Christmas lights were made cool this year on Oxford Street with four in store performances from the likes of Ray BLK, Novelist, Kara Marni and more.
At a time when clueless politicians and idiotic world leaders foam at the mouth over mythical no-go areas of London, I ventured to the city’s only one: Oxford Street, on Christmas lights switch on night. The vast crowds remained and the decorations shimmered as per usual, yet there was no bored button press this year. Instead, Kara Marni, Isaac Waddington, Ray BLK and Novelist marked the occasion in inspired fashion, wowing small pockets of fans in various shop corners.
Having dropped her extraordinary eight-track project Empress last month, Ray BLK is dedicating ‘Mama’ to all the mums on the second floor of Nike Town. Ballot winners are granted close proximity to the stage while curious shoppers drape over balconies to catch a sight of the South Londoner, her voice flawless on the swelling, sobering ‘Run Run’. “So good to perform on a street I know so well and even worked on,” she beams throughout a brief set, before launching into the mass singalong that ‘My Hood’ prompts, rounding off a triumphant and utterly captivating return.
“Oxford Street are finally looking past what’s conventionally popular and choosing figures that genuinely represent London and have stories to tell from it.”
It’s telling that Novelist is switching on the Christmas lights on one of the most famous streets in the world and tearing up fabric in the same week. Here’s a musician that courts both mainstream attention since a Mercury nomination and the credibility he’s enjoyed from underground circles for so long. A remarkably assured performer, whether it be in front of this tiny crowd or those rapidly expanding rooms, there’s not a whiff of selling out. It’s simply that the charisma and honesty of his performances are impossible not to warm to, whatever genre you follow.
Of course, he’s pretty handy when spitting too, utilising that trademark raw, unrelenting flow on ‘Nov Wait Stop Wait’ and provoking delirious pogoing amongst a hyped crowd that are more than happy to back enthusiastic call-and-response verses on the hypnotic ‘Wait Wait Wait’ and ‘Dot Dot Dot’. There’s even time for a spontaneous dance routine with a fan on ‘Whole 9 Yards’ and an absolute monster of a new track that Nov asks his mum’s permission to play.
All four artists may have forced themselves onto the cusp of popular consciousness some time ago, but it still feels like a momentous occasion: Oxford Street looking past what’s conventionally popular and choosing figures that genuinely represent London and have stories to tell from it. Finally a Christmas message I can get behind.