There was an art-pop extravaganza in Zagreb this week, as INmusic, the stellar annual festival held beside the usually quiet Lake Jarun, unleashed stunning performances from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, St. Vincent, David Byrne and many more. Yet the shindig offered extreme heaviosity, too, with bone-crushing performances from Queens of the Stone and Alice in Chains. And the Karaoke Tent, the hidden gem of INmusic, was – as always – an absolute ball. All of this amounted to another killer year at INmusic, the place to be if you’re into weird art-pop costumes, head-banging sets and singing your heart out to ABBA at 3 o’clock in the morning.
The art-pop hero and former Talking Heads frontman delivered an incredibly inventive set that was more high-concept musical than standard gig, his backing dancers throwing shapes in formation to hits such as ‘This Must Be The Place’ and ‘Lazy’.
Refusing to rest on his laurels, Byrne rolled out track after sunny track from his recent album ‘American Utopia’, making a strong case for its near-instant-classic status.
Over on the second stage, rock’n’roll stalwarts Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart fashioned a compelling sense of drama from their bluesy, minimalist compositions, with Mosshart thrashing her shock of blonde hair like she was audition for ‘Wayne’s World 3’
4Queens of the Stone Age
‘A Song for the Deaf, ‘No One Knows’ and ‘Make It Wit Chu’ – all the classics were there, along with well-released newbies from last year’s album ‘Villains’. There was even a rapturous round of applause when percussion Jon Theodore performed a drum solo – and no one likes drum solos.
5Queens of the Stone Age
And then it was over to Josh Homme and co. to close day one with a bruising showcase of their swaggering, machismo-fuelled desert rock bangers.
Fittingly enough, Annie Clark continued in Byrne’s grand art-pop tradition (the pair released collaborative album ‘Love This Giant’ in 2012).
She seemed like more robot than woman as she danced jerkily through an inspired set that saw her flanked by backing dancer in weird, faceless felt masks. Seriously.
8Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
The indisputable highlight of the festival, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds closed the Main Stage on the second night, turning in a set that will undoubtedly stay with the audience for the rest of their lives. He waded out into the crowd on a long podium, holding hands with fans, finding catharsis in the band’s redemptive rock’n’roll.
9Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
For all Cave’s mesmeric stage presence, the unsung hero of the show was multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis, who provided a feedback-fuelled, often wildly experimental soundtrack to the frontman’s shamastic persona.
10Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
The show ended with Cave dragging one fan from the audience to perform the profanity laden ‘Stagger Lee’. She then picked out another audience member, who did the same, until the knock-on effect meant there were more than a dozen punters dancing onstage. One bloke, goofily wearing T-shirt and shorts, beamed throughout like a competition winner.
11Alice In Chains
Hard rock heroes Alice in Chains performed to an enormous, cult-like crowd that leaned into their crashing riffs as if they were breaking waves.
12Portugal. The Man
The Alaskan alt-poppers sound relatively chill on record, but amped up their set with with looping, noose-like guitar riffs, perhaps hoping to play Alice In Chains at their own game. Readers, it almost worked.
And then it was over to New York indie icons Interpol to close the Main Stage on the final day. The band have been dusting off classics and rarities on their European tour, and here treated fans to beloved likes of the lithe ‘Slow Hands’ and even the ominous ‘Roland’, a track about a psychotic butcher.
The band affected aloofness throughout the thunderous show, offering a stylish conclusion to a festival largely defined by eye-popping art-pop (David Byrne, St. Vincent and Nick Cave, we’re looking at you). Croatia beat Iceland in the World Cup this week, and INmusic was a massive winner, too.