MANCHESTER 8TH FEB
About two weeks ago, I travelled to the Manchester Evening News arena (correction, it’s now the “Phones4U Arena”, something I wholeheartedly disagree with) to see Billy Joel, a man who was born in the Bronx, New York, four years after the end of the second World War. His father was a German Jew who fled to America to escape the Nazi regime, his mother an English Jew who I just assume fancied New York so went there, and I’m rather glad she did.
Over the past few decades of Billy Joel’s career, he’s had a few songs, and during his roughly just-over-two-hour set, his selection wasn’t half bad. Sure, there were a few songs I would of happily seen dropped, and a few I would have loved to see included, but thus is the struggle of life, and happiness is rarely found in the plans of strangers. The setlist he did compose though, looked a little bit like this:
- Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)
- Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
- Everybody Loves You Now
- Where’s the Orchestra?
- A Room of Our Own
- New York State of Mind
- The Great Wall of China
- Uptown Girl
- Don’t Ask Me Why
- She’s Always a Woman
- Blonde Over Blue
- Rule Britannia
- Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
- The River of Dreams
- Piano Man
- We Didn’t Start the Fire
- It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
- You May Be Right
- Only the Good Die Young
As a show opener, I think “Miami 2017” is pretty much tied for top place, the signature piano intro was known by pretty much everyone there, the first few lines are easy to sing, and the build-up into the drums was really well done, the natural echo in the arena matched perfectly with the reverb on the album track. It had everything that it needed really, a well-known song, a good bashy-drum-beat in the middle, and a nice quiet outro just so you can remember where you are, who you are, and that jumping around madly doesn’t really fall into social etiquette, so you can awkwardly smile at the people looking bemused in your direction, and retake your seat.
But I think I’ve skipped a bit here, because, of course, there as a warm-up act in the form of Fyfe Dangerfield. Sure, he was alright. His songs were nice, he’s a talented pianist and he seemed like he really got into his performance. Unfortunately, he kind of ruined himself by breaking the number one rule for warm ups: You never, ever, ever in twenty bazillion years play a song in your warm up set when the original artist is going to come on in half an hours’ time and play it too. I don’t care if you played it in a John Lewis advert, I don’t care if you played a guitar version to try and differentiate yourself from the original. You just don’t play “She’s Always a Woman” when you’re supporting Billy Joel, because yes, he was very complimentary about your performance, but when he plays his version of the classic, it will just slaughter you. It’s like getting a child to have a go at painting the Mona Lisa, sure, all of the parents will clap when they lower their paint-covered hands from the canvas, because after all, isn’t it adorable? But I severely doubt that’s the reaction you want when you’re a professional musician.
Just don’t do it.
Anyway, away from Fyfe, more about Billy. I’m not going to do a song-by-song run through for the entire gig, because I doubt you have the amount of patience to read it all, so instead I’ll pick out some absolute gems and rub their fabulousness in your face for about a paragraph each.
Sound good? Excellent.
One of the best songs of the set was probably “Allentown”, just because of its status of “absolute tune”. The sound effects from the original track were played a little loud and did drown things out a little bit here and there, but it’s a live show, you’ve got to accept these kinds of things. You might be thinking “I’ve got no idea what this song is”, which fair enough, admittedly, Billy Joel hasn’t really transferred into the modern era spectacularly well. His songs aren’t well known these days, and every now again, if his name’s mentioned, you’ll get the odd “Oh yeah, isn’t that the guy that did Uptown Girl?” a statement which hurts me emotionally as well as mentally. It’s like that one really popular guy in school that everyone seems to love, but you just can’t understand why because he’s a real dickhead and he should be hidden away from the world in a room with no light or food. Consequently, I won’t be mentioning that song anymore, let’s just pretend it never happened, okay? Okay.
Back to the point of “Allentown”, if you don’t think you’ve heard it, but you’ve seen The Hangover Part 2, then you have heard it, just watch the part where Ed Helms is playing a guitar on a boat, (though I will add the lyrics have been somewhat… altered).
