Live Review: Rock Am Ring

Nurburgring, Germany, 2nd-5th June

Which band member has a 10-year-old sex tape that has yet to be discovered by the general public? Which seemingly stoic frontman actually has the innate ability to go-go dance? These are the things we learned at Rock Am Ring. But first, [a]Coldplay[/a] also have new things to teach us. They boldly open their big return with an unheard song, [b]‘Hurts Like Heaven’[/b]. It’s a starry-eyed radio-ready thing, with the sort of carefree, chimingly melodic guitar work that pop-era Cure did so well. It is chucking it down, but fans stick around through the slow, acoustic start of second newie [b]‘Major Minus’[/b] for its slow-brewing, ringing chorus. [a]Coldplay[/a] are an odd headliner for a heavy rock festival, but come Saturday night, Rock Am Ring’s metalheads are feeling a bit cuddly.

“This is a quiet one, so you can sleep if you want,” jokes Martin introducing acoustic slowie [b]‘Us Against The World’[/b]. The last new number, [a]‘Charlie Brown’[/a], has a little of the wide-eyed innocence its title suggests, but also a sense of teenage danger straight from the Springsteen/[a]Arcade Fire[/a] lyric book: (“I stole a key/Took a car down town where the lost boys meet”) and a driving bridge that opens into a calm field of ambient contemplation, as the big lasers flicker out into the night. Of the new material played tonight (including new single [b]‘Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall’[/b]), all of it sounds like Coldplay, all of it sounds adequate, but there’s nothing here that feels remarkable.

A trek across the racetrack gives us the late-night special, Rob Zombie, who manages to bring the rock back along with some truly evil shit during the witching hours. [a]Interpol[/a], by contrast, are like silk after a day of leather, and tie with [a]Jesse Leach[/a] of Times Of Grace as best dressed performers at the festival. Jesse’s fans, though, nearly win Most Enthusiastic Moshpit, only pipped by the sheer number going bananas for Avenged Sevenfold, who power through material mainly from last year’s [b]‘Nightmare’[/b] on the main stage.

The festival closes with another big comeback, the reformed and eternally mighty [a]System Of A Down[/a] pleasing the core metallers with a monumental [b]‘Hypnotize’[/b], Serj Tankian in pristine white shirt conducting the crowd through a gentle singalong to [b]‘Soldier Side’[/b] before lacerating the life out of their delighted ears in the pouring rain. I mean, god love ’em, but come on, who goes to Rock Am Ring to see [a]Coldplay[/a] and [a]Kings Of Leon[/a]? And the maker of that sex tape and the owner of those go-go dance skillz? We could tell you, but then we’d have to kill everyone.

Thomas Morgan