As sun set on Newmarket, an impressive transformation occurred. As the last race thundered through, the bookies booths disappeared and the premier enclosure turned into a nightclub, presenting Mark Ronson, in the UK between two dates in the South of France.
After an incongruous introduction over a blast of pop, a laptop appeared on stage, the smoke machines fired up and the music started. From the off, it was a heavyweight set, with hip-hop front and centre. The first track, one you won’t hear anywhere else, proudly announced “Mark Ronson on a Saturday night”. This gave way to ten minutes of very hard hip-hop, leaving questionable looks on some of the faces of the Newmarket old guard.
This quickly gave way to a gear shift into some classic funk, before Ronson played one of the two tracks most people know him for, Uptown Funk. Looking more closely though, the set was peppered with tracks Ronson has production credits on. This gave way to a ten minute passage of modern pop moving through Iggy Azalea culminating in Justin Bieber that while very carefully mixed, seemed out of place.
From here, everything seemed to flow much more naturally into a passage of hip-hop and R&B, even straying into some vintage rap, catching the audience off guard. Despite a shaky start for the tweed clad elders of the crowd, even the least au fait with Ronson’s usual faire were holding their hands aloft in the air and enjoying the party atmosphere, as the sun set on the July racecourse.
Twenty minutes of vintage beats led to a transition back to pop, starting with an excellent bootleg of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, a track Ronson produced, some dirty sax building to perfection. Two Michael Jackson tracks later and Ronson was on the microphone with a tribute to Jackson and Prince clearly telegraphing the next track, Valerie by Amy Winehouse. As, at least until recently, Ronson’s highest profile track, this drew the biggest response from the crowd. A touching tribute to the late musical legend (a word which is all too often used- but is entirely valid for the likes of Amy Winhouse), the Newmarket crowd sang in unison, led by an emotional Ronson on stage.
From here, we were treated to some classic pop, almost bordering on cheese at times. Jackson 5’s ABC blended beautifully with hints of The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Heads Will Roll, which kept coming back. As the set drew to a close, the tracks just got bigger and bigger. House of Pain’s Jump Around gave way to Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds in what seemed the most natural move, but looking back is barely believable.
In a move more akin to the clubs and terraces of Ibiza, the set ended exactly 90 minutes in on Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, perfectly timed and executed. As heavy rain began to fall across the now dark landscape of Newmarket, the crowd held still, chanting for more of the heavy hitting set, which had perforated the otherwise still summer air for an hour and a half.
Ronson’s energy on stage was infective throughout, constantly on the move behind the decks. His stage presence was helped by the giant silhouette of his trademark speaker driver logo behind the decks, without this the stage would have been very lonely. This was not accounted for in the lighting design however, which ruined some of the beam effects, especially later into the dark. Other than this the additional staging and production was largely very strong, adding to the Balearic atmosphere and building well throughout the set. A bank of never ending effects kept even the most technically minded of the crowd in awe, despite losing synchronization with the music at times.
Delivering sights and sounds rare for the Suffolk countryside, at several points Ronson announced to the packed crowd, the humbling effect of performing in such beautiful and prestigious surroundings. Perhaps more challenging than a much larger continental club-land set, the wide range of ages and social economic groups at your average Jockey Club event make this gig no mean feat for any DJ, let alone Mark Ronson with his huge, largely youthful following. With a tough job ahead of him, by the end of the night, even the well-respected flat cap brigade were entranced and enthralled, despite their sceptical beginnings. The pleasure of this once in a lifetime gig amongst the picturesque Newmarket flats was in fact, Mr Ronson, all ours.
Much to our delight, Holborn based promoters The Jockey Club Live have already begun planning a star studded 2017 gig line-up. For further information, keep your eyes peeled to camfm.co.uk and thejockeyclublive.co.uk.