"New York State of Mind" was always going to be good, it’s just an absolute classic. Ever feel slightly brooding? Is it raining outside? Do you like New York? Then listen to this song and it will improve the experience tenfold, trust me. The horn section in the song has always been good, and the band Billy brought along for the tour was genuinely top notch. The screeching sax solos, the warm trumpet accompaniments, they all really improved the experience magnificently. Overall there was two guitars, a bass, and a four-person horn section. The band really exceeded itself, and it’s the kind of thing that a lot of people take for granted at gigs, so just bravo to them.
This is already quite long and I’m not even half way through the list, so I’ll do start speeding up, promise.
"Vienna" and "She’s Always A Woman" were both just good, similar styles of songs, as I’ve already said in relation to Fyfe Dangerfield, Billy nailed "She’s Always a Woman", and "Vienna" was just amazing too. They’re just the kind of songs you can just sit and appreciate, and then if you’re in a bit of a springy mood, you can just dance around to them, because they’re strange songs like that, they can both be extremely sad, or surprisingly happy, depending on your mood.
Skipping a few, we come to one of the most surreal moments of my life so far. “Rule Britannia” is not a Billy Joel song, it’s not a mid-80’s pop hit that he named after a famous patriotic song. He genuinely just played it on the piano out of nowhere, and before you knew it, 23,000 people were being good little Britons and singing the lyrics while he just waxed it out on the piano keys. I doubt I’ll ever be in such a position in my life again, and I’m not really sure I want to be.
This is where I’m regretting saying I’ll just do the really good ones, because the few that I could skip have already been, and now I’m faced with seven great songs and not much time to sample their divinity to you through my words. I’ll just try my best, and try not rush them too much, here we go.
"Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" is from Billy Joel’s most famous album The Stranger. It’s a beautiful seven minutes and 37 seconds long and tells the story of two people, they fall in love, and then get married and divorced then meet up later. Billy tells it better, trust me.
It was fucking fab. That’s about it really. Over seven minutes of just, fun.
“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man”. Probably one of Joel’s more literal songs, “Piano Man” was his first really big hit, and it pretty much set up the rest of his career. This was one of the songs where the aging pop icon really showed how much he hasn’t lost. His piano playing is still fantastic, and if you closed your eyes, apart from a slightly deeper tone, his voice has hardly changed at all. This was the last song before the encore, and it’s a little bit ironic that the song that started it all, would end a sell-out arena show almost 40 years to the day after it was released.
After everyone cheered and clapped, of course, he came back. “We Didn’t Start The Fire” was more of a testament to his memory more than anything. And I even surprised myself, when that song came on; turns out I know a lot more lyrics than I thought I did. And If you don’t get why that’s an achievement for me, just go listen to the song, and shame yourself for not knowing it already.
Probably my favourite Billy Joel song ever, “It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me” was perfect. The music video for the song was played on the screen behind the stage, and apart from the wrinkles and the lack of hair, it was the same person. His mannerisms, body language, and his passion for his music really showed through.
To finish the show completely, I think “Only The Good Die Young” was an… applicable choice. Considering his age, it’s only appropriate to include some reference to mortality. As he danced around the piano, singing his song, living the life he has for nearly half a century, his energy just shone through, not just with the final song, but with the whole concert. He seems as vivacious and full of life as the videos he released 20 years before I was even an idea. My sister turned round to me, and pretty much summed up the feelings of the gig, “He’s never going to die, is he?” and I replied the only way I could:
“I certainly fucking hope not.”
With festival season almost over in the UK, it’s time for the wellies and inadequately sized tents to retire into the lost depths of sheds and cupboards once again. But keeping that last reserve of spirit alive is the decade old, Isle of Wight-based culture fest Bestival. Organised by Radio One DJ Rob da Bank, along with his wife Josie, the event attracted about 55,000 attendees in 2010, smashing a Guinness World Record with a line-up including the likes of The Prodigy, Dizzee Rascal, Chase & Status and The xx, accompanied by Chic & Nile Rogers, The Flaming Lips and Simian Mobile Disco who were part of the goldmine of acts among others who returned this year. The 2013 lineup, spearheaded by the legendary Elton John, carried on the tradition blissfully.
