18-20 July 2013, Sesimbra, Portugal
Tucked beneath a beachside forest just outside Lisbon is one of Portugal’s best kept secrets. Now in its 19th year, Super Bock Super Rock – heavily sponsored by the one of the country’s biggest lager brands – has, in the last few years alone, seen Prince, The Strokes and Arcade Fire take to its tree-lined stages.
Things kick off on a balmy Thursday evening as the sun sets over the EDP stage for multi-instrumentalist and knob twiddler Owen Pallet, who brings his proto Andrew Bird brand of bland operatic rock. It’s a monotonous treadmill of click tracks and synths, bolstered by his violin playing, which aims for dramatic effect results overstretched and listless tracks that waft into the ether.
We leave early to check out Azealia Banks over on the main stage, who is an entirely different affair. Dressed in a black bondage suit that looks like she’s just awoken from a decade-long coma in Camden market, her leather-clad dancers prance and high kick around her as she purrs messages of thanks in perfect Portuguese, promising tracks from her (seemingly interminably delayed but much anticipated) new album including ‘ATM Jam’ – which features Pharrell. “You guys I got into a lot of trouble for releasing this song,” she says launching into party banger ‘Harlam Shake’, with its ‘Born Slippy’ teaser. “But y’all know I don’t give a fuck.” And that’s exactly what we love about her.
Johnny Marr brought some good old Brit rock n roll to the mostly Portuguese crowd (Super Bock Super Rock has done virtually no international promotion over the years). It’s a set peppered with The Smiths classics, which his thoroughly decent debut solo album ‘The Messenger’ doesn’t need – but as the haunting chimes of ‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’ call out across the crowd, it only leaves more of an ache for that Smiths reunion.
Arctic Monkeys steal the weekend early with their headline slot. Opening up with the smouldering booty call of new single ‘Do I Wanna Know’ the band are on buoyant form, proving yet again how ‘Suck It And See’ accelerated their promotion from Brit teen indie Gods to global rock n’ roll statesmen. And if the tracks they play from forthcoming new album ‘AM’ are anything to go by – from the anthemic jangle ‘Mad Sounds’ to last year’s single ‘RU Mine’ – this year’s going to get bigger for them.
Saturday sees Kaiser Chiefs rebuff any doubts about their future after the departure drummer and main songwriter Nick Hodgson last year as they pedal the European festival circuit. In fact, Ricky Wilson seems even more determined to proves his muscle as frontman – especially when playing an unnamed new track, which features a nail-bitingly irritating chorus of “hahahaha”. He bounces around the stage with a whippet-like dexterity for ‘Never Miss A Beat’, before running out into the crowd and climbing on top of the bar at the side of stage, grabbing a pint en route which he glugs from the roof. Meanwhile, crowd surfers are ejected by security staff as flares set off in the front row, which leaves him returning to the stage to call for order.
The second stage is a calmer vibe, as Miguel glides around the stage to his prodigiously executed r n b patter and smooth soul grooves. He finishes crossed-legged on stage reading a piano-led monologue about love lost before toasting the “passionate people” of the world. Amen.
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The Killers close Saturday the main stage, proving they’ve got the might to get a crowd bouncing with just the first few chords of ‘Somebody Told Me’. Brandon Flowers prances gracefully from amp to amp, as the band plough through their hits old and new, from the soaring climes of ‘Human’ a to an eye-stinging rendition of ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’ which sees fireworks erupt from the stage. ‘When We Were Young’ is performed amid a backdrop of pyrotechnics leaving the sulphorous air ripe for ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’, where paper letter Ks rain down on the po-going crowd. The band leaving Ronnie Vannuci (rapidly competing with Dave Grohl for the most-loved dude in music crown) popping open a magnum of champagne.
A scorching Sunday opens with We Are Scientists, who shoot their load a little too early by playing their biggest hit ‘Nobody Knows Nobody Gets Hurt’ first. Like a trendy New York version of the Chuckle Brothers, they take the piss out of the festival’s sponsors and various crowd members brandishing luminous light sabers (which seem to be Portugal’s festival accessory of choice). Straight after, !!!’s disco punch is sadly cut short for most, as crowds empty half-way through their set to get a good spot for the night’s final headliners Queens Of The Stone Age. Frontman Nic Offer remain in full swing regardless, prancing around in spangly hotpants and climbing up the side of stage to patterings of applause.
On the main stage, an ear-splitting rumble announces the arrival of Queens of The Stone Age. Josh Homme bounces is anticipation as ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire’ roars seamlessly into the thudding heartbeat of ‘No One Knows’. It’s a guitar binge – from the atomic groan of ‘My God Is The Sun’ to the epic chime of ‘Little Sister’. As the set tumbles to a close with ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’, ‘Go With The Flow’ and finally ‘A Song For The Dead’, there’s no fireworks, fanfare or confetti needed tonight. Because Queens of the Stone Age are huge enough just as they are.