musicOMH‘s two reviewers were there to cover all the bases…
Saturday began with the anguish and suffering only felt by those who know what it is to spend a night ‘sleeping’ in a tent in which they didn’t fit and so have to resort to adopting bizarre semi-foetal positions to remain within the canvas confines. Physical pain was then soon joined by its evil cousin financial ache as it became clear it was going to cost nearly 6 for a bacon sandwich and a coffee.
Lightened of wallet and spasming of muscle, we merrily skipped towards our first port of call on the second of this three day event: girl-boy-girl threesome The Rogers Sisters. Dressed all in white, they were an energetic and sparky blend of the B-52′s pop sensibilities and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs jagged guitars, so it was unfortunate that they seemed little more than a momentary distraction for the majority of the watching throng. A pity too, because they were lots of fun.
Onwards then to the main stage, home for the rest of the day. Graham Coxon was our next entertainment, darting through a snotty, punky set with charm, if little presence. Although he has some great songs (Bittersweet Bundle Of Misery, Freakin’ Out), none really fare well on this size of event, which really leaves Graham looking a little bit lost up there.
Elbow didn’t look lost, having generated an aptitude for this kind of thing after seemingly being scheduled here for every festival for the past forty-seven years. They produced a set that while perfectly pleasant and melodic hardly quickened the pulse; the sole exciting part of their set was the two streams of confetti fired from cannons on either side of the stage. It was an act of showmanship that would have further unforeseen consequences when the Queens Of The Stone Age appeared.
“I wish that band Elbow hadn’t blown all these fuckin’ pieces of paper across the fuckin’ stage”, cursed Josh Homme, “Completely ruins the fuckin’ set”, a remark which presumably led to Guy Garvey beating a hasty retreat to somewhere safer than backstage – Rio de Janeiro, possibly. Bludgeoning their way through a set slanted toward the heavy, the Queens pretty much steamrollered over everything that had gone before.
First It Giveth, Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret and Burn The Witch were all spectacular, as were The Fun Machine Took A Shit And Died and the extended version of No One Knows which closed, resplendent with multiple false endings. You know, those occasions when a band stops playing, the crowd applaud wildly only for the band to start up again, leaving everyone present to look around sheepishly, save for the smug pricks who glance about in a self-satisfied manner as if to say, “I knew that wasn’t the end of the song; you people call yourselves fans?!”. Anyway, it had lots of those. Oh, and there was also a guy in a kilt crowd surfing. And yes, it is true what they say about what people wear underneath kilts. And no, it isn’t ideal crowd surfing wear. At least not for the people behind you.
“I think today is the best day of Leeds. You’ve got bands like The Pixies, like Death From Above 1979 and like The Coral…”, Mr. Homme declared towards the end their set. Missing from that list were the band on after them, The Killers. While it may be attributing Machiavellian connotation to a perfectly innocent statement, the derogatory implications the snub implied were hard to overlook. And you could see his point, rather like the crowd-surfing kilt wearer from earlier.
Because the words familiarity, breeding and contempt just kept coming to mind. Yes, All These Things I’ve Done, with the “I’ve got soul…” refrain bellowed back by everyone within a half-mile radius was one of those festival moments. Yes, the oh-so unexpected ‘new-song’ was promising. Much of the rest of the set was totally uninspiring. Sandwiched between two musical behemoths, desperately needing some more material and with 60,000 people behind me all seemingly intent on seeing exactly how small they could make the space I was standing in, The Killers fell flat.
But praise be, the Pixies made everything right. It was like watching the best-band-in-the-world-ever, perform all of their best songs on a big stage. Hang on, it was watching the best-band-in-the-world-ever perform all of their best songs on a big stage. Debaser, I Bleed, Subbacultcha, Cactus, Caribou, it was spectacular. They could even afford to totally fuck-up the climactic Gigantic and not spoil it in the slightest. They left looking delighted. We left feeling delighted, and even the thought of another night trying to fit inside that tent couldn’t sink the mood.
