The National and Future Islands bring onstage antics to Lisbon
Japandroids have had a hectic day, they tell their sizeable crowd at the Sagres stage. Despite it currently being late afternoon, they feel like they’re reaching the end of their previous night, having not slept a wink. After playing an early hours set at around 2am at Mad Cool – another festival happening this weekend in Madrid, Spain – the Vancouver duo hopped straight on a flight, and rocked up again at NOS Alive for this late afternoon thrash. And was it worth it? It’s plain from the look on Brian King’s face. Despite the band’s sparing set up, set stand-outs like ‘The Nights of Wine and Roses’ and ‘The House That Heaven Built’ are clattering slabs of minimal rock ‘n’ roll.
Over on the festival’s largest stage later on, The National – Matt Berninger, especially – are in deliriously brilliant form. In contrast with their on-record reputation for bottling sadness – their music is crammed with lonely secrets and growled couplets – they show a more playful side on stage. Taking selfies with the crowd, Berninger lifts the slightly ominous future-ponderings of ‘Day I Die’ into a different space, and when he’s not draping himself across kit boxes, he’s directing a robotic camera on stage so that it whizzes obediently back and forth, following him like a mechanical dog. During ‘Alligator’ cut ‘Mr November’, he calmly strolls over to the nearest bar, microphone in hand, and orders himself a beer. From a lot of bands such antics might seem a little contrived, or suspiciously well-rehearsed. With The National, on the other hand, it just seems they’re riding their recent successes, and having fun with it. It’s a natural, and warm show from a band who are beginning to find themselves nearing the top of festival bills.
Headlining is a job left to Queens of the Stone Age, however, and they bring a massive, red-glow set-up along with them for the occasion. Serving up the kind of hulking songs you can imagine ordering a glass of whiskey and pickle juice, there’s little time for chatter; instead, Josh Homme opts for steaming through the spiky edges of ‘No One Knows’ and ‘Burn the Witch’s Americana-tinged noodling with no relent. There’s a ridiculous drum solo lit by approximately seven different spotlights, and deploying riff after squalling riff with the speed of Expert Level Guitar Hero, Queens of The Stone Age bring hedonistic excess where The National brought subtlety.
Also pushing things to the limit the other side of the site, Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring has danced himself into a sweat, and is struggling to see where the gigantic crowd spilling out of his tent ends. Eventually he gives up trying to peer to the back. Opening with the glimmering ‘Ran’ (from latest album ‘The Far Field’) Future Islands soak up every second, and – naturally – they bust some unusual dance moves in the process. Gobbling invisible apples from the pit, clenching his fist like he’s doing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ at karaoke, there are certain parallels between Samuel T Herring, and The National’s Matt Berninger earlier on. Both bands have found themselves in charge of the late night party slots after years of grafting; Future Islands worked thanklessly for years until their fourth album hit the big time, The National are still balancing immense critical acclaim with entertaining their newer fans. Tonight Future Islands rise to the challenge, and their beaming, swaying crowd is one of the biggest of the festival so far.
Back on the main stage, Two Door Cinema Club are giving the punters what they want in their pint-waving, post-headliner set; namely the big hits. Never mind Bangor; this lot come from the world of bangers instead. Opening with a quick-fire succession of ‘Tourist History’ highlights, they’re a band that clearly know their strengths, and bringing the party straight away allows them more space to mix things up later on. Interspersed with ‘Eat That Up It’s Good For You’s fidgety chimes, and ‘Cigarettes in the Theatre’, newer material like ‘Gameshow’ finds room to shine equally bright.