What must be mentioned is everything before and in between the music though. The only way to explain the overall design of the festival is picturing The Creator herself infusing the Isle of Wight with flower petals, neon lights and a few drops of acid. In the outer section of the site deep within the campsites stood Temple Island; an organic land entwined with immaculately crafted overgrown foliage, leafy pods that you can sit in with your friends that hang over a pond and a tent with a spread of orange mattresses where you can sink into the bass of a well thought out favourites playlist.
Just round the corner, the David Lynch Foundation area, a collection of stands funded by the filmmaker’s organization for meditation and relaxation, hosting a massage parlor most importantly for people who brought cheap tents with no pillow or roll mat and other Zen pleasures. If you needed time to unwind during the night time there’s also the Ambient Forest, an illuminated ultra garden scattered with off key sculptures, an abundance of lanterns and deep hammocks. Want your festival experience to be educational? That’s cool too. Stumble out of the forest and head towards the main stage and you should find yourself in Tomorrow’s World, a pathway for the mind. The Besti-versity tent sits here, next to the Science Tent and Rob da Bank’s Music Club, with lectures and discussions, this year hosting Feminist Friday, a haven of feminist chats by women for anybody to drop by (irony ensued however when there’s a camera man at the main stage zooming in on ladies’ chesticles).
The energetic French Electro Swing collective, Caravan Palace were the first artists to properly awaken the main stage on Friday afternoon. They carried their set with vigorous violin playing, technical swing dancing and rapid scat vocals fronted by pixie looking singer, Zoé Colotis, their performance was adored universally regardless of their genre not being a common preference. Wu Tang Clan followed and were a sour disappointment for generally sober old me; their initial “Bring The Motherfuckin’ Ruckus!” entrance got the blood flowing and the keen anticipation of pre-noughties hip-hop got me hollering but that feeling of elation was deflated when Ghostface Killah was the only relevant member that made it to the UK, leaving the floor absent of big-name members like Method Man and RZA (a big blow since there were whispers of a collab performance with James Blake). The remainder of the crew weren’t that grabbing, howling a tired performance through shades and bucket hats to an audience of teens rolling their Crucial Joints.
If you were brave enough to give up the spot you gave your blood, sweat and tears for at the main stage, the bio-fuelled Bandstand hosted young Kentish singer-songwriter Will Joseph-Cook who strummed and sung soulful ballads to a chilled out, seated crowd with the support of his talented band trio. Overlapping slightly with the aforementioned was London lass singer-songwriter Jessie Ware, who embraced the stage donning a stylish and handsome black ship captain outfit, gloves and all. The live band carrying her abandoned the “indie-pop with a nostalgic hint of garage” vibe that her recordings have, particularly on the upbeat track, “If You’re Never Gonna Move”, presented instead was a more classic solo female flavour that differentiated her from the house links with Disclosure and SBTRKT. Miss Ware ended her set with the romantic tune “Running” and wowed the festival with a powerful vocal finish. Sam Smith graced the modestly sized Replay tent with an intimate, warm performance. Treating the audience to acoustic style renditions of “Latch” (his collaboration with Disclosure) and “La La La”; “Lay Me Down” was the highlight of his set though, reducing listeners to a silent sway.
Replay with Rob Da Bank proved to be a good stage for underground artists and dark horses throughout the weekend, London rapper/producer Ghostpoet gave a raw and gritty show with an off pace seamless spoken word -singing hybrid and up comer Barbarossa mapped out a mellow vibe on Sunday afternoon. Nile Rodgers with Chic got the entire festival going wild playing hauntingly addictive funky classics back at the main stage. Rogers educated the masses on his influence on the music industry, boasting of the works that he created and was involved in throughout popular culture, including Daft Punk’s dance track, Get Lucky dancing along enthusiastically with the fans from the side of the stage as it played the group out. Scroobius Pip vs Dan le Sac kept the juices flowing on Sunday evening at The Swamp Shack; beardy bard Scroob’s signature word vomit of social discourse through clever rhetorical questioning and torrential rain of colloquial jargon was awe-striking. The pair carried on entertaining the crowd (and themselves) between tunes with tongue in cheek teen tier jokes and left with the promise of new content in the form of third album Repent Replenish Repeat. Elton John was a give or take experience for people like me who don’t tend to romanticize the classic greats, even with the pilgrimage to get close enough to see him on stage being almost compulsory. The universally emotional mood he produced from playing clasic hits like “Your Song” and “Rocket Man” brought together the majority of the festival in a harmonious unison but there was hardly any stage interaction from the man himself due to some sound tech issues and there was nothing special done to immortalise his first festival performance in over 30 years, the set was followed by an unbelievable fireworks display exploding to the beat of hit tunes .
