August 17, 2003 13:25

V FESTIVAL STAFFORDSHIRE, NME STAGE, SATURDAY Underworld Tickets

Liverpool rules! Underworld may headline but the day belongs to The Coral and their Scouse magic. Honourable mentions too for Evan Dando, Tim Burgess and a bunch of sumo wrestlers...

V FESTIVAL STAFFORDSHIRE, NME STAGE, SATURDAY
So it’s left to Underworld to close the day by leading the fatigued in a merry dance. It’s just a shame no one turns up to join in. The pounding drums of ‘Born Slippy’ send the threadbare field into dizzy abandon, and within moments it’s 1997 again. Only with less people. And fewer thrills. Resulting in a bit of a damp jizz stain all round, really. Credit due to Karl Hyde and his enthusiastic and paranoid rantings, the tiny little man and his vocabulary of garbled gobbledygook did his best to rescue something from their performance. But tonight’s glory belonged to Coral, and Coral
alone.


While it’s obvious they were the true headliners, it’s still important to remember that a little over a year ago the Scouse eccentrics snuggled comfortably in the category of ‘ones to watch’. Now, as the prophecy becomes realised, it seems like every head in Stafford turns to watch the boys' coronation as worthy kings of quintessential British pop. Number one albums, critical adoration and not undue praise have given Coral a breath of newfound confidence. And tonight, armed with a slew of classics both new and old, Coral demonstrated just how at ease they are with the upgrade to
category of 'proper fucking big band, la'. It suits them.


However, firstly it’s the turn of rag and bone soul man Tim Burgess to take a breather from The Charlatans and have a stab at his West Coast-tinged sun-baked dream pop. And for the most part it’s splendid stuff, relying on the charm and humility of his day job to spread joy throughout the assembled throng. The faux falsetto he’s adopted as of late sounds like aural cancer, mind. Someone should tell him, and quick.


Before he gets on stage himself we've already seen former Evan Dando mainman Evan Dando bobbing his head furiously throughout The Zutons' set. And we do the same through his, because when it becomes time for Bob Dylan to grace us with his presence, he churns out reason after reason as to why it’s so great to have him back after his four-year hiatus from live performances, his songs sizzling in their natural habitat; the glorious afternoon sun.


The Zutons ride into town and a devotional crowd swells into the most
enthusiastic crowd of the day. Brody Armstrong looking like your older
sister's crazysexycool punk rock friend, Joan Jett on steroids and, consequently, the most rocking person on-site. As she leads her band into a raucous rock ‘n’ roll rampage of drunken street punk holler, the hearts of her adoring servants swell and Stafford belongs to her.


Shack are on top of their game this afternoon, the afternoon sun gently
caressing the forlorn melodies of the Liverpool foursome. Unfortunately NME is by this time captivated by the amateur sumo wrestling championships taking place in front of the NME Stage, crazy semi-naked dudes taking on competitors from all corners in an intricately constructed ring of crushed beer cups. It’s terrifically entertaining stuff, which unfortunately draws the attention of many away from the understated pleasures contained within the brothers Head's back catalogue.


You might have thought that socio-political funkster Michael Franti and
his funk soul brothers in Spearhead would piss on the sunkissed parade with their rigid left wing politik. Nothing of the sort. Franti delivers a
sucker punch of inspiring and impassioned political set pieces, before devoting the majority of their set to throwing the best party to be found in Stafford on an August afternoon. When Spearhead's sweet, sweet soul music draws to a close, Franti climbs into the crowd to continue the celebration. He will be at it some 40 minutes later, dreadlocks whirling and lost in
song. Bless.


To kick things off there’s some Scouse magic being brewed. Eclectic tomfoolery from [/a] starts the day on a cosmic high, whilst the [a]-esque stomp of The Stands tempts the sun out to play with a mischievous wink. The sun duly obliges and the scene is set for a joyous day that’ll culminate in the performance by their Scouse brethren. Today, Liverpool rules.


James Jam

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