Southbank Centre’s 26th Meltdown came to a close Sunday night after its most critically-acclaimed installment yet: nine days of world class music, dance, disco and DJ sets, global exclusives, five-star performances, new talent and free parties attended by thousands, all the design of this year’s curator, the legendary Nile Rodgers.
Rodgers says of the experience: “In a life filled with so many unexpected rewards, Meltdown 2019 rises to the level of one of the greatest. I will never forget this experience. And as time goes on the pride for what we’ve accomplished as a team will only strengthen. I’m overcome with gratitude.”
More than 70 acts took over the UK’s largest arts centre from 3-11 August, filling Southbank Centre’s main venues – Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room – and every corner of the 17-acre site with music. More than 40 hours of free programming entertained over 8,000 people, including the C’est CHIC Vogue Ball, a Meltdown Mardi Gras and Friday’s And The Beat Goes On, a showcase of talent from the famous BRIT School.
The curator himself was a ubiquitous presence. After his opening night with CHIC, Rodgers demonstrated his famous tirelessness by introducing to the stage almost every festival headliner, many of the talents performing on the free stages and even the outdoor screening of Coming to America (which he scored in 1988) – delighting the audience by joining them for the start of the film.
Meltdown has a reputation for staging one-off performances and collaborations by legendary artists – and with one of pop’s greatest collaborators in charge, this year was no different. Audiences witnessed Rodgers and Dave Stewart perform on stage together for the first time ever for the global premiere of Stewart’s Eurythmics Songbook, featuring a stellar roll-call of guest vocalists and musicians including Emeli Sandé, Beverley Knight, Iris Gold, Ryan Molloy, Kimberly Davis and #Folami.
Pioneering producer SOPHIE presented a set of brand new unreleased material; Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein performed their music for the third season of Stranger Things in a world premiere; London-based #Afrobeat eight-piece #KOKOROKO stormed the Queen Elizabeth Hall; Brazilian pop super-star brought the Royal Festival Hall house down in her 2019 festival exclusive; and the newly renovated Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer was transformed into iconic nightclub Studio 54 for one night only, with dancers and aerial performers from Savage Disco and Gersch & Rox, original Studio 54 DJs and another surprise appearance from Rodgers himself thrilling revellers.
Southbank Centre’s award-winning Meltdown is the longest-running artist-curated music festival in the world. Each year, a different cultural figure is invited by Head of Contemporary Music, Bengi Ünsal, to act as curator, and select performers and events of their choosing. Previous curators include Elvis Costello, Laurie Anderson, John Peel, Nick Cave, David Bowie, Lee Scratch-Perry, Patti Smith, Massive Attack, Yoko Ono, M.I.A and Robert Smith.
The festival returns next year from 12-21 June 2020 with another legendary artist at the helm to be revealed in the autumn.