Oxegen 2007: Sunday at Punchestown Racecourse, Kildare

Assailed by raindrops, Sunday’s line-up nonetheless managed to work their magic without resorting to naked mud-wrestling.

Oxegen day two commences with the inevitable downpour, although at this stage it scarcely matters, as Puncho is already muddier than a glam covers band playing ‘Tiger Feet’. A quick run – alright, a slo-mo trudge – into the Green Room to escape the rain brings us upon Calvin Harris, who does an excellent job of getting the crowd going courtesy of electro-pop nuggets such as ‘Acceptable In The ’80s’ and ‘The Girls’.

Indeed, the Green Room has a rather excellent line-up in the early afternoon, with Harris being followed by the equally impressive Long Blondes. Singer Kate Jackson cuts quite a dash in a striking red dress, whilst behind her the four-piece band rustle up a succession of Blondie-esque new wave pop gems. Outside on the main stage, Bloc Party are about to begin their set, having delivered a mighty performance at Live Earth the previous day (although they were outshone, as was pretty much everyone else, by the resurgent Spinal Tap).

A Weekend In The City is unquestionably one of the albums of the year, a rich and insightful exploration of urban life that, thematically at least, puts one in mind of mid-’90s Blur. A key lyrical influence on Damon Albarn during that period was Martin Amis, and you can definitely discern echoes of novels like Success, Money and London Fields in Kele Okereke’s words, as well as the dystopian vision of Bret Easton Ellis (whose Less Than Zero, of course, inspired ‘Song For Clay’).

More importantly in a festival setting, Kele and the boys know how to strike up some cracking grooves, with tracks like ‘Positive Tension’ and ‘Banquet’ from Silent Alarm going down a storm. Over at Stage 2, a figure in a skin-tight, day-glo lycra bodysuit is working the crowd with considerable energy and style, which can mean only one thing: Lovefoxx and Cansei de Ser Sexy are in town.

Amy Winehouse’s cancellation has meant that CSS now have an earlier slot, but really, you could put them on at any time of the day and they’d still be brilliant. Memorable moments include Lovefoxx getting the crowd to wave their hands in unison during ‘This Month, Day 10’, and stripping off to reveal another bodysuit in the middle of ‘Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex’ (the quintessential CSS song title). Elsewhere, there is little else to say of ‘Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above’ except that it’s a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, and the guitarist performs it with a pair of pink, frilly knickers on his head.

Back in the Green Room, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are doing their Jesus And Mary Chain-inspired, fuzz-pop thang to perfection, with the gloriously ragged melodic rush of ‘Spread Your Love’, the bluesy stomp of ‘No Easy Way Out’ and the Oasis-style sonic blizzard of ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock N Roll (Punk Song)’ deserving particularly special mention. A quick check-in on the supremely entertaining DJ face-off between DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist in the dance arena (which takes in everything from thumping electro to soulful ambience and the pain-threshold riffing of Metallica’s ‘One’) and it’s time for the main event.

Arcade Fire arrive on the main stage and kick into a powerful ‘Keep The Car Running’, the perfect opener for an absolutely stunning set that rivals their legendary performance at Electric Picnic two years ago. Playing against the backdrop of a giant red velvet curtain, Win, Regine and co. manage the remarkable feat of conjuring a celebratory atmosphere amongst the rain-sodden, mud-covered crowd.

The highlights come thick and fast: a rainbow appearing on the skyline during a euphoric ‘No Cars Go’; Regine’s angelic vocal on the majestic ‘Haiti’; Richard Reed Parry climbing the rigging and having a drumstick fight with a bandmate during ‘Laika’; and scorching renditions of ‘Power Out’, ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ and ‘Wake Up’. One man clearly enjoying himself is Tim Robbins, positioned side of stage in a Stetson. Overall, this was a vintage performance by one of the best bands in the world.

The group whose misfortune it is to follow Arcade Fire is Razorlight, who put on a spirited show, even if it doesn’t come anywhere near the intensity of the Canadian ensemble. Nonetheless, the elegantly wasted swagger of tracks like ‘In The Morning’, ‘Before I Fall To Pieces’ and the mighty ‘America’ gets everyone singing along. In the Green Room, the glo-sticks are out in force as Klaxons deliver a blistering set of indie anthems. Along with CSS, Jamie Reynolds and the boys are my favourite new discovery of 2007, and – to the band’s evident delight – they elicit an extremely enthusiastic reaction from the crowd.

They finish with the dazzling one-two of ‘It’s Not Over Yet’ and a suitably apocalyptic ‘Four Horsemen 2012’.

All of which just leaves today’s headliners, The Killers. As with their gigs at the RDS earlier this year, the quartet’s arrival onstage is heralded by footage of their native Las Vegas and stills from the Sam’s Town sleeve, before they launch into the album’s title track. It’s a performance that’s high on energy, with many of the tracks – particularly the hits from Hot Fuss – prompting mass singalongs, but really, today belonged to The Arcade Fire, with Bloc Party, CSS and Klaxons in the runners-up slots.

It was a day of awful weather, when a few too many people attempted to recreate the John Candy mud-wrestling scene from Stripes. But hey, in the morning, you know we won’t remember a thing – except the music.

 

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