The real finisher (for those who are human and don’t have the physical and spiritual strength to carry on until breakfast time) was James Blake who turned in a near flawless set. He and his band opened with old fan favourite “I Never Learnt To Share”, following the regular formula of progressive, textured beats layered with overlapping soft vocals. The electronic wonder boy showed off his new work mostly playing tracks off recent second album Overgrown, “Retrograde” was a hit to the Big Top inhabitants giving off that pleasing hint of emotion and soul as he broke out of a sorrowful hum into the one sided dialogue of the track. The infectious head bop stretched across the crowd throughout the set until the band left and James Blake went solo with his Joni Mitchell cover “A Case of You”, an ideal closing song executed delicately, fiddling between classic style piano and a soothing singing voice, rising the atmosphere just past lukewarm. A candlelit date with Mr. Blake.
Bestival is without a doubt an event I could see myself returning to annually for a good deal of the future; I left the festival feeling like I could have repeated the same weekend ten times over, each time experiencing something refreshing and new.
Being a relatively unknown local band on a bill of much larger acts is not always the most enviable of positions to be in. You usually either play well enough to draw people away from the bar to stand in front of the stage for a few minutes or play to a mostly-empty room of your close friends who are there to see whoever is coming on later. Rarely, you end up playing to a rather large crowd that is unfamiliar with your music and gain some new fans. Luckily for Windfall Foundation (made up from ex-Tyganda band member), a tight live performance with a staggering level of professionalism for a young unestablished band as well as solid songwriting landed them squarely in the third category. Opening the evening for local heavyweights Cardinals as well as The Years and Vancouver’s Said The Whale, Windfall Foundation kicked the night off spectacularly and with a relentless energy. Their sound is best described as spacey third-wave post-rock soundscapes and textures to give the music depth with the angular guitar rock sensibility of Bloc Party to keep things in motion. The instrumentation is paired with the lyrical sincerity and emotion of bands like Touche Amore and Brand New. Lead vocalist Can Kilic [Authors note: yes, Can. Not “Cam”] engaged with the audience mid-set to inform them that their next song, Thief (unfortunately not up on their Bandcamp page yet) was his favourite in the whole world. By the end of the chilling and emotional number, I’m sure he wasn’t the only one who felt the same way. Sounding very much unlike the acts that followed them, the quintet was a bright spot in a bill jam-packed with talent and big names. It remains to be seen if Windfall Foundation is a band that will be one to watch in 2013, but they’ve stolen a crowd before and there’s nothing indicating they can’t again.
I’ve written reviews whilst not entirely sober, now it’s time for me to write a review of five days for which I was sober for about an hour. Because Leeds Festival is one that requires a drink. It’s as infamous nowadays for its ‘let’s go fucking mental’ ladishness (example: a guy who drank his own piss, vomit and had a gram of ketin a line before being carted off) as it is famous for its top-tier headliners. It is more of a drink all day and all night festival than say, the laidback Latitude, and you do have to accept that you will encounter some wankers in wifebeaters and flat peaks drinking Stella. Plus (unpopular Tumblr opinion here) but I don’t mind a decent DJ set or some dubstep, so the Relentless Tent and Picadilly Party seem more worthwhile to me than a standard night out on the town. When it comes to the Leeds Fest nightlife, my view on this is that it’s fine to go out until 5AM and get completely sozzled as long as you still manage to see some music too (and not be hungover lying in your tent as your favourite band are on). Because who wants to pay upwards of £200 and not see a single band?
