Mon, Jul 14, 2008, 01:00

The best of the rest from the Oxegen festival



Kings of Leon were born to play at events like this. Under a clear night sky, the Main Stage headliners supplied a pick and mix of material from their three albums and a few choice cuts from their forthcoming release, Only By The Night. Caleb Followill's voice has rarely sounded so pristine and, while the extended guitar solos could do with some curbing, when a band has songs as strong as Molly's Chambers, Milkand My Party, we're more than willing to forgive these southern-fried rockers the occasional self-indulgent moment.


It's time to offer Irish citizenship to Battles. The four-piece are frequent visitors and have captured the
hearts of audiences here over the past 18 months. This performance probably won't count among their best as the watery sound in Pet Sounds appeared to frustrate the band, in particular drummer John Their complex rhythms and Tyondai Braxton's treated vocals might not be for everyone, but witnessing the huge crowd in attendance go berserk to Atlasemphasises how the US band have turned their obscure credentials into mass appeal through incessant touring and phenomenal live power.


This was always going to be a strange one. Known for his rare and often unpredictable live appearances, the electronica pioneer did his best to create a show designed to mess with our senses. Disjointed images were projected on to giant screens, while on-stage three beefed-up men wearing Aphex Twin T-shirts randomly pulled an assortment of painful looking faces at the audience. Musically it was all heart-attack tempos and fractured cadences with Richard D James, barely visible at the back of the stage, occasionally feeding the sound into just the right speaker, then the left. Enjoyable? Not exactly. An experience? Most definitely.


Did you catch White Denim's first ever Irish show at the 2FM New Band Stage? No? Shame on you. These three young Austin upstarts have been garnering the kind of praise that would make even the least humble turn red with embarrassment. If Workout Holiday, their debut album, doesn't fully convince, in a live setting they come into their own. James Petralli's possessed howling is one thing, but the glorious pile-drivers Let's Talk About Itand I Can Telldefine their scuzzy garage rock. It says enough that by the end of the set the audience had more than doubled in size. Don't worry, they'll be back in the autumn.



She came, she sang and she pretty much conquered. The pre-show chatter revolved around whether Winehouse would turn up or not, but her Main Stage performance was something of a minor triumph. The big screen close-ups of her fragile frame were a tad unnecessary, but the devotion of her fan base, whose patience has been stretched to breaking-point, is admirable. With the sun shining and the crowd singing along to every word of Tears Dry On Their Ownand Valerie, this was a step in the right direction for the troubled star.


We may not like to admit it, but in our hearts we know that REM's albums just don't cut the mustard anymore. Put the Athens, Georgia band in front of an Irish audience, however, and they are gods again. Opting to play their greatest hits, the ever-enigmatic Michael Stipe complimented and cajoled the crowd throughout the Main Stage show. A few Acceleratetracks were dispatched among such classics as Imitation Of Life, Losing My Religion, Orange Crushand Man On The Moon. A perfect festival set from a band very much in the twilight of their career.


Like stealing from the church poor box or admitting to owning a Ronan Keating record, seeing Richard Hawley at a rock festival just doesn't seem right. Of course, the timeless Sheffield singer took it all in his stride and brought a touch of class to Saturday's proceedings on the Pet Sounds stage. His melancholy pop songs were the perfect foil for the disposable indie offerings on other stages. As the last sublime chords of The Oceanfaded and the appreciative audience trooped outside, with a quick glance at the sunset sky, we were sure we almost caught a glimpse of heaven.


The Canadian four-piece have earned a reputation as a great live band, and their refusal to take the easy way out by using both live instrumentation and peculiar accessories, such as a 35mm film sequencer, is even more impressive. They bounced on to the stage and, sensing that the kids were more than ready for some mid-afternoon dancing, supplied a soundtrack of post-rock, kraut-rock and noisy experimentation. Their music is a medicine best taken in small doses, so their 40-minute slot provided ample time to feel all the benefits and none of the side effects.



You either get them or you don't, but with the Bruce Springsteen love-in in full swing The Hold Steady are a band that have found themselves in the right place at the right time. The New Yorkers have discovered a formula, and come hell or high water they're going to stick with it. Group choruses and stinging riffs as well as Craig Finn's lyrics form the basis of their appeal. So what if a lot of their songs are indistinguishable from one another, this is a band that get off on the sheer joy of playing live. And you wouldn't hear many complaints from the crowd here.


Delorentos appear to have a well-planned route to success up their sleeves. It's hard to believe it was only two years ago the band  were performing to a minuscule crowd early on a Sunday morning. Roll on 2008 and the Dubliners are showing the benefits of their recent spate of touring. They've learned how to work a crowd too and the young fans in Pet Sounds couldn't get enough of their heroes. Basis of Everythingand The Ruleshave the kind of hummable sheen that sounds as perfect at a festival as on the radio.


Despite being expanded to a five-piece, MGMT still haven't quite got the hang of this live malarkey. Their tiresome prog noodling is enough to send anyone to sleep, so luckily for the band some fans decided to climb the steel towers that support the Pet Sounds tent, which was packed like a tin of sardines. The show was stopped, the crowd booed, the acrobats climbed down and the show resumed. Electric Feel, Time To Pretend(still the best pop single of 2008) and Kidsfollowed and the rejuvenated crowd went crazy.