Fusion 2018 review, best bands and what we learned from Otterspool Promenade

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Fusion crowd

Fusion crowd

Mainstream pop ain’t always Getintothis’ Lauren Jones’ bag but Fusion Festival wins her over.

Commercial pop – not your scene?

Mine neither but there’s something about Fusion that seems to attract attention.

Whether it’s the crisp, cool surroundings on Otterspool Promenade off the banks of the Mersey or it’s the added extras – Fusion has that little sparkle.

Its gigantic stage dominates the site – if you have golden circle tickets you have closer access to the monstrosity. Teenage girls camped outside the festival’s industrial gates almost an hour before they were due to open, at first we thought they were ridiculous, but they definitely had the last laugh.

From fairground rides to food stalls, Fusion is a family day out – for parents or older siblings who reluctantly agreed take the kids. The price of the tickets are reasonable considering the artists you’re paying to see but I do not agree with a price hike for VIP, gold circle and meet and greet. What happened to the days when artists would gladly roam around festival sites to meet their fans without the extortionate price tag?

Strutting into the site you’re met with the sweet smell of doughnuts and funfair rides with a haunted house and teacups on steroids – there was a lot to do. Then you’re met with food shacks such as Mexican, Indian, Jamaican, Yorkshire pudding wraps, Italian and The Notorious P.I.G. With a free McFlurry if you take a picture on the 180 degree selfie wall plus tasty churros, Fusion may as well be rebranded as a food fest.

On Saturday unfortunately, after a Linda McCartney sausage butty for breakfast, I wasn’t too hungry, but definitely had room for a Waffle Wand – also known as a ‘pancake with abs’ – drenched in Nutella.

Saturday’s line-up is full of collaborators. Artists, who, in their own right have great musical ability, but have had to jump on the back of others to achieve success.

This day is for the older crowd, dominated by Londoner Yungen, once nominated as Best Newcomer at the 2015 MOBO Awards, who had his moments. His single with Jess Glynne, Mind on It, has been an undeserving notable hit. With a back catalogue like his, it’s unfair to place him on a pedestal with the rest of them.

Becky Hill is the new kid on the scene. She may have had five years on and off radio stations but to a pop virgin like me, she seemed an exciting prospect. Again, she has partnered with artists such as Rudimental, Wilkinson and Matoma. On stage, she owned it. Not like a rabbit in the headlights, tracks such as Rude Love and Unpredictable where sung back to her from the crowd.

MNEK stood out for me.  He even brought on Becky Hill for a duet which was a lovely welcome addition, especially after producing her debut album. Arguably an ‘unknown’ on the line-up, MNEK is well-known for his chart-topping success as a producer and songwriter even working with artists such as Dua Lipa, Duke Dumont and Madonna. He even co-wrote Beyonce’s Hold Up for her album Lemonade.

Seeing success at an early age and creating music when he was nine, MNEK is definitely an artist for the future. His set was powerful and persuasive, we’ve now added all his tracks to our drive to work Spotify playlist.

MNEK_Fusion_Festival_Warren_Millar

MNEK

Without a doubt, David Guetta was pulling in the audiences. The hit DJ has had a hand at influencing the pop industry more than most. Working with some of the noughties greatest such as the Black Eyed Peas, Kelly Rowland and Akon.

He has helped change the face of the pop genre, bringing electronic music to the forefront of radio stations across the world. Saturday’s performance was one of epic proportions. A pyrotechnic spectacular, he proved why he was the right headline choice for the opening day of the festival.

For me it just lacked the personal touch, yes he’s cool but I am all for a guitar and crowd interaction – I think Sunday was the day for me.

Pushing the boundaries, Clean Bandit were another on my one to watch list. It’s hard to believe it has been four years since their breakthrough single Rather Be. I felt they’d been quiet since then, but apparently not.

Crowd favourites such as Rockabye went down a treat with shapes being thrown everywhere.

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On Sunday, we had to go through the main box office entrance. The queue to get in was ridiculous, hundreds of people walking around a field in one long queue to have their tickets checked. Although you don’t mind getting bags checked, this was a bit of a ridiculous energy and time wasting experience.

