Last year’s event was a big enough success that it was given a bigger follow-up, over the course of two days (April 30th/1stMay), and at a higher price – £15 per day. The line-up was very much in the same spirit this year, with X Factor’s Sam Bailey and Reggie n’ Bollie, and Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity. Upon listing the upcoming acts, the onstage announcer defined the day perfectly: “It’s like your TV came to life today!”
I honestly wasn’t going to go to this event this year until spotting that the afternoon of the Sunday line-up would be great to take my 11-year-old sister to. Unfortunately, she then was obliged to go to a birthday sleepover, but I wasn’t going to waste my Sunday day ticket. After all, I really fancied seeing today’s headliners Fun Lovin’ Criminals. This brings me to the subject of the weekend’s line-up. Whether you like the bands or not, there is a glaring problem – it appeared that the headliners were each assigned to the wrong day. On Saturday, besides Union J, the acts would each being out playing their own instruments. While hardly rock, it at least comes across less like pop stars dancing alone and singing karaoke… until headliner Peter Andre arrived. Subsequently, the full band Fun Lovin’ Criminals come after a day of Andre-esque performances. More comes on that issue later on. Anyway, the acts.
Sam Bailey is undeniably reminiscent of a mad aunt who can’t stop singing. The only difference comes from the fact that her voice is incredible, helped by the fact that she was very much in concert autopilot mode, as she shouted at and refered to the crowd as “everyone in this room… erm… area”. She addressed her middle-aged image pretty regularly in joking about her age (25 apparently), and yet she shamelessly sang 80s and 90s covers, such as CeCe Peniston’s ‘Finally’ and Starship’s ‘We Built This City’, that were devoted to “the mummies and daddies”. She even apologized in advance for how she may look constipated during “the hardest song she ever had to sing” – ‘I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’, which on The X Factor she sang alongside Nicole Scherzinger. But not before thanking Simon Cowell for the opportunities she got, alongside her new sofa and conservatory. Congratulations I guess.
Continuing the X Factor theme came 2015’s runners-up Reggie N’ Bollie, a ranking that they were proud enough of to enter to O Verona (used at the opening of most episodes). I admittedly even as I write this after a nose around online, still have no idea which one is which. They are perhaps the polar opposite of Sam Bailey in sound, considering how “The Reggie N’ Bollie Show” as… one of them put it, was laden with playful partying rap and hip-hop (from Baha Men to LMFAO – “hands up if you know you’re sexy!”) that warranted the other guy to open every other track with “Let’s do this shit!”. I suppose that having moved on from The X Factor, they are going into Keith (fucking) Lemon mode.
Following from Sam Bailey’s old covers, I had a sad epiphany during their cover of Shaggy’s ‘It Wasn’t Me’ – considering the massive number of kids in attendance, how many of them actually know this song, beyond the knowledge that Reggie N’ Bollie covered it on The X Factor? It was released 16 years ago. This reminds me a friend’s dismay that in her alternative night DJ set that she could no longer play a metal cover of Britney Spears’ ‘Baby One More Time’, because 2016 marked the year that new entrants to the nightclub weren’t even born when it was released. It’s no wonder Sam was lying about her age. I might genuinely have been 25, but the leading demographic of parents and children certainly made me feel old.
It could not be much further from what I normally listen to. Reggie’s (or Bollie’s) philosophical mention of how “you should enjoy your life for as long as you are alive” was a nice relief. Whether I was enjoying myself as of yet is open to question.
Afterwards, the music took a step back in favour of dance – Diversity, or Perri (the guy with the massive hair) and the other eight or nine guys. While the man on the mic (a founder, billed as the ‘leader’) is the shockingly tall Ashley Banjo, everyone’s favourite fuzz-ball was out to do some incredible gymnastics before being joined by everyone else. It is no wonder that the stage announcer warned those at the barrier to be ready to catch them.
At one point there were four massive balloons at the back of the crowd, and there was a competition during a costume change, for tickets to their tour, and the winners would be whoever got their balloon to the stage first. However, I’m not sure how that was meant to work. Would the very last person to hit them be the winner? Either way, it failed as one balloon went over the fence and into the backstage area, one hit the merch stand and one hit the cameraman (who was subsequently booed for his reaction which was described by Ashley as “it looked like he had never seen a balloon before”).
