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AT GMF16: SATURDAY

A varied line-up awaits those attending this weekend’s two-day Gibraltar Music Festival. Former Culture Minister and music enthusiast Fabian Vinet highlights the cream of the international acts performing on Saturday.

Boasting the greatest number of acts and stages to date, the GMF has in a few short years ambitiously transformed itself into a proper, eclectic festival, with circus entertainers, acclaimed comedians and even poetry recitals nudging their way into a weekend in which quality music continues to dominate. Whether it’s mainstream performances on the Main or Gibtelecom stages or perhaps something a little more left-field on the Acoustic or Seaside Stages - indeed whether it’s Pop, Hard Rock, Indie, RnB, Dance, Reggae or a hint of Flamenco - there is something for just about everyone on offer.

Nathan Sykes, a former member of British boy band The Wanted, takes to the Main Stage on Saturday afternoon. Last year, by complete chance (I happened to be at an industry dinner at which he turned out to be part of the entertainment), I witnessed Syke’s first ever public performance as a solo artist and I must admit to enjoying the talented voice and musicianship of a young man who, despite his manufactured-boy-band background, has with songs like “Give It Up” and “Over And Over Again” proven to have what it takes to forge a successful, RnB-tinged Pop career. Also on the Main Stage will be The Vamps, who play their own instruments and don’t take too kindly to boy-band comparisons, but who, from a genre perspective, are somewhere inbetween One Direction and Lawson. Young, female fans in particular have for the past couple of years been calling for the British four-piece to form part of the GMF line-up, so they’ll be delighted when the catchy “I Found A Girl” or “Wild Heart” are performed as part of what promises to be a polished, fun and upbeat set from The Vamps.

Those of us old enough to remember the Spectrum 48K, leg warmers and the time, thirty years ago, when we bunked off school to watch The Pretenders and Go West play at John Mackintosh Square and Eastern Beach, respectively, will be particularly keen to enjoy Paul Young. Having just released “Good Thing”, his first album in a decade, we can expect one or two new songs like the satisfactory “L-O-V-E”, but Young’s evening slot on the Gibtelecom Stage will mainly be about ticking the nostalgia boxes. The Luton-born 1980s teen idol, who appeared at the legendary Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium and was part of the original Band Aid recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (he sang the opening lines), was once hugely successful. Blue-eyed-Soul classics like “Love Of The Common People”, “Wherever I Lay My Hat” and “Everytime You Go Away” are all almost guaranteed to make an appearance.

Less predictable is the outstanding KT Tunstall, who first hit the big-time with debut album “Eye To The Telescope”. It’s from that initial album and its “Drastic Fantastic” follow-up that her most well known songs come from (“Black Horse And The Cherry Tree”, “Suddenly I See”, “Hold On”), while the more recent “Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon” opted for a far more mellow, acoustic and introspective sound. Next week sees the release of her sixth studio long player, “KIN”, the Scottish singer and guitarist changing direction once again and opting for a glossy, commercial sound. New tracks like “Maybe It’s A Good Thing” and “Evil Eye” demonstrate that KT Tunstall (who, incidentally, sang with fellow Scots Travis on their “The Boy With No Name” album) deserves to be back at the top of the charts. Whether dishing out the big hits or offering something more melancholic and less well known, Tunstall will be one of this year’s Festival highlights. I for one can’t wait to see her again.

The same is probably true of Rosario. Incredible to think that it is already twenty-four years since the youngest daughter of Lola Flores released her excellent “De Ley” debut album. Written almost entirely by her late brother Antonio, it was a record that spawned major hits like “Mi Gato” and “Sabor Sabor” via a sound that blended Rumba Catalana, Pop, Flamenco, Bossa Nova and Rock. While it is true that Rosario’s career since then has had its fair share of highs and lows - the now almost obligatory ventures into television and albums of cover versions to even out the troughs - she remains a captivating performer, both on record and in a live scenario. Hers has mostly been a career of highlights and Rosario, the passionate but professional performer that she is, knows what her audience wants and will deliver accordingly. Expect, therefore, big tunes like “Estoy Aqui” and “Muchas Flores”, backed by accomplished musicians. 

Other highlights this Saturday include Toploader (unfortunately almost exclusively known for their cover of King Harvest’s “Dancing In The Moonlight” but a good band who in the past have supported everyone from Paul Weller and Robbie Williams to Tom Jones and Bon Jovi), the fantastic Pop sounds of singer/model Foxes and the recently re-re-reforrmed All Saints, whose 2016 song “One Strike” is as good as or even better than career highlights like “Never Ever”, “Black Coffee” and “Pure Shores”, all of which are scheduled to make an appearance. There are also plenty of high-calibre acts on the fringe stages as of course one of the appeals of a Festival of this nature is that one can enjoy big-name acts while also stumbling across new, previously undiscovered talent. Some of the bands and artists on the Acoustic and Seaside stages may make it into the mainstream in the near future, while others - such is the merciless nature of the music industry - will be consigned to cultural oblivion. Either way, there is much talent on offer from little-known acts such as Passport To Stockholm, Nadia Alvarez or Tiggs Da Author, all of whom merit at least a few minutes of your time.

Moving back to the crowd-pullers, Saturday’s headliner is Ne-Yo, performing one of only three European shows this summer. An all-round performer (think Michael Jackson with a more contemporary sound), Ne-Yo will sing and dance his way through a hits-heavy set. The American’s songwriting credentials are unquestionable - he has penned songs for Mary J Blige, Faith Evans, Beyoncé, Alexandra Burke and Cheryl Cole, among others - and the man remains one of the most successful international acts to ever perform on the Rock. Ne-Yo’s first album debuted at number one in the US Billboard charts, selling a staggering 301,000 copies in its first week alone, and since then he’s sold millions upon millions more, dueted with the likes of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion and, back in 2007, performed at a fund-raising concert as part of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Personally, he’s not the type of artist I would usually go for, but his brand of RnB, sometimes Pop-leaning and others Hip Hop-flavoured, will go down well, the Main Stage audience set to dance the night away to mammoth hits like “Closer”, “Let Me Love You” and “Beautiful Monster”.

My personal favourite of the entire weekend are Travis, the Scottish four-piece who take to the Main Stage at 9pm on Saturday, having played superbly-received sets at T In The Park earlier this summer and the V Festival just a few days ago. If I was a betting man, I’d put all my money on three things happening. One: Travis will finish their hour-long set with “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” Two: Charming frontman Fran Healy will at some point make his way into the crowd and almost certainly climb on an audience member’s shoulders for the duration of an entire song. Three: Travis will prove to be the perfect festival band; likeable, fun and serving up killer singalong tunes, to the point that I predict the GMF organisers will be keen to have them return sooner rather than later. I’ve seen Travis on nine or ten occasions over the years (and already three times this year alone), and whether at the height of their fame after the release of their “The Man Who” second album, during a commercial dip in the mid- to late-noughties or a reinvigorated, punchier 2016 that has seen their fortunes turn and given the band their most successful album in at least eight years, they’ve always been nothing short of brilliant. New songs “Three Miles High”, “Animals” and “Magnificent Time” will almost certainly be performed, alongside “Turn”, “Flowers In The Window” and the aforementioned “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” Famously, when they performed the latter at Glastonbury in 1997, the sun bid farewell and the skies opened. We’ll keep our collective fingers crossed that the Rock isn’t witness to a repeat meteorological performance, but even a few drops of rain couldn’t put a damper on a day in which great music and vibes will shine through, come what may.