Electric Picnic 2016 reviews: the best of Friday
Nas, Broken Social Scene, The Chemical Brothers, The 1975, Super Furry Animals – and a riotous return to the 1990s
Hip-hop singer Nas on the Main Stage at Electric Picnic on Friday night. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
Talos playing in Body & Soul at Electric Picnic on Friday night. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals onstage at the Electric Arena on Friday night at Electric Picnic. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
Nas gets to the stage like a bulldozer, instantly obliterating any chilled-out vibes punters were still nursing after ABC. Straight from the get-go, Hate Me Now establishes the scene for full-on energy confrontation. Next up is a second introduction, Nas Is Like, a track that is just flirted with as a bridge to Got Yourself A Gun. This is a pure hip-hop show, the perfect example of how much an MC and a DJ can bring in terms of energy, more so than any other set-up when done as well as this. NY State Of Mind, one of the best hip-hop tracks of all time, turns into an Ireland state of mind by the end, with the crowd going crazy and Nas changing the lyric geographically, as lads fly a tricolour with his name emblazoned on it. A splash of Sweet Dreams follows, prompting another singalong in the set. Nas is seriously on form, and the audience give him props for it. The obligatory chorus of Olé Olé is coming, and it does. Friday at the Picnic is kicked off in style.
In three words: Definitely still illmatic
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS ★★
Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt, but without constant reinvention it can foster indifference. Maybe that’s why, after so many years of relying on The Chemical Brothers to shell the festival night with Big Beat assaults, you might have found yourself at Friday’s bombastic headlining act in what felt like the least attentive club in the world. Rarely have so many people swarmed to see an act they seem to merely tolerate. What happened? Did they change? Was it us? There’s still a reliable dose of dopamine to Hey Boy Hey Girl, or Star Guitar, which emerges from New Order’s Temptation in a tickling fizz of nostalgia. But those lengthy quarter-hours of oscillating effects and screensaver visuals help disprove the idea that everything here is a shrink-wrapped preset, because nobody could be this boring on purpose. Twenty years ago the Chemical Brothers had a brilliant proposition: that computers were the new electric guitars. Now the world they ushered in has outpaced them.
In Three Words: Missed beat connection
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE ★★★
It’s the second song in and this Canadian gaggle have melted down the steeliest of gazes as they play 7/4 (Shoreline). Memories of a misspent youth come flooding back as they bash out the soundtrack to the indie glory days of 2005-2009, particularly Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl and Lover’s Spit. While a lot of indie went down in the wasteland of The OC soundtrack collection – minus season one, of course – there’s a comforting familiarity with BSS that helps them remain timeless. With a new record coming out later this year, with Leslie from Feist (swoon) joining them again, there’s a strong sense of nostalgia at this set so they can bang out the old favourites such as Fire Eye’d Boy. We’re getting on but they make us feel like spring chickens.
In three words: Serious nostalgia trip
Heathers, the once-inescapable McNamara siblings, have been quiet for a while. But their buoyant slot of indie pop at the Other Voices stage (which might have been programmed as the epitome of anti-Nas), is so thronged that its overflow resembles the attendance at the sermon on the mount. Lyrics spread among them like rumours. The band – and it is a band – would rather not be too toothsome, so for every folksy yelp and honeyed harmony there comes something more aching. It’s a shame that when Remember When is done, the room thins back down (the others had to run, they had to get away), because there are other pleasures to find. But that’s the consequence of a repertoire that runs from the heartfelt to the generic emotionality of public service announcements.
In Three Words: Forget them not
WATERFORD WHISPERS NEWS ★★★
Kicking off with the Angelus, the tent is packed for a live report of Waterford Whispers news stories. A man is arrested for murdering Oasis’s Wonderwall, heroin addicts complain that children are invading their playground, a woman culls her Facebook friends after a drop of vino. It’s a 10-minute dose of deadpan humour and probably the easiest in and out job you can pull all weekend.
In three words: Mock the news
Body & Soul
Cork’s Talos impress on the B&S main stage as darkness falls, with swelling synth and guitar propelled by bass aimed squarely at the ribcage. Sparse use of cello only adds to the sense of dramatic heft as their first-ever EP set progresses. But it’s Eoin French’s sublime and seductive vocals that still remain the standout draw, cracking and soaring amid the swoonsome melange of prog-inflected lushness to create something truly special, most notably on standout tracks Landscape and Bloom. As he asks the crowd to come closer, it’s little surprise that many rush from their lofty spots around the Body & Soul divot to hear his hypnotic voice at a shorter distance, despite the intermittent rain. On the strength of this performance, you would imagine that Talos could walk the whole crowd into the sea.
In three words: See them again
THE 1975 ★★
The 1975 are not exactly critical darlings among the rock faithful, possibly because they look so much like the kind of band Russell Brand might front in a film about a disaffected rockstar who learns to love again thanks to his newfound friendship with a very special little dog. Their repertoire occasionally sounds like its made up of b-roll versions of better songs whose licenses an unscrupulous karaoke bar has refused to pay for. And their lyrics boast all the probing acuity of the aisle signage in a Harvey Norman’s.
Having said all that, they’re certainly game and there are anthemic moments here if you throw yourself fully upon the whims of their soft funk-pop-rock cover-act charm. And you certainly can’t say they don’t delight the teen-heavy crowd, who are whooping with delight from pounding start to slow-clap-on-your-debs-date’s-shoulders finish. Also, their light show is genuinely quite cool.
In three words: Lynx Africa music
JENNY GREEN AND THE RTE CONCERT ORCHESTRA DO THE 90S DANCE HITS ★★★★
Rankin Wood Stage
Bloody hell. Who knew that the quickest way to start a riot was to call up RTÉ and borrow their strings for an hour? This is like World Cup 1990 and 1994 all rolled into one. We’ve got fever, we’ve got mayhem as 2fm’s Jenny Green picks the tunes and steers us into seas we’ve crossed many times before but with added pizazz. Sandstorm, Rhythm is a Dancer, It’s Not Over Yet and Samba de Janeiro are delivered with added drama, if you could imagine such a thing. It truly is a thing of cosmic glory. That’s what I call music? Nah. That’s what I call a bloody banger.
In three words: Dizzying 90s glory
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS ★★★★★
What can be said about seeing Super Furry Animals live that hasn’t already been said about finding a tenner in an old jacket, which itself was found in a big bag of cans you forgot you left under the bed? What band on Earth wouldn’t kill to come onstage to the filthy splendour of Slow Life, with its one-two punch of jangly twanging bells and searing, techno crunch? And the hits don’t stop. Put simply, SFA have such an embarrassment of riches in their locker of tunes, it feels patently unfair that they own even half of them. From the winsome love rock of Hello Sunshine and Juxtapozed With U to the glam-tinged madness of Ice Hockey Hair or the stadium-sized histrionics of Rings Around The World or The International Language of Screaming. That’s not even counting those songs which span recklessly distant disciplines within their own breadth, like the full-on rock stomp that introduces The Man Don’t Give A Fuck and effortlessly slides into the acid house mania of its middle section, as the band vacate the stage in a mania of delicious bleeping madness. By the time the band retake the stage in dog suits to say goodbye, everyone seems sure the curtain has closed on a very special night indeed.
With their radio-friendly pop hits and genre-pushing experimental nous, it’s long been an old saw of die-hard Furry fans that they ought to be the biggest band in the world. The fact is, they already are, its just that not quite enough of the planet knows it yet.
In three words: Best in show