Reviewed: Body and Soul, day two
Day two of Body and Soul brought that most unexpected of festival pleasures – sunshine, and buckets of it. As the ground dried up and tired spirits lifted, the more heavyweight line-up of the festival’s two days got underway under blue skies, and the crowd swapped their ponchos for sunblock.
The sold-out festival certainly felt a lot busier on Sunday, and Gael Winds got a rousing reception in the Orchard area. Many people took the opportunity to bask in the warmth in the walled gardens of Ballinlough Castle, and got a musical treat to boot, with the group’s orchestral arrangements of familiar tracks, from The Blue Danube to Billie Jean, getting plenty of applause from a sun-blitzed crowd. A really lovely way to gently ease yourself into the festival mood.
Indeed, it was hard to tear yourself away from simply lazing around for a change, but when the fare on offer on the Main Stage is the mercurial Martin Hayes, you’d be a fool not to. Hayes is simply one of the best musicians this country has produced and here he marshalled and entertained a sizeable crowd with his fluid, almost percussive fiddle playing, skipping and weaving his way with power and poise through a fine set of music, with a piano accompaniment that moved from controlled grace to thunderous, rhythmic bursts. Brilliant as ever, then.
Hollie Cook brought feel good energy and high spirits to her main-stage set, moving from soulful grooves early on to the more straightahead reggae she has built her solo career on. Maybe it was the slightly languid pace of the ska beats, but she never quite seemed to get the crowd motoring, though there were plenty of dancers getting their reggae groove on, with a sideshow of hula hoopers. A good line in groove then, but no knockout punches in this set.
Back on the Upstage, Donal Dineen was DJing what was one of the finest sets of house music heard all weekend. Showing his class from behind the decks while slipping through big house tunes with a little bit of Afro beat here and there, this was a cracking set of music for those willing to get their groove on at this relatively early hour.
Back on the main stage, Kormac’s Big Band were bossing it up, with floods of brass over a lush selection of instruments, vocals, samplers and turntables. With the sun firmly fixed in the sky, big, bouncing tunes like these will always move a festival crowd and here they were more than happy to oblige.
From there, we were into the heavy hitters of the festival line-up, and it was St Vincent’s turn to take a stab at claiming the main stage as her own. You are unlikely to see many frontwomen as beguiling as Annie Erin Clark. Tottering on stage in sky-high heels, the tiny figure bossed the place from the get go, wrenching out extraordinary riffs of piledriving power while tipping around the stage marionette-like, and keeping constant check on the band and songs. It’s frenetic, wild and a rare thrill to watch, and her performance may just have stolen the day out from under the main headline acts.
Little Dragon were up next in one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. The Swedish electro pop rockers bounced their way through a fizzing set of clever, crafted pop, though a power failure managed to derail their set a little. Up until that point things had been chugging along nicely, and brought a heavy crowd to the main stage. They may not quite have set the place on fire, but there was plenty of applause and calls for more from the sun-baked audience.
And then suddenly it seemed we were at M83. The band’s electro-driven shoegazey tunes get plenty of ampage and riffage live, with Anthony Gonzalez and his posse of players adding plenty of muscle to that lean electro frame. The band’s last album took a darker, grander approach to their music, and here they showed why they are more than comfortable on the bigger stages of Euope’s festival circuit. This was a fine, powerful set that kept the crowd happy as the sun slipped over the horizon. Again, it didn’t transform into one of those blistering festival memories, but the band sent the crowd off more than happy to wander into the woods and keep the night running just that little bit longer.
When it came to 1am, though, it felt like most of the festival had come back out of the trees and into the Upstart stage for John Talabot’s set. He goes about his work with the minimum of fuss, ripping out the tunes and taking full advantage of the Upstart stage’s excellent sound system, to deliver a rollicking set that moved from deep house and electro to pop and disco. His instincts are on the money and he knows how to work the crowd up, flooding the place with bass when it’s needed, keeping things hooky and poppy when it’s not. This was a fitting way to cap the second and last day of this small and brilliantly formed festival.