The sun shone on Oxegen - very briefly - as a glittering line-up made Saturday an occasion to remember.
The sun is shining but the ground is boggy underfoot as we set out on the odyssey that is Oxegen 2007, a land where wellies, suncream and hair-straighteners seem to be the necessities for most of the punters massing in front of the Main Stage early in the day, as loveable Scottish scallies The View belt out their catchy guitar pop with aplomb.
Despite the fact that most of the thousands present seem unable to understand frontman Kyle Falconer’s thick Dundee brogue, the songs go down extremely well, particularly singles like ‘The Don’, ‘Superstar Tradesman’ and ‘Same Jeans’, the latter of which prompts the first mass singalong of the day.
Then, while the band head to the waiting helicopter to whisk them off to T In The Park, Hot Press heads for the Green Room, where Jack Penate’s Streets-meets-Buddy Holly impression is going down a treat, with ‘Got My Favourite’, in particular, tickling this reviewer’s taste buds. Incidentally, the enterprising young guy in the crowd with the ‘Free Hugs’ banner seems to be enjoying it too.
On our way to the Pet Sounds Stage, we catch some of Director’s energetic set, which is keeping a big crowd at the Main Stage, while at our destination, Brooklyn five-piece The Hold Steady prove why they’ve been heralded as ones to watch this year. Consumate live performers, the quintet in full throttle are a sight to behold. OK, so they owe a debt or two to Springsteen but songs like the wonderful ‘Chips Ahoy’ (about a horse, incidentally) go down a treat, and the band members themselves are great fun to watch, from their nerdy frontman (who looks like a kid on Christmas morning) to the mental keyboard player, or the guitarist in the Switzerland t-shirt who manages to make his instrument spin a full 360 degrees around his body.
Avril Lavigne is late for her Main Stage appearance, although when the queen of punk pop does appear, it’s more than worth the wait. Resplendent in a neon pink tartan micro-mini, with a plethora of flag-waving dancers, Lavigne is every inch the star, and the crowd lap up her teen angst like it was going out of fashion. Two songs in and Hot Press has seen enough: it’s gourmet burger time, and there’s something quite un-nerving about wiping chilli sauce off your chin while bona fide A-listers Michael Stipe and Helena Christiansen are sitting two tables away.
If ever a band were designed for the festival circuit, it’s The Fratellis. Practically every song from their fine debut, Costello Music, works as an anthemic crowd singalong. The winners of the Breakthrough Act at this year’s Brits prove themselves excellent entertainers, ensuring that nobody leaves, even when the rain starts to fall.
Over on Stage 2, The Gossip are playing a blinder, with Beth Ditto informing the assembled masses that she just came in her pants, while she prowls the stage like a dervish, unleashing that big, big voice on a soaked but happy field, filled mostly with girls, incidentally. Meanwhile, The Brian Jonestown Massacre (visibly shattered after Roskilde the night before) are delivering their charmingly shambolic set to a rammed Pet Sounds tent as those without adequate waterproofing shelter from the downpour.
It’s back to the Main Stage now for Kings Of Leon, whose top tunes and great stage presence (despite minimal audience interaction) inspire a bout of frenetic mud-dancing. Highlights include a belting rendition of ‘The Bucket’, the frantic ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ and recent single ‘On Call’ (yet another hands-in-the-air moment).
Back at Pet Sounds, Tori Amos’s set draws heavily from her new album, American Doll Posse, but she still manages to keep the rammed tent happy by throwing in a few gems from her back catalogue, among them ‘Professional Widow’ and ‘Cornflake Girl’. Costume changes, including a stunning array of wigs, and a big sound ensure everyone stays until the very end.
Unable to decide between the all-embracing Snow Patrol and the darker majesty of Interpol, Hot Press (ever true to its principles) decided to stand firmly in the middle, hoping for a sound mash-up of ‘Every Car You Chase’ proportions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, so it’s a case of ‘a little from column A, a little from column B’.
Snow Patrol have embraced the big stage like they were born to, frontman Gary Lightbody making a massed field seem as intimate as a club gig, even for those of us at the very back. This feels like a celebration, and rightly so, the sea of people belting out every track with gusto, with ‘Run’ proving just as spine-tingling as it did when we first heard it in the Temple Bar Music Centre many moons ago.
Meanwhile, Interpol are proving why they are quite simply one of the greatest live bands in the world. Looking sharper than a serial killer’s axe, the New York quintet deliver a stunning set, made up of old favourites alongside tracks from their spanking new third album, Our Love To Admire. Highlights are too many to mention, although a bruisingly beautiful ‘NYC’ meant that this reviewer could go home happy.
Before that though, there’s the small matter of catching a ferocious Queens Of The Stone Age tearing the Green Room apart with an incendiary run-through of ‘Feelgood Hit Of The Summer’, while the metallic stage props ensure that it resembles nothing moreso than a Meccano nightmare.
Muse’s rock opera leaves this writer’s ears very cold but we still manage to catch ‘Supermassive Black Hole’ on the way to the New Band/Futures stage. Unfortunately, Matt Bellamy & Co. turn the slinky single into another overwrought prog-fest, but the tens of thousands of spectators don’t seem to mind one jot.
For this reviewer, there’s only one band fit to end the night properly and that’s Swedish mobile lunatic asylum, I’m From Barcelona, whose all-singing, all-dancing, all-clapping, all-waving love-fest ensures that we approach the long drive to Dublin with smiles on our faces. The best high you can get without resorting to illicit substances. Roll on Sunday...
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