V FESTIVAL STAFFFORDSHIRE, MAIN STAGE, SATURDAY

Red Hot Chili Peppers catch the attention, David Gray doesn't, but it's Queens Of The Stone Age and PJ Harvey who blow everyone away...

Spiraling firework displays, light show explosions that threaten to pull down the national grid and Flea playing light-speed bass solos while dressed in a skeleton costume. Say what you like about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but you definitely can’t call them dull. They are, in fact, the anti-Clash, twisting the minds of every dullard present tonight who

couldn’t quite escape from the main stage quick enough. It’s awesome entertainment. We’re talking an OD on nostalgia to the funk-rock of ‘Suck My Kiss’, a singalong frenzy to ‘By The Way’ and a heart-stopping moment of magic during ‘Under The Bridge’. Oh yeah, and a bizarre desire to flirt with the intro to David Gray’s ‘London Calling’. Put it all together and you’ve got the craziest rock’n’roll circus in town.

Any man prepared to fritter away their commercial, yawn-rock rep by arriving on the Main Stage wearing nothing but a pink leotard whilst hammering through a set of melodica-tinged Scandinavian trance deserves our applause. Sadly, that man is not Clash and so we find ourselves slipping on our most comfortable of musical slippers and contemplating just how one man and his guitar managed to capture the hearts of 50,000 midlanders. Oh sure, there’s

something oddly affecting about the way ‘Babylon’ and ‘White Ladder’ manage to get a field full of couples to swap saliva in an obscene disquieting way. But wouldn’t it be great if someone could do this type of thing with good

tunes as well?

It takes Queens Of The Stone Age about 30 seconds to prove that they’re heavier than that

mesh-capped dude out of Patti Smith challenging Appleton’s beefcake bouncer to a bout of sumo wrestling in the ring that’s broken out near the NME Stage. ‘Nobody Knows’ and ‘Leg Of Lamb’ piledrive our skull with wired

energy, leaving Stafford awestruck, disorientated and totally flattened. Awesome.

But if Morcheeba rely on metal-plated muscle to see them through, then PJ Harvey adds a touch of style in her quest to become the hottest act of the

weekend. She hammers through the [/a]-on-steroids of ‘Good Fortune’, while elsewhere there’s a thrilling new track on display, called ‘Who The Fuck’. As a demonstration of everything that’s mind-shattering in rock’n’roll,

nobody can compete with this queen of the main stage.

No sooner have we shoved our drugs down every awkward orifice in an attempt to foil the over-zealous security dudes, than we’re having to relocate them again. In fact, we’re locked in a mad rush for the nearest Rizla in time for

[a]’s set of lightweight faux-soul. Thing is, do we need to skin up because their trip-hop jazz odyssey is ‘dreamy’ and ‘blissed out’, or more because the only way to endure it is with a kingsize spliff that would have James Skelly pulling a whitey?

[/a] arrive, signalling it’s time to load up on nostalgia and go back to those ker-azy days when bands could dance around like your uncle after seven pints of mild and get away with it. It’s a performance they probably wouldn’t want to see in the mirror, but hey, if you could incite a field full of beery loons to go gonzo-mental whenever you parped your keyboard, you would wouldn’t you?

It’s not often you see an entire main stage getting blown back to the Welsh border, but that’s exactly what happens when [a] allows her larynx to let rip. Thing is, you’re going to need a vocal performance that could out-opera Justin Darkness when your power ballads stink like the toilets next to the

ostrich curry stall.

Whatever, it’s certainly a more powerful way of waking up the punters than Tom McRae’s midday set of choirboy-folk. With violins, acoustic strumming and soaring falsetto, it’s a performance you could describe as ‘pleasant’. But only if you didn’t know how to spell ‘mind-numbing’.

Tim Jonze