Yahoo! Wireless kicked off yesterday with a storming first day of music that kept the crowds entertained whilst the sun shone down. For this year’s festival, which takes place over three days, the venue has been changed from Hyde Park to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. The event has also been expanded to incorporate five stages – Main Stage, Yahoo! Stage, Pepsi Max Stage, SB:TV Stage and Bandstand – meaning that there’s more live acts than ever before.
For the first day the excitement for Justin Timberlake’s headline set built throughout the day but before the superstar took to the stage we had chance to check out a variety of acts across all of the stages. We started our day off with Ke$ha who took to the Main Stage after sets from Conor Maynard and Wretch 32. Her set was filled with her electro-pop hits such as Crazy Kids, Blah Blah Blah and her breakthrough hit Tik Tok. One of her best moments was Warrior, the title track to her current album, which fit the sun-drenched surroundings of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park perfectly. As her set drew to a close she was surrounded by giant inflatable legs as she danced and sang her way through her final number.
As Ke$ha left the stage we went off in search of the Pepsi Max Stage to watch former X Factor winners Little Mix serve up a pop/R&B set for the packed-out audience. As well as singing their own material, Little Mix performed a TLC/Destiny’s Child mash-up. A stripped-down version of album track Going Nowhere was a definite highlight giving the vocals of all four girls the opportunity to really shine. The four girls – Leigh-Anne, Perrie, Jesy and Jade – looked confident as they carried out slick choreography and showcased impressive live vocals. Their harmonies shone as they served the double whammy of DNA and Wings to close their set. We think the girls don’t get enough credit as they are superb live vocalists and one of the strongest female groups in the charts today.
Next up was a 45-minute set from rising R&B star Miguel. Probably best-known in the UK for his recent chart hit #Beautiful with Mariah Carey, Miguel served up some old school soulful R&B. Many audience members saw the opportunity to sit down and relax in the sun whilst Miguel’s dulcet tones provided the perfect excuse to chill out. Before the suggestive How Many Drinks? Miguel asked the audience how many drinks it would take before he could take them home. The majority of the crowd seemed to agree no drinks would be necessary. The highlight of Miguel’s set was the sexy Adorn which got the audience to their feet and signing along. Our only complaint with Miguel’s set is there was a little bit too much chatting to the audience and jamming from the band. We’d have preferred that he squeezed a few more tracks in.
One of the acts we were most excited to see following our recent interview was Ed Drewett. He performed on the SB:TV stage and really impressed with his 30 minute set. He opened with a mash-up of Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River and The Wanted’s All Time Low (which he wrote). A performance of buzz single Drunk Dial went down well with the audience and we suspect many of them were drunk dialling by the end of the night considering the varying levels of drunkenness on display. The catchy track Summer was a standout moment whilst new single Undefeated (out tomorrow pop pickers) encapsulates Ed’s journey in the music industry to date. Ed closed his set with a cover of The Wanted’s Glad You Came (he wrote that too) which had the audience dancing and singing along. It can only be a matter of time before Ed’s a huge star and the material he performed was really strong pop music. He’s a great live performer and he’s destined for big things.
Wireless couldn’t have called itself the Urban festival of the year without big names from the US and so it did. John Legend was one of the biggest names on the bill and got on stage blowing us away with his energy and pitch perfect vocals. We’ve never had the pleasure of seeing the American sensation before and were pleasantly surprised. Legend, who we pictured as a singer-songwriter that did his shows sat down at the piano, surprised us with limitless energy and incredible stage presence. His rendition of Green Light was nothing short of exceptional and had the entire crowd dancing along whilst other tracks like I Can Change delighted the romantics. Legend also performed his first hit Ordinary People to much praise and finished his set on a real high.
One artist that was creating a real buzz ahead of the festival was Mikky Ekko. Best-known for his collaboration with Rihanna on Stay, Mikky is in the process of launching himself as a solo artist. As an artist he’s unassuming whilst on stage but his voice is truly magnificent. Musically his music is somewhere between traditional singer/songwriter and ethereal dreamy trip-hop beats. Recent single Pull Me Down was an early highlight as was the haunting Disappear. In the middle of his set Mikky performed his version of Stay which drew lots of attention from people passing by the stage. It’s clear from Mikky’s set that he’s a very talented artist with a lot of creative vision for his music. One thing we would say is that there could have been a bit more variety in his music. Some of the tracks sounded a little samey.
Snoop Dogg was next up on the Main Stage and he proved to be one of the highlights of the whole day. The iconic hip-hop artist definitely got the audience ready for Justin Timberlake serving up hits left, right and centre. From the classic What’s My Name (with the audience filling in most of the lyrics) through to more recent hits such as his David Guetta collaboration Wet, Snoop had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. His set was the perfect way to spend an hour under the sun with the audience singing to every word and letting their hair down. Snoop showcased his extensive back catalogue with performances of P.I.M.P. which he originally recorded with 50 Cent, Beautiful and Signs. Newer track Young, Wild & Free was a highlight with the audience waving their arms in the air and joining in on the chorus. The best moments of the set came on the epic Drop It Like It’s Hot and the funky Signs. Both songs sounded incredible at such a large venue and we loved every single minute. Snoop also got our very own Rita Ora to join him on stage for Torn Apart. Rita dazzled the audience with her shiny see-through metallic outfit. Snoop looked every bit the professional and knew exactly how to get the crowd going with a few covers thrown in the mix such as House of Pain’s Jump Around and finished his set with Bob Marley’s Jammin’.
After a quick loo break and a visit to the bar, we took our place in the crowd for Justin Timberlake’s headline set. The buzz had been building all day and you could feel the excitement wherever you went. Opening his set with his debut solo single Like I Love You, Justin immediately had the crowd on their feet, singing and dancing. Dressed in a super-smart black ensemble (with matching hat) Justin could pretty much have sung the phone book and the crowd would have loved it. His set for the evening was a mixture of his hits, favourite album tracks and a couple of covers.
We were pleased to see Justin bringing out some of his signature dance moves during his set. His performances more recently have been more big-band feel but when performing hits like Rock Your Body and My Love he showed he can still move with the best of them. Cry Me A River, which he performed early on in the set, was one of the best moments whilst current buzz single Tunnel Vision provided some beat-laden atmosphere. In the middle of his set he asked if the crowd wanted to hear something ‘baby ass-spanking new’ before performing his new single Take Back The Night for the very first time. He surprised with a cover of INXS hit I Need You Tonight and paid homage to one of his inspirations, Michael Jackson, with Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground). Elsewhere in the set he played album tracks such as Pusher Love Girl and Summer Love which went down a treat, and slowed things down for a soulful performance of Until The End of Time.
Justin closed his set with an epic performance of Mirrors and with a surprise appearance from Jay-Z on Suit & Tie before returning for a rousing rendition of SexyBack. When the song ended the crowd were desperate for more and it’s safe to say that Justin Timberlake wowed everyone. His vocals, his moves and his banter with the crowd were all on point and we fell even more in love with him by the end of the set, which we didn’t think was actually possible. It’s incredible how he’s transformed himself from boyband member to worldwide chart-dominating superstar. Justin is performing again at the festival on Sunday night when he co-headlines with Jay-Z.
Day 1 of Yahoo! Wireless was nothing short of incredible. With plenty to see, lots of great live music, gorgeous sun and a mind-blowing headline set from Justin Timberlake it was the perfect way to kick off the weekend. Roll on the next two days we say!