I think I got the balance right this year and saw around twenty acts, so let’s talk music. This year was a real mixed bag of genres for me; Friday began with Tribes, who impressed me earlier this year on the NME Tour and held their own in the NME/Radio One Tent, with all the sing along power of bigger bands like The Cribs. Some friends could not stop going on about The Skints so I went along and was pleasantly suprised to find that they were less reggae than I’d heard they were (not my thing) and more ska (bit more my thing). The Lock Up Stage was pretty packed with a nice, chilled, dancing crowd. More dance moves ensued at SBTRKT, who you can make as many jokes about the London Producer just pressing keys on a laptop but the singing and live drums really shows he and collaborator Sampha can use their instruments live too. I got dragged to Gallows as well, who definitely were not my thing and I can’t feel like I can judge their performance at all without knowing anything about that genre of music. Somehow, I also managed to take a nap during them too whilst having a cigarette break (it had been a heavy night before). Unfortunately I missed The Black Keys but I was all ready to see Foo Fighters who you can’t deny have some classic hits. We stuck around for the beginning, but nearly three hours was pushing it for me, especially when I am not a hardcore fan. Instead, I hopped over to Justice whose set was absolutely amazing. They segued perfectly from track to track, playing extended versions of “Civilization” and “We Are Your Friends”. They may not be legends on the level of Foo Fighters, but if you’re in the mood for throwing shapes, then the French duo are a much better act to see.
Onto Saturday, which started with Friends, a band who I only knew one song by but are now intrigued to listen to a lot more. Crystal Castles on the main stage played as well as they have any other year, but suit the festival’s tent a lot more in my opinion. The act that has been on repeat on my headphones all summer, Alt-J, filled the Festival Republic stage and lived up the their hype in what can best be described as indie with a bit of a post-dubstep-friendly bass (I feel my hipster levels rising as I type that). After catching the tail end of Bombay Bicycle Club, who treated us to a few new singles, my plan was to split half my time between the clashing headliners of The Maccabees and The Cure. But after an hour of the latter’s set a riled by “Friday I’m In Love”, I decided to stay for the duration. As a friend pointed out, you can see The Maccabees anytime but The Cure are a once-in-a-lifetime band. Even though I only knew their greatest hits, at no point was I bored because whilst they may be ageing, they can all play to perfection.
Quicker than expected it was Sunday, the final day of music. Despite the fact it was midday after four straight days of alcohol, I was up and raring to go by midday for one of my favourite bands Los Campesinos!. They seemed pretty chuffed to be on the Main Stage (well, as chuffed as Gareth Campesinos! can possibly manage) but the crowd was pretty sparse at this time. Dry The River were decent and ideal for just sitting and listening to after a long weekend. I don’t know what to think of Mystery Jets' new Americana look for their new album, however I don’t think it made much difference to the style of their music by the few songs I heard. But why change something that already works, and their classic songs were as faultless as ever. Unfortunately I didn’t rep my local Nottingham acts Jake Bugg and Dog Is Dead thanks to an almightly downpour on the way back to camp, but they seem to being going places outside of the Midlands so watch out for them. As always, I went along to The Vaccines with everybody else, and as always I fail to see what all the fuss is about. They do have some good pop songs but they seem to merge into one long shout-a-long chorus to me. Can someone please enlighten me as to what I am missing? For a bit of a change, I saw Azealia Banks and her energy on the Dance Stage was fantastic; I felt instantly more badass just being around her. Of course the crowd went mental for “212” and she wouldn’t be someone I would pay to see but definitely catch her if you get the chance. With a long car journey home that night, and pre-empting the five day hangover, I had just enough time to see The Cribs. As a Wakefield band, the Jarmans clearly stated their love for Leeds Fest who supported them from the start and it really showed through in their set. I know understand what separates them from many other similar bands because their live shows just blow you away. They deserve to be headlining the Main Stage, no question.
And so there ends my extended weekend. Of course, there are a handful of other bands I wished I’d seen, but I would much rather be havfing fun on the campsite as well than running round with a programme like a headless chicken. I think I got my money’s worth, now excuse me whilst I spend another day recovering with my duvet and waiting for next year.