The festival definitely showcased Scouse girl fashion at its best. Glitterfied, flower painted and white crochet numbers were a hit this year along with short playsuits and traffic cone hats.  After two pieces of toast for breakie, it was time for some serious eating today. A chunky halloumi wrap with hummus, salad and extra sauce – garlic mayo. Later on I couldn’t ignore the allure of the Kelly’s ice cream van so got a Festival mint.

Then, later on, the smell of doughnuts must have lingered so we got five for a fiver. Bargain.

This day felt a little busier, more families and teenagers enjoying their first festival experience, in some cases their first gig.  Both days the wonderful crew from Bongo’s Bingo provided the tunes in between acts, giving the audience the chance to hear some pure sing-along classics with the obligatory edition of High School Musical.

Glittered up and painted with flowers, the day began with Brighton-born Grace Carter – a daunting prospect for any 19-year-old. She sang her debut single Silence with the purest honesty, perhaps not as upbeat start to Sunday but what a shift she put in. She is definitely one to watch for the future.

Ally Brooke’s first solo debut was at the festival. A member of girl group Fifth Harmony, Ally was catapulted into fame on X Factor and is now going it alone.  It was a day of emotions for Brooke, performing her debut Vámonos – a Spanish language track which got us going again – I suppose the amount we ate was counterbalanced with the calories we lost dancing this weekend.

Before the event we were told to await a special guest performance – we could hear the rumour mill cogs turning.

Just before boyband The Vamps were set to take to the stage, Max George, a former member of The Wanted, jumped on. He sang his new track Barcelona while paying tribute to his band days, ending the set on Glad You Came.

The Vamps

The Vamps

This brief performance prepared us ahead of The Vamps’ high-powered set. The demographic of Vamps fans was teenage girls and the good-looking boy band knew how to work the crowd. We heard murmurs of disappointment that they did not perform their famous cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s Cecilia however their set of hits such as Just My Type, Somebody To You and Personal definitely made up for this slight sadness.

There were tears, screams and fainting teens, who we watched being carried into the first aid tent – it was somehow what we imagine Beatlemania was like.

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Moving to a more spacious spot of grass to sit on, X Factor contestant James Arthur came on stage.  We weren’t too fussed on his set and he made a slight faux pas. Telling the crowd he was going to do a cover just for Liverpool but then chose Oasis Don’t Look Back In Anger.

If you don’t know, the start of that track is a rip off of Imagine by John Lennon. The crowd were prepared to pay homage to one of this city’s most famous sons and James denied them of this.  Regardless he rattled through a set of hardened hits including Impossible and Naked.

Venturing back into the food and fair area of the festival, we had a look inside the Wilko’s tent and the McFlurry sound. Taking the perfect instagram shots at the ‘Capital’ letters photo opportunity.

While most of the crowd ventured to get dinner, we swooped back near to the stage to get a prime spot for Years & Years.  Having seen them before at the Echo Arena a few years ago, this outfit is a RnB, electronic and soulful much needed addition to UK music.

With harmonies like All Saints and hungry beats, this was a definite much welcome addition to Fusion 2018. Playing some tasty tracks such as Pray and Desire, we went wild as the band rocked back through their back catalogue of hits, transporting us through a set of wonder and ecstasy.

Frontman Olly Alexander moves across the stage with grace and hunger, the ultimate showman. Moving to a ‘slower’ part of their set, Alexander sits at a piano with an Aladdin looking backdrop projected behind.

And when the band performed one of their latest tracks, If You’re Over Me – we’re singing back the lyrics, girls crying on friends shoulders while others slow dance with themselves. It seems Years & Years are for everyone. Complete with backing dancers, their set was flawless. Ending with the song that made them King taken from their debut album Communion.  Everyone began throwing shapes, arms in the air and singing lyrics back to Alexander and his crew.

Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes

Sunday, however, was all about Shawn Mendes. Having a younger sister obsessed with the Canadian definitely boosts my knowledge. This was his first performance in Liverpool and what a show it was. If there is one thing we’ve learnt this weekend, it is you’re not wearing Mendes merch, then you’re not cool.

