Phoenix remain insulated to this and zip straight into Too Young which wins an earnest response. Marred by appalling acoustics, the Frenchmen soldier on. By Everything Is Everything, a considerable cross section of the several hundred at the front are won over.
The brisk walk to the NME stage involves passing the wall of shame. I call it that because there are about thirty men and one girl relieving their kidneys in the 3 o’clock sun. Security idly loiter about ten metres from them. Shameful…
Brandon Flowers looks mightily dapper in his white jacket. Knowing they’re flavour of the month, The Killers casually work through Hot Fuss, hazing the field with their infectious anthems. While beauts On Top and Midnight Show are accepted warmly, the largest cheers remain reserved for Mr Brightside, a blistering Somebody Told Me, and the magnificent All These Things That I’ve Done. Even the girl urinating by the high ridge couldn’t take her eyes off the action.
Faithless may as well pitch a ‘reserved’ sign by the V Stage: Barely a lump of grass is to be seen for as far as the eye can see. With LSK to the left of the stage, it’s straight into I Want More. Soon we’re groveling at Maxi Jazz’s altar. Having shaken Stafford with Insomnia ten minutes ago, Jazz answers everybody’s prayers with God Is A DJ – an awesome site to behold from our back seat. Not that we were sitting.
The Charlatans don’t feel right for the mood so I’m persuaded to give Keane a go. Tom Chaplin will never shake the public school boy/choir boy bananas thrown at him,but he isn’t bothered; galvanised by sellout tours and a willing mass before him. While they’re not a live force per se, you can’t help but be drawn in by the anthems spilling out of Hopes and Fears. Elbow and Embrace up next. I need say no more. But hey, where are Ocean Colour Scene?
Back in the sweat box of the JJB, Amy Winehouse stalks the stage and squeezes out lots of “ooohs” and “yeeeahs”. The muddy acoustics make life difficult for her, and on closer inspection results vary. Winehouse has a sensuality about her that has much of the male contingent entranced (it helps wearing a high cut zebra skin dress). It’s difficult to tell whether she’s enjoying herself or bricking it as her expressions flicker with each cock of the head and sway of the hips. Stronger Than Me goes down more like a Christina Aguilera singing contest. Belatedly the PA picks up for Pumps, just as Winehouse loosens up. But by now many are restless and awaiting Kanye West’s glittering replacement, Kelis.
Twenty-four hours ago Kelis was booed offstage from the Chelmsford site. Showing up half an hour late hadn’t endeared her to her southern fans, who resorted to ripping down the standing barrier. The signs weren’t too good as the MC spun some Biggy and her band warmed us up for a good fifteen minutes. Just as I was reaching for my flak jacket on skips Kelis. Hip shaking and dripping with sass, she giggles: “Y’all look daaamn hot”. Back at V2000 she covered Smells Like Teen Spirit, and eyebrows rise once more as Millionaire airs. Sadly Andre 3000 fails to materialise. But Trick Me and Milkshake do, prompting one of the best six minutes of the weekend.
The no frills environment of the Music Choice Stage was to prove the perfect sanctuary for anyone bored of big name headliners. And who better to assume this mantle than The Bees? The opening bars of Wash In The Rain heralded a delightful headline set, with Aaron Fletcher and his merry men on fabulous form. With soft lighting encouraging a jolly pub atmosphere, much of Free The Bees is aired, with the few exceptions such as crowd pleaser A Minha Menina. But with the likes of Horsemen, a stomping No Atmosphere, the tender Hourglass and The Russian who can argue? Incredibly, Punchbag was dropped, but with a rubber chicken in his left hand, and a mic in the other, a gleeful Fletcher led the animal noises for final sing-along Chicken Payback. Genius.
For nearly 100 you more than get your moneys worth in bands – there’s usually two or three worth checking out at any one time. To witness the Pixies last UK appearance (for now) was worth the ticket alone. One feels however, an extra day of music would go the distance from making a good weekend a great one.