On record, Nick Mulvey’s tracks are a little more than your standard “singer/songwriter” effort. It’s all in the subtlety, with hints of strings and electric effects lingering in the background but not outshining his sturdy vocal or knack for a unique lyric. On the Great Oak Stage, armed only with a rack of guitars behind him, the music’s still impressive, but it seems as though a platform so high in a park so large needs something a little more. With a new album in the making, he’ll maybe fare a little better next year on a more intimate stage and backed by a band.
Back at The Barclaycard Stage, Mystery Jets’ short set is enough to give a strong enough impression of their view of The Curve Of The Earth, with the majority of tracks from their latest collection. None of the spacey, almost prog-rock production of ‘Telomere’ or ‘Bombay Blue’ is lost on the smaller stage, however, while ‘Bubblegum’ is a bouncy little indie number with more in common with ‘Young Love’ (also played).
Alabama Shakes bring gritty funk and soul all the way from The US, with a set combining numbers from both albums – although it feels as though they’ve already been around for longer than two. With Brittany Howard owning the stage, her voice richer and rawer than the acts that no doubt inspired her, they’re the sort of act that can gain new fans from across the board at any gig, with a sound both classic and current. ‘Gimme All Your Love’ highlights it best, bringing all the elements and emotions together and ending up like Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin fronting Kings Of Leon.
And from Alabama to London, Mumford & Sons top the bill, three years after a somewhat controversial slot headlining Glastonbury (but soon to overshadowed by Kanye-gate, naturally). Since then they’ve released album #3, Wider Mind, which saw the country twang swapped for electric guitars, on a collection that sees them join fellow foursomes U2 and Coldplay in anthems made for huge arena spectaculars. It’s not to say the banjos have completely disappeared though.
From ‘Little Lion Man’ to ‘Lover Of The Light’, it’s an uplifting memory bank of a sound that would lead a resurgence in Nashville inspired music making, interwoven by the soft rock of Wilder Mind; the steady glide of ‘Tompkins Square Park’ or minimalistic opener of ‘Believe’ before the anthemic crescendo. With pyrotechnics and frontman Marcus Mumford taking to the drums before pushing them over, their longing to become a serious rock act rather than a country novelty isn’t subtle, but it’s believable.
Baaba Maal, The Very Best and Beatenberg (who all played during the day) join for tracks from new EP Johannesburg (which they all appear on in recorded form) during the main set and the encore, with a small section in-between where Mumford & Co take to a tiny B-stage between the barrier separating the front crowd and the rest of the park. Gathered around one microphone, the harmonies are exposed, with the audience naturally hushed for one of those moments that should always be remembered. In a way it almost eradicates those ‘big show’ ambitions, but if they can headline Glastonbury, and now British Summer Time, they can be a small country act and a huge, arena band too – either way there’ll be a sell out audience for them.