Festival Review: British Summer Time – Feat. Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, The Lumineers & More

British Summer Time festival kicked off in 2013 as a string of one-day festivals in London’s Hyde Park and this year the closing day belonged to Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – dubbed as their only European date this year with the legendary Stevie Nicks as their main support. That alone had many hearts racing for a ticket, however many had come early on this sweltering sunny day and those that did got to witness the likes of newcomers The Wandering Hearts, who kicked of this final day in style.

The second biggest stage to The Great Oak was the Barclaycard Stage, which welcomed The Wandering Hearts. A small crowd had gathered as they started with latest release Wish I Could, but by the third song the crowd had grown bigger to witness their bright, breezy and beautiful harmonies. You could feel their excitement through their crowd engagement as they announced it was the first time their name had graced a giant screen, and when they came to perform their last song Devil In Disguise, the crowd had genuine disappointment that it was the last song of such a wonderful set. It definitely seemed like The Wandering Hearts had won a few more hearts in their task of opening the day for Tom Petty.

There were many more names gracing the four stages but next up for TFFT was Diane Birch, who seems to have disappeared for a few years, and all of a sudden her London gigs have come about like waiting for a bus! But if all buses came with soulful-jazz tones then there were no complaints here as she kicked off with Kings Of Queens. Attending this songstresses gigs I have been told is dubbed as going to the ‘Church of Birch’ and as she tinkled those keys with ease, we certainly felt blessed with her chilled set. A nice surprise also came as Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell came onto the stage, as he and Birch performed a currently unreleased song, complimenting each other beautifully.

Newly solo from the Howling Bells is Juanita Stein who took to the smaller Summer Stage that lies behind the Great Oak. But by no means was that a hindrance as a crowd gathered ahead of time before her set. Stein’s music has a very Americana feel to it and even when engaging with her audience she seemed to have that twang in her voice too. With her subject matters ranging from Stargazer to Someone Else’s Dime, her voice was dreamlike which had the audience in a space of tranquility.

Now for what most would consider the BIG names, it was The Lumineers up next on the Great Oak stage and they definitely brought along a huge following, with many swaying and singing along to many of the numbers including the newer ones with their indie-folk and even Bob Dylan-esque performance. Lead man Wesley Schultz did a fine job engaging with the crowd, if at times the sound went a bit quiet. But luckily when the band belted the hits, as we heard a lovely story about his uncle as Charlie Boy made the set list. The rest of the band then left as Wesley took solo for the first half of Slow It Down and throughout the first few verses, each member took it in turn to return with Jeremiah Fraites taking the lead. Fraites was probably the one that most had their eyes fixed on as he jumped around the stage and climbed on the drums. They played a great mix of old and new material but it was the big numbers such as opener Flowers In Your Hair, Ophelia and the anthem Hey Ho – that surprisingly came quite early in the set – that got the biggest crowd reaction. Wesley as front man expressed his excitement a lot at having The Lumineers share the stage with Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty and as they closed with Stubborn Love, their was a huge shout out to the rock royalty as they left the stage.

Excitement filled the Great Oak area as soon as The Lumineers left to make way for main support Stevie Nicks. This next set was a definite must-see for the majority of ticket holders. Many have not seen Stevie’s current solo tour, which seems to be mainly staying on US soils so when her set opened up with a 1980s electro-pop track there were some confused faces, especially as her main guitarist Waddy Watchel and backing vocalists Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks were firmly in place on stage – but as soon as the familiar notes of Gold And Braid kicked in they were confused no more. Nicks worked through the set list of mainly solo classics like If Anyone Falls, Outside The Rain and Stand Back and you could hear who were the hardcore Stevie fans in the crowd. But when Gypsy and Dreams were performed, the volume certainly went up a notch with the Fleetwood Mac fans making sure they were heard. Again it was noticeable that some of the crowd were unfamiliar with her latest releases, as a handful were dumbfounded when she walked off stage to return in a white ‘snow queen’ coat to perform her Twilight inspired track Moonlight. But the biggest surprise to most was the addition of a Buckingham-Nicks track Crying In The Night, that she noted she never thought “44 years later you can sing a song you thought nobody would ever hear in Hyde Park in London, England…. (and that) dreams do come true!” And to a father and daughter next to me, they really did, as both bawled their eyes out with tears of joy witnessing Stevie for the first time. When she came out for her encore she noted that Rhiannon had never failed to make a set list every time she performs. “She just will not go away,” is what she told Hyde Park and as emotions were high we were treated to Landslide as the sun began to set.

With everything running pretty much on time it felt a shame that Ward Thomas were at the other end of the park back at the Barclays Stage for their set, which coincided right on the dot of Stevie’s set finishing, but that did not deter their own die-hard fans as a sea of people engrossed the grassy part before them, as the sisters ran through hit after hit including Boomerang, Cartwheels and the up-tempo Town Called Ugley, before finishing on the beautiful Carry You Home.

With a quite a bit of time to spare before Tom Petty, the crowd of people that were not already in the thick of it all milled around quite nicely, and as the skies turned a gorgeous purple you could feel the intensity build again. It was quite an extensive set list and a special one celebrating 40 years of him with The Heartbreakers. It was a great mix of songs that had the crowd jumping on their feet with a state of euphoria, from first track Rockin’ Around (With You) to I Won’t Back Down and Free Fallin’. You could feel the energy from the stage even from way back in the field, not only in performance but in the sound bites in between – especially when Petty introduced the members of the band from the long time Heartbreakers to the Webb Sisters on backing vocals. But the biggest cheers came for the ‘honourary Heartbreaker’ that many had already anticipated, when Stevie Nicks came back to duet on Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around. Along with the biggest hits from Tom Petty, with and without The Heartbreakers, this provided one of the biggest reactions of the day. Tom then told Hyde Park that they were “turning the amp up really LOUD” as they launched into Yer So Bad. And on the return for an encore, he noted to the organizers, “don’t worry I am keeping check on the time,” before delighting the crowd with You Wreck Me and American Girl.

After a week of celebrating music in Hyde Park, starting with a pop-filled night a week ago to the more rocking shows, it felt fitting that the final evening would end with legends closing British Summer Time 2017 with Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, but also including the next batch of music stars such as The Wandering Hearts, Diane Birch, Juanita Stein, Ward Thomas and The Lumineers. It was a sun filled day of musical bliss for all ages to remember.

Words & Images by Victoria Ling