Arcade misfire, Jay-Z triumphs and Florence gets the love

 

THE MUSIC:

ARCADE FIRE

Wrong band, wrong place, wrong time: Arcade Fire’s Friday night flop on the main stage was a victim of many circumstances. Aside from having to follow Jay-Z, the Canucks were also competing with David Guetta and Fatboy Slim for the favours of Oxegen’s pop-friendly audience. And a band with cult appeal were never going to win that particular joust.

The set itself, culled from their two albums to date and laced with a bevy of new songs, exuded plenty of vim and vigour. The new songs are still in the bedding-down process –although the playful edge to Modern Manhints at a thumper in the making – leaving classics such as No Cars Noand Rebellion (Lies)to do the heavy lifting. Despite all this, an anticlimatic air soon settled in around the stage. Perhaps Arcade Fire are – for now – better suited to a venue where there’s a roof to be raised. JC

THE BLACK KEYS

Playing to a small, soggy but engaged crowd, The Black Keys were a testament to how much noise two people can make. With a powerful indie-blues sound, guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerback and drummer Patrick Carney had a sound as sharp as their trendy new haircuts. As the small crowd swelled, the band seemed to be winning a new fan with every chord. JG

GOD IS AN ASTRONAUT

Punching drums, driving bass and soaring guitar lines have characterised the sound of God Is an Astronaut since their inception eight years ago, so fans knew what to expect when the Co Wicklow instrumental act played on Friday. From Dust to the Beyondintroduced newcomers to their ambient, effects-laden side, before the frantic closing bars of All Is Violent, All Is Brightshowcased the band’s raw power and ability to build to an explosive climax. SC

VAMPIRE WEEKEND

You’ll never go wrong with swanky, preppy, sunny indie-pop – but even so, that Vampire Weekend became the first of the weekend’s highlights was still a bit of a surprise. Who knew that their bouncy Upper East Side jive would be the choice of the Oxegen generation? Chalk the feverish connection between act and audience down to songs like Cousins, Holiday and Giving Up the Gun– crowdpleasers with a twist, one and all. JC

PLAN B

Londoner Strickland Banks (also known as Plan B, also known as Ben . . . oh, never mind) played to a slightly damp, but very happy crowd on Friday afternoon. A glorious cover of Seal’s Kiss from a Rosesat happily alongside Plan B’s own hits, Prayin’ proving a particular pleaser. Slick suiting, a brass section and some delightful, if entirely unexpected, beatboxing – what more could you want? RMC

EMPIRE OF THE SUN

Empire of the Sun emerged when MGMT had sated people’s thirst for costumed guitarists, but Friday’s set proved the Australian glam rock duo are the rich man’s MGMT. Facepaint, masks and pantomime-style dancers were mere embellishments to standout beats and choruses – and lead vocalist Luke Steele gave us something to talk about by breaking his guitar and throwing the pieces into the outstretched hands of an awestruck crowd. Rock’n’roll. RMC

JAY-Z

He came, he saw, he conquered. It’s a hell of a long way from the concrete streets of Bed-Stuy in New York, where he learned his trade, yet the ease with which Jay-Z stole the show at Oxegen was simply audacious. Naturally, it helped that Jigga’s set was packed with anthems from top to toe, but there’s also the fact that he’s sidestepped hip-hop’s usual cliches when it comes to live performances. With the excellent Memphis Bleek as his wingman and a hot-to-trot band adding considerable oomph to everything from Empire State of Mindto 99 Problems, Jay-Z played the biggest crowd of Friday night like a pro. What also made this such a thriller was how he pulled from all corners of the back catalogue (airing Can I Get A?, Big Pimpin’and Beware of the Boys, for instance) in giving a star turn with serious width and depth. The festival’s undisputed heavyweight champion. JC

VILLAGERS

The haunting melodies and intricately crafted indie-folk of Conor O’Brien’s band propelled The Villagers’ debut album to the top of the Irish charts. But how would this delicate music hold up inside a flimsy festival tent, just a few hundred metres from the pounding bass of Jay-Z? Magnificently, was the surprise answer. His band delivered a more muscular version of the album, while his crystalline voice was something to behold. A transporting set of disquieting, sometimes buoyant songs, which soared ever upwards. COB