Started the weekend with Iceland’s Of Monsters & Men, who were amazing; although I only knew one song previous to seeing them, I felt like I knew more, and will definitely be downloading their album. Next were Band Of Skulls, who I vaugley remembered from a couple of years ago, so I knew a couple of songs and they were really good actually. We then sat outside the main stage and heard Eagles Of Death Metal, who I previously saw supporting Arctic Monkeys. Sweet Jesus, the lead singer is a knob; their music wasn’t terrible, but I can’t stick that man, so irritating. The Black Keys were really good, including my favourite “Tighten Up”; I thought they may just play tracks from 2011’s El Camino, since no one seems to know they’ve had seven albums so far, but they played a mixture of material, with a lot take from their Brothers album. Tall Ships were incredible, the crowd was really small too, and they were superb to dance to (albeit alone).
Well… we decided to get really drunk in the morning by playing ‘imaginary Ring Of Fire’ (just Ring Of Fire with no cards, so you just pick what ever you want). Basically it involves making rules all the time such as “only speak in Scouse” etc. We somehow managed to see Hadouken! which was so so funny, we were the knobs jumping around with Carlsberg boxes on our heads. I then manage to almost sober up for Spector, who were amazing. Crystal Castles were next, and I swear Alice Glass has got even more fucking mental. Lucy Rose followed by Alt-J was a great double. I popped to Bombay Bicycle Club for a while who were perfect as always, even on the fourth time seeing them, followed by the fifth time to see The Courteeners, who never disappoint. Headliners The Cure were AMAZING, although I watched them on my own at the end in a very drunk state, but still so so good.
Blood Red Shoes started my day who were amazing. The crowd weren’t great, a double shame since no one I was with really knew their stuff that well. Ppopped to see some of twin atlantic, who were incredibly Scottish. Some more drinking and getting vodka confiscated led me to Jake Bugg, the tent was so packed but he was great and perfect. Somehow ended up at Enter Shikari, and discovered I knew a lot more of their tracks than I’d admit to admit to. Somehow convinced myself to see Florence + The Machine again, but left nice and early for the fouth time seeing The Cribs and there is a reason they’re my fave band ever.
Things I learnt this weekend include:
- I’m too old for this now really,
- I am still strong enough to have people on my shoulders
- I am way to old to start making pits and also i am a girl, pits are not a good idea, very bruisey.
- Single skinned tents are dubious, and being in a 2 man tent alone means you WILL be cold.
- Even at the age of 19, I WILL cry at songs. I have now cried FOUR TIMES to “Be Safe” by The Cribs.
I get why people go to Leeds for the nightlife as it is good, but what I lack is an ability to waste £200 solely on getting bladdered in a field for a weekend, so music is the main reason (and pretty much the only one) I go back, every. fucking. year. Okay three years in a row, but still.
For the first time; Pulled Apart By Horses, Deap Vally, Howler, Django Django, Kaiser Chiefs, The Back Keys, Foo Fighters, Justice, Funeral Suits, Friends, Spector, The Hives, Alt-J, The Cure, The Maccabees, Florence + The Machine, Kasabian.
For the 2nd, 3rd, 4th or in one case 9th Time; Little Comets, Tribes, The Joy Formidable, Lucy Rose, Bombay Bicycle Club, The Courteeners, Summer Camp, Los Campesinos!, Blood Red Shoes, Mystery Jets, The Vaccines, The Cribs
A fun game to play with lists like this are to guess who I wanted to see and who I ended up at because pals. You’ll be wrong.
Maccabees for fucking sure. I hadn’t seen them before and they were fucking incredible, played loads off their last album which I adore, the crowd were good, the lightening was mint and they sounded fantastic. Otherwise, The Cure impressed the hour I saw them, I knew 2 songs but the last one was “Friday, I’m In Love” so can’t complain. Kaiser Chiefs were great as I hoped, SO MANY BANGING CHOONS. 15 year old Ste was so happy.
Justice were great after I bailed on Foo Fighters (more about that later), as I said on the time “leaving a guitar band for a dance band, what’s happened to me?” Do I fuck care though. Alt-J weren’t as good as I hoped they’d be but still really ace. Little Comets were mint as I was pissed on Thursday and the crowd was ace, I’ve seen them three times this summer and they’re just fun yano? You can go watch em knowing you’ll have a good time even if yr never blown away. Really enjoyed The Joy Formidable in the tent after the main stage last year, proper hair raising stuff. Their new track is beautiful but I was disappointed they didn’t play it.