On the subject of Ashley, he was very entertaining, but I can’t help but feel that he spoke a bit too much for such a short allotted time (thirty minutes). Then I looked at my phone. They left after less than twenty minutes. While it was all great and packed with novelty moments (such as a faux-magic trick where the amazing Theo, or ‘mini-Perri’ was pulled out of a stage box, and a member standing of another member’s back, surfing through everybody else doing ‘the worm’ to simulate the ocean), it was annoyingly short.
A highlight came (if you can pardon the expression… ugh, I should be ashamed of myself) from an audience member beside me, whose orgasmic “oh… my… God…” as Diversity began gyrating to ‘Feeling Good’. I could not resist citing this moment of overexcitement simply to segue terribly to the next act, who had are fronted by perhaps the jolliest looking singer on the planet – The Smiley Campbell Band, who were very Smiley indeed.
Having realised that due to Diversity’s brevity that the next act on the main stage was quite some time away, I had wandered to the second stage, and am very glad that I did. Smiley looked as though she was enjoying herself throughout the whole set, including covers of ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Proud Mary’, the latter of which she went the most ballistic. Or perhaps the excess movement was to usher off the fact that it was getting bloody cold. Either way, it was a great soundtrack for eating my teriyaki noodles to.
Back on the main stage were The Hoosiers (the first band on the main stage to have their own instruments since tribute band The Bog Rolling Stones) who entered the stage to Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’. Embarrassingly, it took for me to write that down before I got that joke. I am not convinced many others did either, as the audience gave almost no reaction to the band’s entrance. It was also during this set that there was an inevitable mention of Portsmouth’s rival Southampton, but even that didn’t get much of a reaction (certainly not as much as Professor Green’s “I’m not in Southampton am I?” last year). Frontman Irwin Sparkes’ (who I think has the best name ever) intervention of “we need them on our side!” may not have been a joke.
It took until they played their biggest hit ‘Worried About Ray’, halfway into their set for anyone to care. Afterwards, they returned to relative indifference until ‘Goodbye Mr. A’ closed the show. When introducing their final song, there was a big cheer, after which Irwin pointed at the crowd and sounding relieved said “Yes. Thank you.” As if to say “Phew. That’s the correct response.” Besides the hits, they were disappointingly dreary.
Before today’s big boyband took to the stage, I went for another wander around the site and noticed that South Downs College had their own stage for its students to perform at, which I thought was a great idea. I held it dear in particular as these students are on the same college course that I graduated from six years beforehand (ONE OF OUR PERFORMANCES). I couldn’t resist approaching the sound desk and speaking briefly to the head of the course who instantly recognised me. It’s nice to know that I’m remembered, though whether it was my triple-distinction grade, or the fact that I once wrote them a song for coursework that used the word ‘cunt’ 77 times, that left most of a mark. As for the students, those that I saw sounded great, in particular their covers of Muse’s ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ and Arctic Monkey’s ‘I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor’. I think we tried the latter, but the Class of 2016 did it better than us. In spite of the cheers and applause that we got, there is no denying that these students were getting far more dancing out of the crowd than we ever did.
Afterwards, on the main stage, came 2016’s equivalent to 2015’s Blue – 5ive or I suppose Thre3 considering the number of members that they have left. In a similar vein to Blue, they were hilariously self-deprecating, shown after their performance of what was due to be their next single before their sudden split in 2001 (“the single that never was… we were silly boys” – Ritchie). While the set and mood was based around nostalgia (Sean Conlon claimed that they had been working on their ‘cool’ pose at the end of ‘Let’s Dance’ for the last twenty years) I can’t get my head around how Ritchie Neville looks exactly the same. The three women besides me (‘sup Dawn, Lucy and Bethany) made no secret of how this made them chuffed to bits, and the thousands surrounding us went similarly ballistic. They had the crowd around their little fingers, whether it be down to being thrown back to 2000, or Scott Robinson’s order to have anyone without their fists in the air, removed from King George V Playing Fields (or “St. George’s Park” as Ritchie called it).
