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Electric Picnic: Day 3 Review

All the action from the Sunday at Stradbally...

The Hot Press Newsdesk, 02 Sep 2013



The day has an upbeat start with New York’s electro pop duo Ms Mr. The loudest yells are for 'Bones', the wonderfully creepy digi-goth anthem that memorably soundtracked Sky's trailers for the last season of Game of Thrones. His 'n’ hers synth rock may be a familiar trope nowadays – but Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow’s glorious showing suggests that the formula ought not be dispatched to the pasture just yet.

On the Cosby Stage, vowel challenged electro threesome Chvrches suggest that the gale force gusts of hype at their back may well be justified. Singing in her native Glasgow accent, frontman Lauren Mayberry is goose-bump inducingly intense, especially on their cathartic YouTube anthem 'Lies'. Her cheerfully schlubby bandmates are happier hugging the margins – their thumping grooves do the talking for them. Chvrches long-play debut is out in two weeks: expect the buzz-o-meter to go into meltdown.

At the Electric Arena, Cavan indie "urchins" – as we are legally required to refer to them – The Strypes draw a huge mid-afternoon attendance. Their music is a slick marriage of The Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks etc., with more than a smidgeon of Dr.Feelgood thrown in. This sort of music is about finding new ways of mining those familiar grooves – and looking damn rakish while you do it. The Strypes do that and more and have the crowd eating out of their collective palms. By any standards, their performance is a triumph.

David Byrne writes hymnals for atheists – his music is at once profoundly secular and deeply spiritual. Accompanied by the transcendental parpings of a brass band that appears to pair random instruments with random hipsters, the waifish St. Vincent contributing jerky licks and aching coos, his Electric Arena set is life affirming in the literal sense.

You walk away grateful that circumstances have conspired to place you in a field in the middle of Laois, watching Byrne and St Vincent (real name Annie Clark), delve into Talking Heads' sublime catalogue.

'This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)' soars and flutters; 'Burning Down The House' is, as per the title, incandescent. Granted, material from his 2012 collaboration with Clark, Love This Giant, is less convincing. Still, the occasional dips in tempo hardly seem to matter. They finish with 'Road To Nowhere', the most moving song ever written about the meaning of existence in a godless universe. There's a lump in your throat and a tingle down your back. Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-antastic.

On the main stage, a fine set by Noah & The Whale is followed by Kodaline’s biggest Irish gig to date. “Last year we played to 200 people in the Body and Soul arena,” lead singer Stephen Garrigan tells the 10,000 strong crowd. “So this is amazing. We’ve been looking forward to playing this gig all year.” It is as if the crowd had been waiting in anticipation too. The thing about Kodaline is that they have big songs that everyone wants to sing along with. It is extraordinary how many of them the crowd knows too, in a set that fises elents of stadium rock, U2, crowd pleasing pop and even country. ‘High Hopes’ and ‘Love Like This’ in particular went down a storm.

Also cutting a dash is Johnny Marr, the former Smiths guitarist. He plays lots from his acclaimed new LP, The Messenger, though, as with his Dublin Academy date in March, he also throws in lashings of Smiths standards too. 'Bigmouth Strikes Again' and 'How Soon Is Now?' prompt mass singsongs; by the time he gets around to' There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' grown men are literally weeping and hugging one another.

In the wilds of the Salty Dog stage, Children of the Son make an impressive Electric Picnic debut. All corkscrew curls and high intensity playing, they deliver a tight set which emphasizes their burgeoning instrumental mastery, with Max Matthews in particular wowing the crowd with his guitar pyrotechnics. Singer Jack Matthews has an extraordinary voice and it shows, as he leaps from growl to falsetto in a thrice. ‘Colourblind’ is the stand-out but – as Kodaline did over the past 12 months – you can see them stepping up significantly by this time next year.

If there are any doubters left about the validity of their return to action, Franz Ferdinand effectively put an end to all that with an impressively energetic performance. Inevitably, the Franz standards, including 'Take Me Out' and the 'Dark of the Matinee', all of a decade old this year, are received with the greatest enthusiasm. Nonetheless, new tunes like 'Love Illumination' hold their own and Alex Kapranos is far more dapper than any 41 has a right to be.

Swirling strobes and shrieking beats in the Electric Arena imbue a rare Irish show by The Knife with a narcotic 'not in Kansas anymore' quality. Their latest album, Shaking The Habitual, is aggressively off-beam – a record that piles on the obtuseness as if daring you to flinch. If anything, in concert, these qualities are exacerbated. It's like watching a cult trying to induce out of body experiences among audience members prepared to let their defences down. It's beautiful, but troubling too.

Arctic Monkeys - Stuart Clark

My how he’s grown! A few short years ago Alex Turner looked like your bog standard indie kid. Now, having taken lessons from Richard Hawley and Miles Kane, he’s a veritable bequiffed style icon who garners as many column inches in the GQ fashion pages as he does the NME.

He’s also morphed from a somewhat reluctant frontman into a bona fide rock star who a few songs in deadpans, “In case you’ve only just turned up, we’re the Arctic Monkeys. I’m Alex…” Turner and the rest of the chaps are on top form tonight with ‘Brianstorm’, ‘Dancing Shoes’ and much underrated Suck It & See track ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ among the early highlights. They may have played it several trillion times at this stage, but ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ has lost none of its adrenaline rush pop punk appeal and triggers some seriously frenzied moshing.

The AM newbies given an outing tonight – ‘Do I Wanna Know’, ‘R U Mine’, ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ and ‘Arabella’ – are greeted with almost as much gusto, which suggests a return to commercial as well as critical form when the album drops this weekend. By the time they get round to the double encore whammy of ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ and ‘505’ it’s job well and truly done.

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