Of the many gigs set to take place in Hyde Park this summer, Wireless veers closest to hipness, thanks to its dance/hip-hop/R&B lineup. And this year, thanks to the rain, it also felt like a proper festival. Punters sloshed through soupy mud and performers offered incantations to coax out the sun, with Saturday's headliner, Drake, instructing us to chant: "I don't give a fuck about the rain tonight, because we've come to see Drizzy go insane tonight!"

For the record, Drizzy stayed sane – well, the man has a rap empire to run – but 60,000 fans moshed madly, if that counts. It was a contrast to the night before, when headliner Deadmau5 failed to sell the place out, leaving Joel Zimmerman – the Canadian DJ inside the flashing mouse head – playing to a half-empty field. His techno/house set, bolstered by a light show that probably cost more than his computers, showed him as a successor to the Chemical Brothers. And while we're talking successors, earlier in the day the downbeat Irish soulboy Maverick Sabre was an unshaven rival to Plan B's Strickland Banks, while Pennsylvania's Santigold crisply incorporated steals from MIA and Nicki Minaj into her staccato hip-pop. Dressing her male band in matching shorts only increased the joy. Meanwhile, rap veterans the Roots were nobody's successors; their jazz-influenced show, with its tuba-player and cover of Sweet Child o' Mine, was unique and wonderful.

On Saturday, Drake kept acolytes churning up the mud with apocalyptic graphics, and a cameo by Nicki Minaj on Make Me Proud, but his beefy MCing left you wondering what all the fuss was about. The day's best performances happened further down the bill: the fabulous Nigerian Afrobeats DJ D'banj was an almost shamanic presence in the second stage tent, and the murky psych-pop of Canadian R&B singer the Weeknd filled the tent like a miasma.

Sunday offered a chance to check out two of the year's biggest hypes: A$AP Rocky was a party-starting loudmouth who must have American jocks in raptures, while Kreayshawn would have been lost without her hypeman, who provided ballast to her yappy rapping. The relentlessly perky Jessie J had a good deal of the CBeebies presenter about her, but was great fun nonetheless, and headliner Rihanna, entering between two Egyptian statues, was surprisingly powerful. "Are there any Europeans here?" she bawled, knowing Europe – or at least this corner of it – was hers for the taking.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wireless festival review – Drake an easy favourite from bold-faced lineup
The Canadian rapper leaves punters euphoric, while Kendrick Lamar wins them over with crowd-pleasers at this headliner-heavy festival

Tshepo Mokoena

05, Jul, 2015 @10:36 AM

Article image
Wireless review – surprise Drake set caps rap's Nato summit
Stormzy had stern words for the Americans on the festival bill, but this was a show of the cross-cultural power of US and UK rap

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

09, Jul, 2018 @11:12 AM

Wireless festival – review
Listen-and-bounce was the best way to approach the chart-friendly festival dance and R&B-packed lineup, says Caroline Sullivan

Caroline Sullivan

03, Jul, 2011 @5:44 PM

Article image
Wireless review – global rap stars give London weekender a clear message
With a lineup that offered an up-to-the-minute survey of the transatlantic rap and grime scene, this contrary festival may have finally found a USP to hang on to

Hannah J Davies

10, Jul, 2017 @1:24 PM

Article image
Wireless festival review – British rap stars show Americans how it's done
In his first major set since leaving prison, J Hus made a joyful homecoming and outshone much of the A-list American talent – the irrepressible Cardi B aside

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

08, Jul, 2019 @11:12 AM

Article image
Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake at Wireless – review

Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake's epic two-and-a-half-hour set radiated Rat Pack charisma, writes Dorian Lynskey

Dorian Lynskey

15, Jul, 2013 @11:29 AM

Article image
From Ghetts to Genesis, Nick Cave to Arlo Parks: autumn 2021’s essential music
From Fontaines DC to the Valkyrie, a techno Halloween to Little Simz, this is the unmissable music of the next few months

Alexis Petridis, Ammar Kalia and Andrew Clements

25, Aug, 2021 @5:00 AM

Article image
Drake cancels Wireless performance due to illness
Kanye West will now headline two nights at the London festival, and Rudimental are to extend their set to cover Drake's Birmingham slot

Guardian music

03, Jul, 2014 @2:12 PM

The Great Escape – review

Despite the immense variety of musical acts, there's no escaping the fact that The Great Escape's lifeblood is indie, writes Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

19, May, 2013 @5:00 PM

Wireless festival 2012 - in pictures

This year's Wireless festival in Hyde Park, London, included performances from Santigold, Tulisa, Deadmau5, Drake and Nicki Minaj

08, Jul, 2012 @12:10 PM