Lucy Rose was LOVELY again, I love her. So good. And she was great with Bombay Bicycle Club too, who get better every single fucking time I see them. Really surprised by them. I love when crowds sing along with bands, so for that alone The Courteeners get in, don’t feel too disappointed alternative crowd as Summer Camp were absolutely fantastic. Elizabeth just has “it”. She’s so sexy and sassy and I also love her. Shame her and her boyfriend/husband(?) is so cute together eh? Blood Red Shoes were really really fucking good. Hardly ever listen to them on record and nearly two years since I last saw them and they were fantastic. Incredible musicians. The Vaccines; I was pissed, they played the 5 songs I like and the crowd was really good, simple. The Cribs are fantastic live. Bit quiet so not the best I’ve seen them, but BE FUCKING SAFE COME ON.
Foo Fighters, massively. I got bored early on and left after an hour and a half… STILL SAW THEM LONGER THAN ANY OTHER BAND. I just didn’t know enough stuff and though Grohl is a great front band he couldn’t carry it on that alone. Los Campesinos! sounded great but the crowd was shite and I was a bit disappointed by that. If you put them on in the Festival Republic tent at like 7pm, they’d be class, put them there and bleh. Starkie met Gareth after and he said he was nice. Mystery Jets are like they are on record, sometimes good, a lot of the time meh. I just expected more. Elsewhere people were alright (I did really enjoy The Black Keys actually but I wasn’t BLOWN away) or unsurprisingly shit. Good stuff.
Drinking is fun. Was pretty much drunk from Saturday night to the moment we left. With being pretty drunk thursday and friday nights too. I don’t need alcohol to have fun, but things are a lot funnier if you are saying shit you dont understand what yr saying. It also makes “raving” a lot easier.
ALSO IT DIDN’T RAIN THAT MUCH, THANK FUCK FOR THAT.
Originally posted here
This won’t come as a surprise, but Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band are the best live act I’ve ever seen. The evening flew by without a dull moment – especially impressive considering the thirty-song set lasted for three and half hours – and left me immediately planning how soon I can see them again. And all this without a single special effect or gimmick; just a brilliant band playing brilliant music.
With such a vast catalogue to choose from, Bruce and his band did a good job of picking a selection that gave as comprehensive an overview as possible of his extensive career. And considering the time span of this career, it was amazing how well it all gelled together. Less well known songs were well placed between the classics and, despite a gap of nearly forty years between them, tracks from Born to Run sounded just as fresh as those from new release Wrecking Ball.
Bruce’s performance was every inch as energetic as it was forty years ago, too. He leapt around, jumped up and down, and danced the night away – all with a big grin on his face. He seemed to genuinely be having a great time. What really made the performance special, too, was the degree of audience participation throughout the night. Bruce seemed to spend more time down with the crowd than up with his band, and spent the breaks between songs entertaining us with stories in his deep American slur.
I think I wasn’t the only one who burst with jealousy when fans were pulled up on stage. A young boy did an impressive a job when Bruce handed over the mic during “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day”, and as the band played “Dancing in the Dark”, one lucky girl got to dance with the Boss a la Courtney Cox in the original music video. Another jammy fan grooved alongside cool saxophonist Jake Clemons, nephew of the late Big Man Clarence Clemons, who was later remembered in a touching tribute.
Although I was much further back than these fortunate few, the whole crowd was included in the fun that Bruce and the band exuded. Being exposed to a typically rainy British summer evening in the open-topped stadium didn’t matter at all – we were all too busy singing and dancing along to notice. Creating an atmosphere like that in such a vast space is something only a rare breed of performers can do, and sustaining it for over three hours is something only the Boss can do. To sum up, if you’re thinking of going to see Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band then do it!
It was clear from the moment that Florence Welch walked on stage at the NEC that this was going to be a good show. As the atmospheric opening notes of ‘Only If For A Night’ reverberated through the arena, her silhouette appeared at the top of a flight of stairs with a magnificent Art Deco ‘Ceremonials’ backdrop – and the crowd went wild. Her penchant for extravagant costumes had resulted in a skin-tight black cat suit with a slightly Gothic shoulderpiece and cape (which, of course, only Florence Welch could ever possibly pull off) and what might have looked like ridiculous fancy dress on someone else was, on Florence, perfect. It seamlessly slotted in to what was, together with the stage design and the music, an utterly entertaining performance.
