stuck to his roots and is still as lovely as the first time we set eyes on him. Mixing his set up a bit, he threw in a ‘Funk Medley’, including songs such as ‘Play That Funky Music’, ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Good Times’, which sent the crowd into a funk frenzy, reminiscing and singing back the classic lyrics. Special guest Ella Eyre was brought on for his duet ‘Up’, after her performance on the In New Music We Trust stage on Saturday. The two bounced off each other and displayed their friendship (and of course great vocals) to the audience. Closing his set with ‘Wrapped Up’, Olly introduced Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw to rap Travie McCoy’s part in the hit song. The crazy outfit choice of yellow shorts and sunglasses teamed with his animation across the stage sent the audience wild and was a great way to end the opening set at Big Weekend.
Next on the main stage was Clean Bandit opening with gold selling single Real Love. Although they have released a number of massive hits over the past year, they didn’t have enough big songs to fill a forty minute set and at times the audience lost interest. Singer-songwriter Rae Morris was also brought onto stage to perform their song ‘Up Again’, which made a pleasant surprise. When the classics ‘Stronger’ and ‘Rather Be’ were performed though, the mood was lifted and the crowd belted out the lyrics.
Next up were Catfish and the Bottlemen, who were one of the acts I was most looking forward to seeing. They did not fail to disappoint and performed hit after hit including ‘Kathleen’, ‘Pacifier’ and ‘Cocoon’. After originally being scheduled to play on the In New Music We Trust stage, they were upgraded to the main stage after Sam Smith had to cancel due to a hemorrhage on his vocal chords. This was obviously very sad news for fans of Sam Smith but very good news for me as it meant I didn’t have to leave the main stage to see the Bottlemen. Lead singer Van McCan was humble throughout and at times choked up at the reaction from the audience. He was often heard saying ‘thank you very much’, ‘it’s a pleasure’, ‘this is an honour’ and said ‘honestly we really appreciate this, thank you very much for having us. I can’t say anymore than that.’ He continued to say, ‘I know you was expecting Sam Smith and that so I’m sorry about that.’ It was so nice to see him really appreciating the reaction that they so deserved to get and I hope that he and his band stay as grounded as they were on that main stage.
Rita Ora graced the main stage next with her outstanding voice and (it goes without saying) her overall flawless beauty. Her performance was full of riffs and flicks and notes that no normal human being should be able to produce. She blasted out classic hits ‘RIP’, ‘How We Do’ and ‘Hot Right Now’, whilst also playing some more current songs like ‘I Will Never Let You Down’, a new unheard song ‘Kingdom Come’ and the first live performance of her latest single ‘Poison’, which went down an absolute treat. Midway through her set, she brought out American rapper Charles Hamilton to perform ‘New York Raining’ – very ironic as it was raining at the time. To complement her performance were an all male (*ahem* gorgeous) dance group that performed flips and well choreographed moves to accompany Rita’s slick performance. Rita never fails to disappoint and she smashed her performance at Big Weekend this year.
it was time to leave the main stage and head to the In New Music We Trust stage to see James Bay. I was so excited to see him and so was the rest of the crowd going by the number of people that were packed into the tent to see him. James is a classic performer and he captivates his audience with his soothing voice and beautiful guitar accompaniment. His hit songs ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Hold Back The River’ were real crowd pleasers and he had the audience singing his songs word for word back at him. Even when he played some lesser known songs from his album ‘Chaos and the Calm’, the audience were hanging onto his every word and were tapping along to his tunes. For someone who has only just recently appeared in the public eye, James Bay has managed to create a loyal following and this is sure to only get bigger.
It was back to the main stage to see the lovely George Ezra perform his hits. With very little interaction with the audience throughout his set, George managed to captivate his audience with just his retro tunes and fascinating vocals – this is no easy task but Ezra has got it down to a fine art. There is something undeniably cute about George and the audience bounced off his undeniably sweet nature. Classic hits ‘Cassy O’, ‘Blame It On Me’ and ‘Budapest’ went down an absolute treat and had all ages singing along.
For some, the highlight of the day was headline act Foo Fighters, but I didn’t want to stay to see them. For me, the day was building up to see the American superstar who is currently taking over the world, Taylor Swift. Yes that’s right, Swifty was in little old Norwich! The country girl from Pennsylvania is undoubtedly taking over the charts at the moment so she had a fair few songs to choose from for her set. Opening with ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’, Taylor had the crowd hanging on to her every word and they sang everyone straight back at her. There’s not many people who could fill a set with hit upon hit, but Swifty did just that. The highlight of her performance was ‘Shake It Off’ as she managed to get every single person, old or young, male or female, to dance as if no one was watching. It was an incredible performance and one that I feel very lucky to have witnessed.
Radio 1’s Big Weekend certainly lived up to its name; it was big, bold and a brilliant line-up of artists who gave incredible performances. And to top it off, I didn’t pay a penny to see these bands and artists. Thank you Radio 1 for putting on a fantastic festival – fingers crossed it returns to a location near to me again.