It’s all about this guy at the moment. Breathing in the salty sea air, we all awaited his arrival as Years & Years left the stage. Apparently Mr Mendes had been busy meeting and greeting competition winners all day and was gracious enough for everyone’s warm hospitality.

The young man walked on stage with the coyest of smiles, scared, shocked and genuinely overwhelmed with his Liverpool reception. It’s hard not to fall in love with his likability. A pure and decent performance of falling in love, growing up and feeling insecure.

He starts his set with his trusty acoustic and belts There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back. For a slower part of his set, he moved to the piano to do a heart wrenching rendition of Frank Ocean’s Thinkin Bout You. It’s really something when ice cream workers are leaving their vans to go and catch a closer glimpse of Mendes.

He even charmed mums and dads with songs such as Treat Me Better, Nervous and Lost In Japan, the second single taken from his self-titled third studio album. Talking to the crowd about this being his first time in the city, he then broke into In My Blood – this was another true offering. Everyone found themselves screaming back ‘It isn’t in my blood’, I caught myself doing it.

A famous cover of Mendes is Use Somebody by his favourite band, Kings of Leon. He notes them for inspiration in his latest album. It was a nice touch for those few who perhaps haven’t heard the Mendes name. Encouraging the crowd to sing back to him, Mendes is the master controller and has you in the palm of his hands. He proves why he is headlining and definitely the best performance of the weekend.

What a way to crown it.

The only thing that put Fusion down was getting out the car park after the event. Waiting for over an hour to even leave the field with three teenage girls in a little Fiat 500 isn’t the best way to spend your Sunday evening. But, even so, there was no faulting the event’s security team. What a fantastic gang – hats off to the two security men who cycled up and down the promenade during both days too.

 

TOP 8 ACTS from 2018

Yingen

Yingen

  • Yungen

Shortlisted on BBC Radio 1Xtra’s One to Watch list, 26-year-old Yungen has a wealth of hits such as Bestie, All Night and Take My Number and with several hit records left in him, there’s more to come from this London rapper.

Becky Hill

Becky Hill

  • Becky Hill

24-year-old Becky Hill shot to fame after auditioning on The Voice but her musical prowess is forever growing, her latest track Sunrise In The East proving just that. Penning a deal with Polydor in August last year, Hill has been busy working on her debut album with MNEK as apparent executive producer.

MNEK

MNEK

  • MNEK

A musical guru at 23, MNEK is a major player in the world’s pop industry. This talented singer/songwriter/producer will keep commercial radio ticking over for years to come. I’m glad we found him at Fusion just to be part of his story.

Zara_Larsson_Fusion_Festival_Warren_Millar1

  • Zara Larsson

A voracious performance from Larsson on Sunday was exciting to see unfold. The 20-year-old Swedish pop sensation was thrust into fame by collaborating with Clean Bandit on track Symphony in 2017. Since then she’s had success with tracks like Lush Life, Only You and Never Forget You.

The Vamps

The Vamps

  • The Vamps

British pop rock band The Vamps are like a modern day Busted. Due to go on tour next year, the band have made their name by supporting artists such as JLS, McFly, Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato. But with their latest album Night & Day released in two parts – Day Edition and Night Edition, this forward thinking band have years ahead.

Years & Years

Years & Years

  • Years & Years

One of the biggest breakthrough bands in recent times, Years & Years are changing the face of music. Frontman Olly Alexander has had a powerful influence on changing perceptions, especially with his defiant LGBT speech at Glastonbury and the controversial video for hit single Desire, the band continue to push boundaries and there’s no stopping them continuing their rise to the top.

Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes

  • Shawn Mendes

Entering the Billboard charts at Number One for his debut album Handwritten, Shawn Mendes is carving his name into history books. His dedicated fanbase follow him everywhere, providing support and encouragement as he creates hits such as In My Blood and Mercy – if you want a good popstar to get into, Shawn is the one.

Jax Jones

Jax Jones

  • Jax Jones

DJ Jax Jones has seen recent success with Ring Ring, featuring Mabel and Rich the Kid – if you listen to the radio then chances are you’ve heard this song time and time again.

Photos by Warren Millar

 

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