Entering the festival site on Saturday was akin to sinking into a quagmire. Glutinous mud was the order of the day, which made progress between the stages increasingly risky, especially after a few beers and as it got darker.
As well as heavyweight Danish bill-toppers Sort Sol and the slightly left-field choice (for trendy Northside, at least) of unabashed pop artist Thomas Helmig, Saturday featured a number of acts from the UK.
Not that Helmig was unpopular, at least judging by the number of people that could be heard singing along with the chorus to one of his biggest hits ‘Stupid man’.
Saturday night’s all right for fighting
The first of the UK artists up was Tom Odell, a singer-songwriter who leads from the piano, with drums, bass and guitar backing.
A couple of chords were enough to reveal that Odell’s major influence is early Elton John – and you won’t hear any complaints from me about that.
The music has been updated a little, with some mild electronics and sampling, but all in all a good set of narrative songs with fairly simple rhythmic structures.
The group of teenage girls that I was standing next to certainly took to the young Englishman, and his music was familiar enough for the crowd to join in on some of the tunes.
After Odell, I cleansed the palate with a little of the Danish electropop quartet When Saints Go Machine (couldn’t resist the name)!
The band’s lead singer used various vocal effects so that his voice sounded either heavily distorted or almost falsetto at times.
In places, their mellow washes of electronic effects conjured up sounds reminiscent of vast string orchestras playing pizzicato, or gigantic etherial harps.
Back to ‘Cool Britannia’
Then on to the Blue Stage for another UK entry, Ride. Their music was something of a throwback to the Britpop era – with clear elements of bands such as the Stone Roses, Dodgy, Bluetones and Coldplay; all in all a good set, but not exactly original.
There is a discussion in here somewhere about whether music has progressed at all – or much anyway – since the last time I attended a festival, which was Reading back in 1975!
A killer set
Someone had recommended The Kills to me, so I thought I should check them out. The band is primarily a duo, with English guitarist Jamie Hince and charismatic American singer Alison Mosshart.
For the concert, they had added two extra members and delivered a solid set based on grunge and garage rock, with audible influences of the Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones.
The metronomic beat of ‘Kissy kissy’ ended with a riff that sounded very much like the Kinks song ‘You really got me’. The last number of their set, ‘Monkey 23’, featured a tasty bit of slide guitar playing from Hince.
An all-out assault
I had intended to see the set from Richard Ashcroft, ex The Verve, but had to take a break to eat and sit down because I wanted to come back suitably refreshed for The Prodigy.
One of the most popular acts at the festival so far, the crowd was pretty dense in front of the stage and there was a palpable air of expectancy in the air. After an intro with an impressive lightshow and prerecorded music, a bombastic mock-classical fanfare blasted out, and we were off.
The Prodigy provided what can only be described as an audio-visual blitzkrieg. “Everybody in the place, let’s go” growled dreadlocked tattooed MC and vocalist Maxim Reality – and we did – for the next hour.
The set featured such crowd-pleasers as ‘Wild Frontier’ and ‘Breathe’, with dystopian lyrics such as “Breathe the pressure, come play my game, I’ll test ya, psychosomatic, addict, insane …”
The climax of the set was a spirited rendering of the extremely un-PC ‘Smack my bitch up’, which really got the crowd singing along and dancing frantically. This was followed by a well-deserved encore medley.
The good, the bad and the ugly
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years regarding rock music is that you can nearly always distinguish a top-flight band from one from the next level after just a couple of notes. They just have that certain je ne sais quoi – and The Prodigy have this in spades. Their light show alone was incredible.
Call me an old fart if you like, but on the minus side, at least for me, was the incessant use of the word ‘fuck’. “Where are my fucking people?” “Where are my fucking warriors?” “Fucking Aarhus, fucking Denmark …”
As my old primary school teacher would have said: “Swearing is neither clever nor amusing.” Things have sure changed since then! Suggestion: maybe a future tie-breaker in a pub quiz – was the word ‘fuck’ used more times in The Prodigy’s NorthSide set or in the film ‘Pulp Fiction’?
Anyway, and so to bed – I’ll have to catch Sort Sol another time.