Primavera Sound: Dead Can Dance, Wu-Tang Clan, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Rodriguez is a no-show, but the sound and the fury of Nick Cave and the Wu-Tang Clan, and a little bit of excellence from The Magician, sign off the Barcelona festival in style

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds putting the fear of god into Primavera Sound. Photograph: Jordi Vidal/Redferns/Getty Images

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds putting the fear of god into Primavera Sound. Photograph: Jordi Vidal/Redferns/Getty Images


With Rodriguez cancelling his early evening show on Primavera’s last major night, it’s not until 9pm that some heavy hitters take to the stage – but it’s Dead Can Dance , who aren’t exactly prolific on the touring front, so few people are complaining. They pack out the Ray Ban auditorium, a huge crowd taking the chance to sit on the steps and let the band’s rich tribal rhythms, Middle Eastern and Asian cadences, and sumptuous arrangements work a bit of twilight magic as the sun sets.

This music is never hurried; it’s confident in its own calibre and secure in its complex construction. And then, of course, there’s the extraordinary combination of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry’s voices. Perry’s expansive baritone and traditional inflections and Gerrard’s contralto, microtonal singing together produce something that’s unearthly and enormous, definitively louder than nearly anyone else at the festival. This is music that’s probably better suited to cathedrals than music festivals, and some visuals would lift the set as a whole into something truly special – but it still has power and grace in plenty to knock a crowd cover.

Sometimes, though, you really need to rip it up at a festival that’s been grazing on guitar music. You need a bunch of New Yorkers with an unapologetic attitude, spitting lyrics with finesse and fury, spraying champagne like it ain’t nothing, and making the whole arena bounce to the beat of what they’re selling – who better to bring the old school noise than the Wu-Tang Clan ?

Throwing themselves on to the Primavera stage with all the confident, shoulder-rolling swagger that has made them one of the most distinctive rap groups around, the Wu-Tang Clan have it in the bag from the get yo. But there’s no coasting here, and no corners cut – rapping over a sample of Come Together is always a touch of class, but then what would you expect from one of the best in the business?

From there, it’s a mass exodus across the Parc del Forum to where Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are preparing their evening’s entertainment. There’s a piano on stage, sure, with song books and lyric sheets, but anyone expecting an evening of Cave’s particularly bleak brand of torch songs with some respectful Bad Seeds backing is in for a surprise – Cave is in furious, glowery form, whipping his frame around the stage, deigning to play no more than a few bars on the most underused instrument at the festival. The Bad Seeds look like they’re in the mood for a nonchalant bar room brawl – Warren Ellis must be the only musician who gets really violent by putting down a distorted guitar and picking up a violin.

The band start off with newer material and a sombre pace, but Cave and co stoke the slow burn of Jubilee Street up to a raging inferno. This is a track that, live, stands cheek by jowl with their finest work. From here, it’s Jack the Ripper, The Weeping Song, Tupelo – old favourites, fresh with raw life, and flexing their lean, muscular energy. It’s a showstopping Stagger Lee that steals the night, though. Cave clambers deep down into the crowd, giving one front-row fan the dubious privilege of having the lyrics sneered directly in her ear. Martyn P Casey rolls out that killer bass line, and the band take care of the devil’s business.

From here on in, there are tough decisions to make. On the Heineken stage, My Bloody Valentine are giving guitar-noise nostalgists reasons to be cheerful, and keeping the ear-plug industry in business for another few months. Hot Chip are following up on the Primavera stage with their festival-proof brand of electronic pop. And Crystal Castles are getting a huge crowd on the Ray Ban stage. There’s no great mystery in their electronica, but its 2.15am, the crowd is hungry for a dance, and the band attack their set like it’s their last. The result is glee from the crowd and chaos in the pit. There are no heads nodding here – at this stage of the last proper night of Primavera Sound, it’s all or nothing.

Over on the Pitchfork stage, Scuba is bringing his live show of classy electronica to a fairly packed crowd. These are rich synths and quality melodies, delivered a shade darker than you average electronic fare.

Then, entering stage left, is The Magician , with his particularly joyful box of tricks. Few DJs can match him for ripping out uplifting tune after tune, and he gives Nick Cave a run for his money in the sharp-suit department. But it takes a particular confidence to drop Get Lucky into the middle of a set, and know there’s still space to dial it up further. Of course he plays his trademark mix of Lykke Li’s I Follow Rivers , and of course the crowd love every beat, whirl and staccato chord. There are few classier DJs in the business, and few better ways to end a night’s entertainment.

The last DJ of the night is an odd if popular choice. DJ Coco takes to the Ray Ban amphitheatre, and gets the whole venue rolling with a set that would go down a storm at any Irish wedding. Staff from the festival flood the stage, confetti cannons burst into the air, the crowd soak up their last festival moments in the early morning sun, and the Parc del Forum wraps up its contribution to Primavera Sound for another year.

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