In contrast to her imposing stage presence, Florence was surprisingly meek when talking to the crowd. I lost count of how many times she thanked us all for being there – her astounding success and extravagant costumes clearly haven’t gone to her head. Her speaking voice was also unexpectedly quiet considering the pair of lungs she has, but that only endeared her to the crowd even more.
There was no way that her hushed tones were going to restrain Florence from getting the crowd going, though. She must have tested the structural integrity of the arena to its maximum by getting the whole crowd jumping throughout ‘Dog Days Are Over’. Most of the time, though, we needed no encouragement – it was almost impossible to stay still when irresistible tunes like ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ and ‘You’ve Got The Love’ kicked off. And, pleasingly, the setlist didn’t shy away from these big hits.
Although Florence’s performance was pretty all-consuming, a word must be said about the band as well. I’m never quite sure whether Florence and the Machine should be referred to as ‘her’ or ‘them’, but in any case it was clear on the night that the band was a vital part of the act. They did a brilliant job of transferring heavily layered studio tracks, particularly those of ‘Ceremonials’, to the live stage. In fact, they didn’t put a foot wrong all night.
In short, there really wasn’t much more that Florence and the Machine could have done. The whole stage was buzzing with infectious energy, and both the music and the crowd were electric as a result. Florence Welch proved, as she has done so many times, that she is more than just a singer – she’s a born performer too, and one that I can’t wait to see again.
As the lights dimmed we were greeted not by the recently-reunited Bloc Party but by a superb laser display, rotating hipster triangles and all. The coloured circles on the cover of the band’s comeback album Four were blown up to psychedelic proportions, entrancing the revellers, who almost failed to notice when the four-piece actually took to the stage. With a complete lack of acknowledgment towards the crowd, which surely can only come with knowing that every single person in the room is gagging to hear you, they opened immediately with new track "3 x 3". It’s insanely heavy chorus soon made up for the fact that you really couldn’t connect with the song yet, engaging the eager crowd to surge forward in frenzy. However, the first half of the set was marred with a sense that some of the newer songs were either not up to scratch or the band had misjudged which ones would go down well live. Even the choice to play "Trojan Horse" as their first already-released song, wasn’t greeted especially well, although the simplified, stripped down guitar version of “Waiting for the 7:18” was fantastic.
It took wheeling out first hit "Banquet" for it to feel like Bloc Party really were back with a vengeance; even the new songs just seemed to get better after it. After Kele Okereke claimed that it was his favourite off the new album, "Team A" did indeed show some serious potential. Dressed in a simple buttoned shirt and what can only be described as PE shorts, Kele seemed in complete control of the crowd and band, as they closed the set with a brilliant rendition of their keyboard-heavy standalone single "One More Chance", flowing epically, feedback and all, into the ever-so-popular "Helicopter".
It was the encore, though, that really stands out as the high point of the gig. Playing just one short, new ditty beforehand, the band really got the cups of piss flying with Intimacy opener "Ares". However the highlight of the night certainly must go to "This Modern Love". Perhaps we were all so knackered that the chance to stare in wonderment at the surreal laser displays, while the emotion of the song really overtook you, was just too perfect. Announcing the next would be their last song resulted in actual booing from the crowd. These were quelled immediately as he began a cheeky attempt at Rhianna’s "We Found Love" straight into the fan favourite dance anthem "Flux".
For their second gig in three years, you really couldn’t tell that Bloc Party had been gone that long. As for Four, it will certainly be a dark affair, and yes some of the songs were a wee bit iffy on first listen; "Real Talk" sounding more like Kings of Leon than what we really want to hear. Nonetheless, there was some seriously heavy potential, and we can be certain that harcore fans will lap it up regardless. The band have lost none of that raw energy, drummer Matt Tong holding the whole affair together with unrivalled skill, and the only major difference that seems to have occurred during their hiatus period, is that guitarist Russell is looking a lot less emo-tastic in the hair department than four years ago.
- Headline photo: Kavita41