It’s been an incredible ten days at Southbank Centre, but alas, finally, M.I.A.’s Meltdown is over. Time then to get all reflective, and look back at the top ten moments from an unforgettable festival.
A lot of festivals might ease into their programme. Not M.I.A.’s Meltdown, for which we turned to Young Fathers to Get Started and the Mercury Prize-winning trio delivered a scintillating set that had the crowd up in the aisles and the critics coughing up the compliments.
After weeks of greyness, the sun truly shone for Meltdown and nowhere was that more evident than opening Saturday when Just Vibez turned our Riverside Terrace into the most colourful of Caribbean Carnivals.
Delivering one of the most striking sets of M.I.A.’s Meltdown were Belgian dance maestros Soulwax, who filled the Royal Festival Hall stage with both sound and light. Accompanied by three drummers and a carefully choreographed to-the-beat display of light and dark they delivered their new album Deewee with expert efficiency.
‘Monday’s at Southbank Centre aren’t usually like this’, said Thomas Gaine in his review for Loud and Quiet and he’s not wrong. Giggs brought Grime to our stage, and awe to our auditorium, with a truly crowd-pleasing display lapped up by a hometown audience that belted back each of his hooks with bare enthusiasm.
You don’t have to speak French to get MHD, as those who joined us to see the pioneer of Afro Trap can attest. ‘One of the best performers I’ve seen in a long time’ was the verdict of our own Senior Programmer of Contemporary Music and as the Royal Festival Hall bounce to the emphatic beat of Champions League it was certainly hard to argue otherwise.
‘Come have chicken and chips with me in Woolwich’ isn’t an offer made often to a Southbank Centre audience, but then it’s not everyday that Afrikan Boy is on our stage. The Nigerian-born artist from SE18 brought no shortage of energy in a set that was as big, bold and bright as a Morley’s on a late-night London street.
The twenty-year-old Swedish rapper Yung Lean wasn’t content with making most of us here at Southbank Centre feel incredibly old, he also brought with him a stunning visual display that took up a sizable amount of our Royal Festival Hall stage. A thrilling back-drop with had one of the youngest music audiences we’ve seen here up on their feet throughout.
M.I.A.’s Meltdown was all about bending the rules, and challenging perceptions, and we’ve seen many a convention thrown from our Grade I listed windows over the past ten days. Perhaps chief among them is the suggestion you can’t have a truly great gig in a seated venue. ‘Seated venue, shmeated venue’ indeed, when you’ve got a band like Crystal Castles filling the air with pulsating lo-fi electronica it doesn’t matter what it says on your ticket, you’ll find yourselves throwing your arms in the air like this were any other summer blow-out.
The American rapper and poet Mykki Blanco shared a bill with JD Samson on Meltdown’s second weekend and brought high energy and high performance, with our stage seemingly not quite big enough. Blanco took to the floor of the Clore Ballroom to perform within the crowd during his memorable Saturday night set.
Incredible visuals, astonishing energy, a life-affirming sound and an unwillingness to play by the rules. In the final performance of Meltdown, the festival’s curator took to the stage and delivered everything you could hope she would, complete with an invitation for every woman in the audience to get on stage and join her. A perfectly fitting end to a decidedly different Meltdown.
Missed out on Meltdown? Take a look at the other festivals coming up at Southbank Centre this year.