It’s testament to the passion of the organisers and savvy of the bookers that for every year since 2013, aside from two years lost to Covid, this event has grown and grown, both in size and stature to become a firm fixture on the festival calendar with another stellar line-up and a sell-out crowd. Plus this year they’ve bucked the festival trend by redressing the gender imbalance with all female headliners on the main stage and strong representation throughout the weekend.
Friday can be seen as a bedding-in and DJ night but those arriving early were treated to the delights of Anglo-American gospel soul stars Gabriels, performing a week after a triumphant set at Glastonbury and celebrating the release of the second part of their debut album on 7th July. Jakob Lusk used his huge vocal range to stunning effect from deep baritone to falsetto, alongside a fellow Californian on violin and Sunderland boy Ryan Hope on keys, all backed by a slick band and pitch-perfect backing singers. Aside from a ‘Private Dancer’ tribute to Tina Turner and Soul II Soul’s ‘Back To Life’ this was a scintillating set of originals delivered with reciprocated love to the “Love Supreme Missionary Baptist Church” as the soggy audience were renamed. Lusk’s lush tone and charisma were the perfect way to round off the opening night.
Thankfully, Saturday greeted us with sunshine but sadly Yaya Bey had caught a cold. She said she’d try to put on the best show she could, but was a bit bunged up. Courtney Pine told us he would be performing a ‘House Of Legends’, his “respect to the Caribbean” album, and, as promised, delivered a very laid back but impressive set of calypso-based jazz, taking a good few moments out to laud a lengthy steel drum solo. You can read our full interview with Courtney Pine here.
On the main stage, Greentea Peng, looking very cool, pulled a younger up-for-it crowd basking in the sun. She humbly told us she was “so grateful, feel the gratitude” for being there, as she delighted punters basking and swaying in the best of the weekend’s sunshine with her laid-back rap.
A line-up change gave us Cherise, instead of Omar, who told us about how when she first came here she dreamed of playing the festival; she’s previously volunteered and taught yoga here and now… BOOM, she’s performing at Love Supreme.
FKJ, a new name to us, was a one-man band with lots of gadgets (loop, keyboard, techy stuff, sax and drums) was another hit with the younger crowd members. US/Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan’s playing was very creative but he seemed a bit annoyed with the drummer (something wasn’t quite right with the sound or timing) but he regained his composure and, following some longer pieces, told the crowd he hoped the set was OK as the piano was half the size he was used to, which earned him a round of applause.
Disco soul legends Shalamar, still featuring ‘moonwalk/backslide’ inventor Jeffrey Daniel and Howard Hewett, ran through their catalogue of hits but suffered from poor sound and kept getting a lot of reverb, which seemed to be an issue elsewhere today.
Little Simz was seen by many purists as an unusual and maybe inappropriate headliner, but Love Supreme has catholic tastes which were validated as her energetic set was the highlight of the day. She blasted onto the stage with the boundless energy of her younger fans, with the crowd having grown bigger and more diverse as the other stages closed. She played to a bobbing crowd as night fell on a minimilist stage, clad in baggy black trousers, oversized shirt, black tie and 90s bomber jacket. Popular hit ‘Gorilla’ played out as the stage became infused with bright red lights, as the vibe shifted, just as in the official video of this popular release. Her repertoire was mostly new to us but heavily featured tracks from her most recent album ‘No Thank You’. We left the arena as dedicated fans.
Sunday began with a history lesson on the New Generation Stage where some of Brighton’s finest jazz musicians were assembled as part of Chris Coull’s Big Band, performing authentic arrangements of Duke Ellington’s 1930s and 1940s repertoire to an enthusiastic outdoor crowd enjoying the sunshine. Zoe Rahman came armed with an all-star band including Alec Dankworth, Rowland Sutherland, Rosie Turton and brother Idris. This was ensemble playing at its finest and set a high benchmark in terms of musicianship and originality.
Over on the main stage, UK congalero supremo, Mark ‘Snowboy’ Cotgrove may have been turning 62 the following day but his energy was infectious (he joked he wouldn’t be playing so fast in 10 years’ time) as his band tore through a set that included a piece written for him by piano legend Eddie Palmieri that was pure 1970s Nuyorican Latin Soul. Special mention to drummer Davide Giovannini’s vocal prowess throughout a ferocious set that got people up from their picnic blankets to dance.
Love Supreme is renowned for showcasing new talent and among this year’s highlights were New York-based bassist and singer Adi Oasis, whose laidback, funky soul arrangements had a 1970s Roy Ayers sound of summer about them, perfectly suited to her high, sweet vocals. Another revelation was Nigerian vocalist Obongjayar whose captivating, frenzied performance saw him pacing the stage and stamping the floor for emphasis. He was soon bare-chested and had the many word-perfect fans gathered singing along with him.
There were plenty of choices for those seeking established artists with vocalist/MC Mike Jerel leading 70s funkateers Tower Of Power through a well-polished, bold and brassy selection of crowd-pleasing numbers perfect for dancing in the sunshine. Another delight, enjoyed by everyone we spoke to, was Mulatu Asatke, the 79-year-old father of Ethiopian Jazz. This was a mesmerising performance, with sustain-heavy vibraphone floating around sax and trumpet before taking flight on solos during pieces lasting 10-15 minutes.
Back to the main stage, where the 83-year-old Candi Staton gave an emotional, possibly farewell, performance. Yes, her voice sounded thinner and lacked power in places but how could it not after 70 plus years of performing? She is a true survivor: of domestic abuse, breast cancer and record company swindlers and we are here to celebrate her career and incredible back catalogue that included two Grammy-nominated songs in ‘Suspicious Minds’ and ‘In The Ghetto’. There were many hits plus an introduction to several family members present and a poignant preface to the closing anthem ‘You Got The Love’. You can read our 2022 interview with Candi Staton here.
Thundercat’s space bass future funk packed out the South Downs tent with exiting non-believers quickly replaced by fans eager to see the master in action. We enjoyed a stripped-back acoustic set by Mancunian vocalist Mica Miller, accompanied by piano and two backing singers, which was the ideal ‘calm-before-the-storm’ that was the closing headliner.
At 9pm, all roads led to the main stage for the one and only Grace Jones. Where, after a 20 minute delay the curtain dropped to reveal the iconic artist atop a platform, wearing a feathered headdress and high kicking down the stairs belting out ‘Nightclubbing’. She greets us with a playful “Good Morning!” and delivers a true headliner set that no performer would be able to follow. There are costume changes between every song, with Grace keeping the conversation going offstage. The set is comprised of her classic hits, each delivered with panache and great humour – this was pure theatre. ‘Love Is The Drug’ is delivered harder and faster than expected and during ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’ she climbs on a security man’s shoulders and directs him back and forth along the crowd barrier to meet her adoring fans. Many people assumed her hula-hooped ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ was the final song and began to leave only for Grace to shout “where are you going?” and continued over curfew with 2008’s ‘Hurricane’, performed in silhouette for a dramatic finale. There is no other musician like Grace Jones and there is no other festival like Love Supreme.
Glynde Place, Glynde 30th June-2nd July 2023
2024 Super Early Bird Tickets are on sale now from here.
Photos by Francesca Moore.