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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan

02 Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, London,
July 5th 2008

Bootsy Collins
We’ve come here on the fourth day of the 02 Wireless Festival, one of a series of sponsor-led events housed in a temporary enclosure in London’s Hyde Park. To be honest, it’s a pretty ghastly affair – a warm Saturday afternoon with the pallid and slightly unwashed-looking juvenile contents of the Capital’s offices spewed out into the park, all seemingly intent on getting seriously wired in time for the headliner, Fatboy Slim. It’s going to be that sort of Saturday night.
There are testaments to Tuborg, the Festival beer sponsor’s presence everywhere, as plastic bottles litter the ground. And you could be forgiven for thinking that the music is placed a poor second to the sponsors, whose messaging is relentless. I have to thank 02 – they’re service providers for the i-Phone, so a flash of my ‘phone gets me into the exclusive and quite heavenly 02 Exclusive Cloakrooms, with attendants, perfumed soaps, balms and hand creams, and even an angel on hand to guide you. Sadly, the Photographer had to slum it with the non-believers. But it’s branding everywhere, leaflets, competitions, ads on the big screens, you name it, we have to endure it. Commercialism gone mad.
Commercial Pressure
The four days have seen mixed fare. Day one was sort of rap, with Jay Z topping the bill (“a pile of crap” said my industry insider), day two sort of Indie with the Wombats, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Beck and Mozzer (all of which the Photographer’s daughter loved), today is maybe dance, tomorrow pretty mainstream stuff with Counting Crows. And before you ask, Serge, we’re only here for one reason, and it’s not the beer, nor is it Mr Slim. We’ve come to see the redoubtable Bootsy Collins, funk-meister extraordinaire, on a rare visit to these shores, squeezed in at 16.45 between Neon Neon, Gruff Rhys’ new project who seem to do a lot of drumming, and Swedish pop starlet Robyn, who doesn’t. Elsewhere (on the Sandisk stage) there are artistes such as Does it Offend You Yeah?, and from Belgium (well, almost) on the Tuborg Stage, the very loud and rather flat Das Pop. As you might guess, I’m just a few degrees beyond my comfort zone.
Phelps 'Catfish' Collins (L) and Tony Wilson (R)
Actually Bootsy doesn’t make it on stage ‘till after five as the crew can’t get the sound right – a great shame as he’s booted off on the dot of 17.45, much to the chagrin of the Photographer, and those others who’ve chosen to forsake the beer tents for some good old funk (did I mention that the Photographer is Bootsy’s Number 1 Fan?). Mr Collins presents us with a Soul Revue-style tribute to James Brown – quite fitting as Bootsy and his brother Phelps, aka Catfish, both cut their teeth in Brown’s backing band the JB’s in the early seventies, when they were responsible for tracks like "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing", introducing a new powerful brand of funk into Brown’s sound. Subsequently they moved on to join George Clinton’s Funkadelic, and later formed Bootsy’s Rubber Band, during which time Bootsy’s voyage into the bizarre extra-planetary world of P-Funk reached its zenith. Since then, his non-stop career has involved numerous successful collaborations across a range of musical genres, most recently with Buckethead (who wears a KFC bucket on his head), all defined by Collins’ tireless, irrepressible and frankly out-of-this-world good humour.
Bootsy Collins
From L to R, Bootsy Collins, Tony Wilson and friend
He’s assembled the original JB rhythm section, including Catfish (who looks bemused but happy) and Cash Waddy on drums. There’s Danny Ray, Brown’s MC and ‘man with the cape’ for over thirty years, and Brown’s last wife and former backing singer, and the subject of on-going legal disputes, Tomi Rae Hynie. The outfit is fronted by Tony Wilson, ‘The Young James Brown’, suitably introduced by Danny Ray. There isn’t much this young man can’t do, he can sing, he can shout, he can do the splits, he can do all that James Brown microphone stuff, he can even moonwalk across the stage on his head. It’s a high-energy performance, driven along by Collins’ pounding bass. By the end, they’d managed to tempt quite a lot of the drinkers from their resting places to join in the fun, but as they were ushered off the stage even the cries of “We want da funk” couldn’t bring them back. What did they play? Well, lots of James Brown songs, of course.

So that was enough for us, and after another cursory tour of the ground, a quick visit to the Exclusive Cloakrooms and exposure to another barrage of sponsors’ advertising, we called it an early day and headed west, begging our pardons of Mr Slim and his colleagues. - Nck Morgan (photographs by Kate and Nick's iPhone.)

Kate's gig photo album Kate's photographs

Bootsy Collins' MySpace page

Exclusive Cloakrooms

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