May 25, 2011
Live Review: Radio 1 Big Weekend
Carlisle, Saturday, May 14th - Sunday May 15th
Even if you turned up thinking this was the sort of hellhole where Comedy Dave could sing parody songs on the main stage without being dragged off by his hair, it soon becomes obvious that you’d have to be a real horrible bastard not to have fun at this festival. You’d also have to be on the ball to catch all its surprises. Look out! It’s a surprise early Arctic Monkeys set, and doesn’t Alex Turner look thrilled? Oh your majesty, you honour us with your presence.
Yep, they’re playing it cool as always, and after opening with a punchy ‘The View From The Afternoon’ and ‘Brianstorm’, they calmly flabbergast all and sundry with two new tracks, the twanging sultry strop of single ‘Don’t Sit Down ’Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ and the charmingly cocky ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’, which features such choice Turner gems as “She flicks her red-hot revelation off the tip of her tongue” and “Makes me want to blow the candles out just to see if you glow in the dark”. Hawt.
Talking of foxy, Jessie J’s ‘Who’s Laughing Now’ is the sort of faux-loner anthem belted out by a demonstrably attractive woman that screams of engineered martyrdom – but there’s no denying the lass has a decent set of pipes on her. ‘Do It Like A Dude’ is so inherently fierce that individual X chromosomes are applauding. A swift dash to catch Cage The Elephant, who often come dangerously close to being an extended tribute act to the noughties, but that might be why they are so totally brilliant. Like Craig Nicholls fronting the Pixies, and as mad as that sounds.
From the sublime to the ridiculous: Chase and Status – a Linkin Park for the new rave generation – are slightly unpalatable so early on a Saturday afternoon. Not that there’s a good time for such mind-numbingly obnoxious music, unless you’ve had a lobotomy. Thank God it’s time for Tinie Tempah, who provides Saturday’s first peak. ‘Pass Out’ and ‘Miami To Ibiza’ both sound impossibly fresh despite being played to death for what seems like centuries.
Friendly Fires try manfully to own the party with ‘Live Those Days Tonight’, but they have the misfortune of being up against The Black Eyed Peas, who understand that, when it comes to putting on a show, robot dancers trump running your vintage Hawaiian shirt though the wash and not wearing any socks every time.
Rounding everything off, Foo Fighters deliver exactly what everyone expects. While we’re on a bit of a pop music high and this seems (and indeed is) morose by comparison, there’s nothing coy about the set list; ‘Monkey Wrench’ follows ‘Best Of You’ to bring fully grown men to their knees.
Sunday openers Pulled Apart By Horses are unsurpassable as ever, and everyone could probably pack up and go home after ‘Back To The Fuck Yeah’ but the show, unfortunately, must go on. Fast forward a few hours and the stripped-down live band approach that worked for Jessie J yesterday seems to flounder for Katy B, leaving you feeling there’s nothing to get your teeth into. Meanwhile Noah And The Whale remain irritatingly impossible to dislike. So what if there’s no real reason for anyone to whistle, ever, when the world’s noisy enough already? Aren’t they lovely? “Love love love!” Woo yeah! ‘Waiting For My Chance To Come’ sounds like someone pouring sun-warmed honey down your cochleas, Charlie Fink’s fuzzy (slightly Fozzy) tones rubbing away all the bad stuff like sleep from your eyes.
Gerard Way’s Su Pollard wig seems designed to help kids who get beaten up by making him appear infinitely more slappable than them. While My Chemical Romance’s set is painfully short and could do with about 200 times more tracks from ‘The Black Parade’ they still do ‘SING’ better than the Glee lot, and gut-wrenching angst better than anyone. It hardly even needs to be said that The Strokes outshine pretty much everyone; they remain the greatest indie band in the world, and watching them it’s hard not to ache at the idea that they’ll get old and do insurance adverts. ‘New York City Cops’ still sounds so good, and it’s tempting to just top yourself as soon as they finish ‘Last Nite’. Best not to, though, because you’d miss Lady Gaga.
News flash! This creature, whatever it is, is amazing. If you don’t already get it, liking her is simple: just disregard everything you know about her. She’s fictional, like a Teletubby, and you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift with her, but there’s a time and a place. This set displays her at her intensely eccentric best. ‘Born This Way’ is followed by a medley of older tracks, cut short for a jazzy cover of Nat King Cole’s ‘Orange Colored Sky’ perched on the piano, dedicated to Prince William and Kate Middleton, followed by a stripped-down version of ‘Speechless’. Bitch be trippin’, but no-one tells Gaga to stick to the hits.
She’s obtuse and incredible right up to the closing ‘Judas’, which is so ballsy she’s in danger of starting up those rumours all over again. The new songs sound great, from the full-throttle piano ballad of ‘The Edge Of Glory’ to the sultry sway of ‘Americano’, and for all the hype and debate, you can’t question her power onstage while she implores “Put your paws up!” and roars “LET’S HIT IT CARLISLE!” Doubters are to be heard afterwards, but you can hardly blame people for hating something so omnipresent. They must be trying pretty hard – but they’ll never be putting as much effort in as Gaga. Pop music, rock’n’roll, who gives a fuck? It’s all good, that’s what we’ve learned.
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