DAVID GUETTA

On Friday, Ireland forgave France – or, at least, a few thousand Oxegen-goers did. David Guetta, French DJ extraordinaire, made up for Thierry Henry’s sins by blowing away a packed-beyond-capacity Heineken Green Spheres tent, alternating between hits (such as Missing Youand When Love Takes Over ) androllicking, foot-stomping beats. “I’m going to take a video and put this on the internet – so the whole world knows Dublin are the best party people!” Well, you can’t have everything. RMC

MUSE

The brooding threesome wore their influences on their sleeves on Saturday, incorporating doses of Nirvana, Hendrix and even Ennio Morricone into their set. Matt Belamy’s confidence seems to grow with every tour, and this time around he was striding the stage with a gait that matched the power chords. With a generous serving of hits, their playing was precise, the visuals opulent and, most importantly, they rocked. JG

FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE

With the rain and wind whipping the sound system, Florence Welch faced some challenging conditions. Thankfully her voice, powerful and clear, cut through the elements. “Hands up if you’re being rained on,” she said, before hurling out songs such as Rabbit Heart, Drum Songand (of course) You Got the Love. Smiling, swirling and belting out crowd-pleasers, she had the audience in the palm of her fair hand. JG

DIZZEE RASCAL

How does a hip-hop artist win over a majority-rock’n’roll crowd? Easy: sample one of the most recognisable guitar riffs ever and get a moshpit going. Amid torrential rain, Dizzee Rascal brought a lively set to the main stage on Saturday, including a slick reworking of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.From then on the Londoner was in complete control as he compelled fans to bounce, scream and dance their way through his hits Old Skool, Dirtee Discoand Fix Up, Look Sharp. SC

ELLIE GOULDING

Ellie Goulding is, undoubtedly, more at home in small venues – her sharp vocals and soft, albeit catchy, guitar-led melodies were lost amid the din made by hapless revellers taking shelter from the storm outside. There’s no question of Goulding’s talent and ability to write excellent tunes – Starry-Eyedcaught the crowd’s attention for a few stunning moments – but she may not be quite ready for this type of performance. RMC

DAISY DARES YOU

A wild card in a weekend of must-sees, London singer-songwriter Daisy Dares You channels Blondie (lite) and a generation of Britpop music lost in the 1990s, resulting in an almost-revival of peppy punk pop. The 17-year-old was almost Steve Tyler-esque in her hair flipping, and the crowd lapped up her energetic whooping, but really, we’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt – and all before she was born. RMC

BLACK EYED PEAS

Will.i.am, Fergie and, oh yes, the other two, bound on stage as if their lives depended on it – although, in the music industry at present, it seems that their livelihoods certainly do. For the Peas, this is a pity, because live performing is most definitely not their strongest suit. Sure, they dress up good, the beats are pumping, the songs are catchy and the crowd goes wild – but the vocals don’t quite hit the mark, and no number of U2 covers is going to mask that. RMC

HOT CHIP

Hot Chip’s latest release, One Life Stand, marked a slightly calmer move away from the disco-pop stylings of previous albums, particularly The Warningand Made in the Dark. So when they created a disco dance party in the Heineken Green Spheres tent on Saturday, it came as a pleasant surprise. New hits One Life Standand I Feel Betterwere turned up and assigned a happy, dancing beat, sitting comfortable alongside old stalwarts Over and Overand Ready for the Floor.Please, sirs, can we have some more? RMC

LA ROUX

Just how La Roux managed to keep her gravity-defying hairdo upright amid the incessant downpour was a mystery. Another is how her 1980s fetishism has won over a generation of fans who’ve probably never heard of Ultravox or Spandau Ballet. Apart from a duff synth makeover of the Rolling Stones’ Under My Thumb, this was a slow burner of a set that exploded to life with her hits In for the Killand Bulletproof. COB

REVIEWERS

JCJIM CARROLL

JGJOE GRIFFIN

SCSTEVEN CARROLL

COBCARL O’BRIEN

RMCROSEMARY MAC CABE