And did I sing? You bet I did. Everybody got up singing “1-2-3-4”, and then Five made us get down now. Actually, all joking aside, I was stunned by just how many of the words that I knew, especially as half of the songs could have been by other boy bands who I were just as disinterested in at the time. ‘If Ya Gettin Down’ could have been by Another Level, 911, A1 etc. for all I knew or cared. Similarly, until writing this post, I would probably have called it ‘I Want it Now, Baby’, and I think 90% of people would have agreed with me.
In short, I enjoyed myself more than I probably should have, at least up until a repeat of last year’s conundrum as an exceedingly irritating drunkard poured half of her drink over my head, and I was accidentally (I think…) walloped by someone’s selfie stick – they had been recording non-stop for at least twenty-minutes. Last year I wasn’t happy as I realised that in being about a foot taller than the whole crowd, I was in just about every photograph taken that day. This year, I know that I, soggy, miserable looking and in pain, have been recorded on someone’s phone, with thousands of people singing ‘Keep On Movin” behind me. Or so my left ear confirms. The man recording was busy screaming “yyyyeeeeeAAAAAHHH” in my right ear.
As they left the stage, the aforementioned issue of the unusual order of booking emerged. Whatever one has to say about Thre3, after such fun, headliners Fun Lovin’ Criminals actually had a lot to live up to – not that it really mattered, as half of the audience had disappeared. Considering the family audience (for example, my 11-year-old sister’s school friend came over and said “hi” as she was on the way out of the park), this wasn’t really of any surprise. Not many parents are too eager to bring their kids to a show that closes with a ‘Hey Jude’ style singalong of ‘Big Night Out’ (“can’t you see, that I gotta supermodel, on my d-“), although not nearly as loud as I wish it had been. This had been confirmed much earlier as well, as before Diversity took to the stage, the announcer listed the remaining acts. The cheers ascended until the Criminals were mentioned, and the disinterested groan was loud enough that Portsmouth might as well have been booing.
To be so doomed was very unfortunate, because they were brilliant, and those who stayed got to witness a fun (surprised?) and light-hearted show – and they were lovin’ it (alright, I’ll stop…). They arrived to the Star Wars theme, Huey Morgan holding a beer aloft. One song in, after opening with the eponymous ‘The Fun Lovin Criminal’, they defined the situation when addressing the dance tent on the far side of the field which housed DJs and was packed with the teens old enough to be left behind by their parents.
Brian: “Does anyone know what’s happening in that tent over there?”
Drummer Frank (who regularly drank from a mug having suffered from a “107 fever”) added a similarly inappropriate input before their biggest hit ‘Scooby Snacks’, ordering that we “make some fucking noise” for a young boy on stage who had pulled through suffering with meningitis. And we did indeed, as young James was enlisted to play cymbal throughout the song… but not before the “if any of you fucking bitches move, then I’ll execute every fucking last one of you” clip was used to introduce the song.
One thing I wasn’t expecting, and was pleasantly surprised by, was just how good Huey Morgan is on guitar, as shown during his brilliant solo during (my personal favourite Criminals track before, and definitely since) ‘Loco’. He reflected on his playing: “We’ve been playing that song for 18 years and we still haven’t got that bit right. But you clapped, so fuck it.” We did indeed, and well deserved it was. The clapping, not ‘fucking it’. Unless he was right about what was going on in that tent.
In short (you’ve made it through over 2000 words, so you could probably have done with this earlier), I think that the Portsmouth Summer Show, at least on the day that I had been there, wasn’t quite as well arranged as it was in 2015, as it felt that neither day was correct to hold the attention of attendees for the whole day. Acts from The X Factor roster aren’t going to attract many music fans who are out to explore, and family fans of those aren’t going to be especially interested by Fun Lovin’ Criminals, though perhaps this couldn’t have been helped.
Either way, it was definitely a success, and in considering the great ticket sales, unless there is any trouble with booking, one can expect a similarly successful Portsmouth Summer Show in 2017. It was great to see the event solidified, and that the success of 2015 had been no fluke.