Jack White and Pearl Jam bring two career-spanning sets to the Iberian Peninsula.
Rudely shaking the afternoon with a jolt Bingley’s finest rockers are thrashing about NOS Alive’s Sagres stage with erratic abandon. “We’re the Marmozets,” announces Becca Macintyre, “and we’re not going anywhere”. It’s easy to understand their tenacity. A couple of years ago, straight after the release of their break-out debut ‘The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets’, Macintyre broke her knee, and an entire run of huge U.S. dates were cancelled. With their second album ‘Knowing What You Know Now’ effectively hitting reset after a difficult time, they’re sounding back on form; the spiky ‘Suffocation’ and ‘Why Do You Hate Me’ standing out highest.
Colombian pop export Lao Ra, meanwhile, is one of the few women aside from Becca Marmozets playing at today’s incredibly bloke-heavy NOS Alive; wedged in the midst of a sausage-fest, her joyful, Latin-charged music is a welcome diversion. Unfortunately she’s shoe-horned onto the festival’s small clubbing stage and doesn’t quite get the reception she deserves – not that is phases her. “I fucking love drones,” she announces to nobody in particular before dancing her socks off. “Come on motherfuckers, it’s time to dance,” Lao Ra yells. “I’m tired of seeing you so stale!”. Quite.
Over on the main stage, Franz Ferdinand bring a slab of Glaswegian indie to the Iberian Peninsula. Keenly aware of their strengths, the set opens in a triple-fire fizz; ‘Do You Want To’, ‘The Dark Of The Matinée’ and ‘No You Girls’ are deployed within the first four songs. And Alex Kapranos – Scotland’s very own never-ageing indie imp – is as spritely as ever, larking about and exhibiting some questionable dance moves for ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Take Me Out’.
With his third solo album, Jack White well and truly took a hairpin turn towards weirdoville; ‘Boarding House Reach’ is a strange, blue-bathed record of occasionally nonsensical eccentricity; the record of a man free to do exactly as he wishes. His not-quite-headliner set tonight is cut from the same cloth; greeting the crowds with a twanging drawl and chucking a few Southern-tinged “y’alls” into the mix, despite that fact he comes from Detroit. An exercise in rock stardom, it’s all fuzzed-up visuals flying through a line-dancing honky tonk edition of The White Stripes’ ‘White Blood Cells’ track ‘Hotel Yorba’, and the more minimal ‘Love Interruption’. Asde from on the latter song, White uses his custom St. Vincent Ernie Ball guitar for a brand new spiralling guitar solo approximately every two seconds. Admittedly it’s a bit of a riff-noodler’s wank-fest – bordering on self-indulgence at times – but to be honest, he’s Jack White; which makes all of the above absolutely fine. And clearly, he’s not above finishing with ‘Seven Nation Army’ either; a song so ubiquitous it has transcended its creator.
The Portuguese really do love Pearl Jam. Eddie Vedder comes here regularly to go surfing at Ribeira d’Ilhas further up the coast, and the nineties graveler shredding the waves while listening to his waterproof iPod is a semi-regular fixture. It’s helped turn his band into an honorary national treasure.
Smashing the weekend’s record for largest crowd (in other words: it’s pointless for any other bands to play at the same time; literally everybody on site is watching Pearl Jam) the band deliver an epic, career-spanning set that leaves no stone unturned. ‘Alive’ is grand and heroic, while the country-licked ‘Daughter’ and quotidian narrative of ‘Corduroy’ show off Vedder’s talent for spinning a yarn. Towards the end of the set, things take a turn into the ridiculous; a cover of ‘Comfortably Numb’ (their second Pink Floyd cover of the night) is shortly followed by a site-wide singalong to John Lennon’s unifying ‘Imagine’ – delivered in Vedder’s rough growl. And then, they only bloody go and bring on Jack White for a cover of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’. With nigh on 50,000 people gathered around, it’s like a storytime of gigantic proportions.