LIVE: British Summer Time (The Strokes, Beck, Future Islands) – Hyde Park 18.06.15

A lot has changed for Future Islands since playing British Summer Time last year. Their synthy-Springsteen anthems were designed for huge crowds like the one that gather early at Hyde Park (5.30pm), who now know the words to ‘Seasons (Waiting For You)’ and recent Record Store Day release ‘The Chase’; no one else has quite mastered the moves though. Frontman Sam Herring feeds off the screams, channeling Jack Nicholson on speed as he grinds to the plink-plonk grooves of ‘Doves’ and Kraftwerkian closer ‘Spirit’. Should they find time to record another album between now and next summer, Future Island’s hat-trick show will no doubt see them moving up the bill one more place, led with a lunge from Herring.

Beck has the difficult task of not only following Future Islands, but warming up for The Strokes while not stealing the show. The general consensus from the crowd, largely #lads for whom this is the most “festival” their summer is going to get, is that his set is surprisingly energetic. While the indie chameleon’s last collection was a dreamy affair, only one track (‘Blue Moon’) is played from Morning Phase, with the majority of the set coming from 2005’s Guero. Bizarrely, recent release ‘Dreams’ is ignored, but in place of the beat-heavy pop stomper the funky ‘Sexx Laws’ and anthemic ‘Loser’ keep the cider sippers on their feet.

The reason for The Strokes return isn’t completely clear. There’s no new album, and the lack of new songs during tonight’s set doesn’t boost confidence for something anytime soon, but either way, it’s a welcome one, filling a void that no amount of solo and side projects can. Four years after their last UK show, the band showed no signs of the reported strains within the group, sounding just as tight as when their schedule would see them touring night after night. Opening with ‘Is This It’ and ‘Barely Legal’, the band soon head back to 2013 for the funk of ‘Welcome To Japan’.

Throughout the evening it’s a set list that sees tracks from all five album interwoven seamlessly, with few words from Julian Casablancas (sporting a multicoloured mullet that’s a little too similar to that podgy “celebrity” paparazzi man…), although when he does talk he’s clearly happy to be back on a big stage. “Damn, this is beautiful!” he tells the crowd, before pointing out, “It’s like the ‘90s down there. There’s a mosh pit!” There was always more to The Strokes than generic indie/rock though, and while tracks from This Is It receive the biggest response, the more rhythmic poppy numbers from Angles (‘Under Cover Of Darkness’ and ‘Machu Picchu’) and Comedown Machine (‘One Way Trigger’) are replicated with precision, with the guitarmonies from ‘Under Cover…’ particularly impressive.

“This has been so fun,” Casablancas told the crowd before leaving the stage, following an encore of ‘Juicebox’, ‘You Only Live Once’ and ‘Take It Or Leave It’. Here’s hoping this handful of shows gives the band the kick-up-the-arse needed to get them back into the studio for album number six, because there were only two downsides to today’s event: It wasn’t loud enough and the next Strokes date isn’t soon enough.

Dan Bull

Dan Bull

Dan Bull

Reviews Editor
London. Likes: Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, Prince Charles Cinema, Duran Duran Dislikes: Soreen, All-hits setlists, "I liked them before everyone else..."