Cross The Tracks festival review: A line-up that appealed across generations and musical tastes

 (Dave Benett)
(Dave Benett)

Live music may have returned but Covid can still reshape line-ups.

South London’s jazz and soul festival Cross the Tracks lost US group En Vogue days before the event due to travel complications, but still boasted several timely bookings.

Saxophonist Nubya Garcia, who’s nominated for this week’s Mercury Prize, was followed by Jordan Rakei, who’s primed for a breakthrough with his new album. The London-based New Zealander drew a big crowd for his sophisticated grooves in the balmy Sunday evening sunshine.

Rakei’s sultry voice combined effectively with the clattering rhythms and off-kilter electronics. It will have won him plenty of new fans at the festival, and perhaps beyond in the neighbourhood given the event’s impressive volume levels.

Cross the Tracks appealed across generations and musical tastes. You could enjoy the tasteful instrumentation of The Cinematic Orchestra on the main stage, while sampling one of the many craft beers and gazing at the amazing view of the city.

For the braver revellers, there was the busy Terminal tent featuring the trippy tunes of Greentea Peng and sheer stamina of virtuoso jazz drummer Yussef Dayes.

The musical contrast was most pronounced when Sons of Kemet’s belligerent brass was competing with Sister Sledge. Understandably, the disco veterans’ feelgood anthems were in high demand in Herne Hill.

Even with her local connections, Lianne La Havas acknowledged that organisers had “taken a chance on me” by making her the 25,000-capacity festival’s headline act.

“I wrote this song about my home, Brixton,” she said after taking off her rings to play acoustic guitar on Sour Flower. It was one of several from last year’s self-titled album, which is finally getting a live outing.

While some tunes were too intimate to satisfy a festival crowd, La Havas had her moments. She let rip with a squally guitar riff on a cover of Radiohead’s Weird Fishes, wailed over the emotionally charged Green & Gold and recruited Nubya Garcia for a sax solo on the cool funk of Seven Times.

The encore of Unstoppable and Bittersweet underlined her strengths as a performer who can handle the big stages. The risk undoubtedly paid off.

Cross The Tracks Festival, Brockwell Park, SE24

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