Day two of the Carling Weekender in Leeds, and would you believe it, the sun was shining. Kind of.
Goldie Lookin’ Chain were our first act of the day over on the Main Stage, and they produced a typically juvenile, yet very funny, 40 minutes or so. Colin Murray’s introduction of a “bunch of c*nts in tracksuits” set the tone and the Welsh comedy rappers kicked off their set with songs about Alicia Keys and Claims Direct. Highlights from the forthcoming album had people’s hands in the air and everywhere you looked there were smiles on faces. Safe as f*ck, as the boys themselves would have it.
Not quite so hilarious, but equally enjoyable, were The Wedding Present. This was the usual polished performance from the archtypical 80s indie band, and David Gedge was in typically wry mood: “this was a hit when most of you were in your mummies’ tummies” he said when introducing My Favourite Dress. The crowd seemed a bit subdued, but selections from the classic Seamonsters album left this reviewer very happy.
The Subways were at the NME/Radio 1 tent, and the impossibly young trio were as energetic as ever. Bassist Charlotte Cooper bopped around like a Duracell bunny, and Billy Lunn was just everywhere – on top of the drum kit, and in a moment which gave the security staff a heart scare, atop the speaker stacks. They sounded fantastic as well, with Oh Yeah being one of the highlights of the day. Last year they were in the Carling tent – what price the main stage next year I wonder?
After all that jumping about, Elbow provided the perfect comedown vibes over at the Main Stage. Fugitive Motel and Newborn were just made to be lying in the grass replenishing your energy and Guy Garvey and company didn’t disappoint. The appearance of a load of tickertape exploding over the audience during set closer Forgot Myself was particularly spectacular.
The Coral may look like typical scallies just out of school, but this image belies the reality that they’re fantastic musicians. Note perfect renditions of Pass It On and In The Morning had everyone dancing and clapping along. One audience member said of James Skelley: “he doesn’t say much does he?”. With respect, sir, he doesn’t really need to.
While Queens Of The Stone Age rocked the Main Stage, I took the opportunity to check out The National. Those expecting the understated elegance of Alligator were in for a shock though. Lead singer Matt Berninger looks rather like you may imagine Chris Martin would look after a total emotional breakdown – clutching his arms round himself and feverishly smoking, he seems to be a man with issues.
There were nice renditions of Baby We’ll Be Fine and Friend Of Mine but by the time Berninger was screaming the chorus of Abel down the microphone it all got a bit too angsty for me.
After just one album, The Killers appeared to lack the pedigree to be so high up the bill. There’s no denying their popularity however, and the main stage area was packed by the time Brandon Flowers appeared. He’s got the reputation as a bit of a showman, but he seemed to lack energy tonight – but the songs certainly came alive on stage. Smile Like You Mean It and Glamourous Indie Rock N Roll were soaring highlights, while a magnificent version of All These Things I’ve Done provided the big singalong moment of the weekend. It was just a shame that several size 10 boots landed on my head as the crowd made the rather strange decision to crowd surf and mosh to the sleek pop of The Killers.
Finally, it was the moment everyone had been waiting for as Frank Black, Kim Deal, David Lovering and Joey Santiago took to the stage. When Pixies reformed last year, I didn’t take up the chance to buy tickets for fear that my teenage memories would be ruined. Tonight proved that I was wrong. Very wrong.
For the Pixies set was quite simply the highlight of the festival. Scratch that, it was the highlight of the year. In a brave move, the band opened with the slowed down ‘surf’ version of Wave Of Mutilation, before running through the classics. Where Is My Mind, Here Comes Your Man, Cactus, Debaser and, of course, Monkey’s Gone To Heaven all sounded wonderfully timeless.
From Joey Santiago’s pyrotechnics with his guitar during Vamos through to Kim’s renditions of Winterlong and In Heaven (a moment which produced a young girl behind me to shout, at a woman old enough to be her mother, “go on Kimmy, you sexy bitch!”) every moment of their set was to be savoured.
It’s unsure how long they’ll stay together this time but, for now, the Pixies are, once more, the best band in the world.