Review: Just when I didn’t think I could be any more proud of Bedford, George Ezra comes to town

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George Ezra in Bedford Park June 2023 Image: Bedford Park Concerts
George Ezra in Bedford Park June 2023 Image: Bedford Park Concerts

I must confess, until last night, I was not the biggest George Ezra fan. What I mean is, I like his music and sing along to his songs when they’re on the radio, but he’s not in my top ten favourite musicians and I don’t know much about his work.

So, I probably would not have gone along last night had it not been for my partner and her sister (who came all the way down from Newcastle) getting tickets for the gig in Bedford Park last night (Friday).

However, as we got closer to last night, the excitement started to grow.

Across social media, people were asking questions about taxis, parking, nearby pubs/restaurants, places to stay, and if there were any tickets left. People were getting excited and that excitement certainly rubbed off on me.

What’s more, it was going to be Bedford Park’s biggest-ever gig, with tickets being sold out many weeks before, despite promoters Cuffe & Taylor seemingly finding some down the back of a sofa backstage and releasing them for sale a few days ago.

Arriving at Bedford Park, it was clear the claims of it being Bedford Park’s biggest gig were not inflated, there were fast-moving queues of people chatting excitedly, making their way to gate C. 15,000 of them, apparently.

A new Bedfordian?

The format for this year’s event has changed a little, what with the new garden area that, while shared with the VIP guests, promises fewer people, better toilets, and benches and tables to sit at while you enjoy drinks from its dedicated bar.

Lucky enough to have tickets to this area, we walked around the site to Gate A by the Pavillion and after a check of our tickets and band being placed on our wrist, we were inside within a few minutes.

15,000 people packed into 'little old' Bedford Park for George Ezra June 2023 Image: Bedford Park Concerts
15,000 people packed into ‘little old’ Bedford Park for George Ezra. Image: Bedford Park Concerts

Due to finishing work late, we weren’t able to get to the park in time to see Kingfishr, which is a shame as I have heard good things. We did, however, arrive in good time to see Cat Burns who I really was keen to see.

Nominated for two Brit Awards this year, Cat is a 21-year-old singer and songwriter who went from busking on the Southbank to mastering Tik Tok in lockdown, where she amassed over one million followers.

She proudly cites Ed Sheeran, India Arie and Tori Kelly as a few of her biggest inspirations and she spoke of them fondly during her set, even encouraging an Ed Sheeran sing-a-long with the gathered crowd.

Cat was brilliant. An incredible voice and a lovely way with the crowd who listened intently as she explained the meaning behind her thought-provoking and emotive lyrics.

She also revealed she only lives 20 minutes from Bedford, we’re not sure if she is within the Borough boundaries but if you are reading this, Cat, let us know so we can add you to the list of superbly talented Bedfordians who are taking the world by storm.

And then on came George

The main event, though, was George Ezra and the place was packed with people, young and old, clothed in t-shirts printed with everything from his lyrics to his face to his tour dates.

Their own faces were covered in glitter and smiles, their eyes full of excitement.

The roar of 15,000 voices cheering as the lad from just down the A1 in Hertford walked onto the stage was quite something. Yes, I’ve been to bigger gigs but this was happening in my home town, ‘little old’ Bedford.

I wonder what John Bunyan would have made of it?

Now, at this point, I have to be transparent and say that I was more excited about what this gig meant for Bedford than anything else.

You see, I had seen George a few years ago, 2018 I think, at Newmarket. It wasn’t great.

At that gig, George was good but I think a racecourse is a terrible venue for music, don’t bother going to any there, the gig wasn’t an entirely good memory.

So, perhaps the impact of last night’s gig was because my expectations were a little lower than usual, but, it’s fair to say, he blew me away.

Providing a perfect mix of his songs, old and new, George had the whole crowd dancing and singing along. He was clearly feeding off the energy from his fans and they were feeding off him.

There were pretty, shining people of all kinds – young lovers holding hands, mums and dads carrying their children on their shoulders so they could see, and friends of all ages laughing and singing loudly at each other.

A showman indeed, George called to the crowd to sing louder and louder as he belted out his popular hits, finishing with Shotgun at the end of his encore to rapturous applause and cheers for more.

Nice one, Bedford

As great as the gig was though, and how brilliant Cat and George were, their flawless performances weren’t the highlight. For me, it was the crowd of people who came to Bedford to witness the evening’s entertainment.

While a family member of ours had come all the way from Newcastle, we also got talking to others who’d come up from Whitstable, down from York, and across from Bristol.

Speaking to Peter and Stephanie Robins from Whistable, I asked why they’d chosen Bedford. “We did look at the O2,” they said, “but for the same price as being here, we’d have been up in the gods and had to suffer London hotel prices or a long train ride home.

“Here [in Bedford Park] it’s a lovely set-up and we’re really close to the stage. We’d never really heard of Bedford before so we’ve made it into a weekend away.”

With Peter telling me they were staying at The Swan, and that all other hotels they’d looked at had been fully booked, there’s clear evidence as to why Bedford Park Concerts is great for our borough.

Even as we stopped at the Park Pub on the way to the gig, you could see they were rightly capitalising on the passing trade. Plastic pints only, as excited concertgoers packed into the bar and queued to be served a refreshing Brewpoint pint.

Peter and Stephanie Robins who came to Bedford from Whitstable to see George Ezra in Bedford Park.
Peter and Stephanie Robins came to Bedford from Whitstable to see George Ezra in Bedford Park.

Yeah, it does inconvenience a handful of people who use the park for a couple of weeks, there’s a race to find a parking space for those living nearby, and maybe there’s a bit of noise depending on which way the wind blows, but ultimately is there really any real negative to these gigs?

I’d say “no”. Even if you’re still waiting for your favourite performer to come to Bedford, just going to a gig on your doorstep and being able to walk home is a treat in itself.

Bedford Park is an excellent venue and the way the concerts have evolved under new promoters Cuffe & Taylor is nothing but positive.

OK, they may do things a little differently from what we’re used to, but if this summer is anything to go by Bedford is more than capable of maintaining its status as a world-class venue for world-class acts.

While we may still have one last concert to go, tonight’s Ministry of Sound Classical, I am already itching to find out who’ll be coming to town next year.

The reviewer was gifted one ticket with a
garden area upgrade as part of the review process.