Friday begins with a dash to the Other Stage for the ‘To Be Announced’ slot. For some the appearance of Liam Gallagher and his band Beady Eye were a welcome sight, for others it was a sign to disperse as quickly as they arrived. Though there’s no mistaking Liam’s distinctive vocals, the set feels somewhat lacking for the big TBA slot of the weekend. It doesn’t quite measure up to the likes of the White Stripes or Pulp who’ve both filled similar slots before. Nevertheless though I don’t stick around long enough to witness either of the Oasis covers, Four Letter Word is enough to make me reconsider their sound, which boasts the same anthemic guitar rhythms of Liam’s former days.
Over on the Pyramid stage, Haim bring a more rocky sound than anticipated. It’s guitar music at it’s finest, layered with sultry vocals and interesting beats. Forever has summer hit written all over it, whilst their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well means the dreams of Stevie Nicks and co featuring on the main stage is in part realised. Meanwhile Send Me Down brings a more edgy vibe with it, with hints of the more grungy sounds of the 90’s. Four Relative newcomers, by the end of their set the sisters confirm themselves as ones to watch over the next six months,
Though certain tabloid papers would have you believe the only exciting thing about Amanda Palmer’s set is a slight wardrobe malfunction, in reality her performance is the highlight of the day. Though she seems able to create controversy frequently, it’s the human ability to error which translates in her set and carries it through. Her confessional and often personal style means the likes of Oasis aren’t censored from the set but instead it breaks into a cover of Twist and Shout, whilst Bottomfeeder sees her crowd surf along the front on the stage. It seems however it’s the closer Ukulele Anthem which swallows in the crowd, only to spit them out as Amanda Palmer fans by the closing bar. When it comes to performance, Amanda knows how to wow her crowd, and though some of what she does might be uncomfortable to witness, for me it’s a stark reminder that attitudes don’t change by retaining the status quo.
By comparison Rita Ora seems only able to carry her set by the use of inventive visual aids. Masked dancers shooting smoke into the crowd, drums in shopping trolleys and some elegant dance routines, though visually appealing, all feel a bit plastic. As she sings “It’s the kinda beat that’ll make ya make ya face melt” this seems to be confirmed and though there’s nothing wrong with her pop sound, it feels like it’s missing sincerity. Though Hot Right Now seems to get the crowd moving, for me it simply signals it’s time to leave.
Over on the Acoustic stage, it’s the distinctive vocals of Martha Wainwright which act as a welcome reprise from the larger stages. Though she’s walking the large footprints left by her parents she has her own style, which in many ways feels like the confessional counterpart to brother Rufus. At times it’s quite a dark set, with the harrowing Four Black Sheep and her ode to her mother in All Your Clothes both making an appearance. Still, this matches with her haunting vocals and highlights why she’s carved a career of her own.
Foals acts as the more up-tempo indie offering of the day, and it only takes a short while for the band to get the crowd bouncing along to the beat. With an orchestral style start building into a melodic rock sound, it crescendos with a blazing riff that stops me in my tracks. Total Life Forever confirms the bands ability to write tracks which are both catchy and considered whilst Providence builds more repetitive refrains over layered sounds. For me it’s Two Steps, Twice which acts a reminder of the bands trajectory since Antidotes and confirms just how worthy they are of their early evening slot on the Other stage.
As the night begins to draw in, Portishead take to the stage and in just one note, Beth Gibbons’ powerful and evocative vocals hush the crowd. Though a more downbeat end to the night, it’s a mesmerising set carried by the ambient sound of the band. Whilst older Dummy classics such as Glory Box and Wandering Star make their way into the set, for me it’s Machine Gun with it’s pulsating sound, coupled with an image of Cameron with demonic eyes on the big screen which carries most weight. The set plays refined and raw off against each other – the faultless sounds coupling with Gibbons physical and lyrical vulnerability.
Gibbon’s presence is somewhat reclusive, hanging further back on the stage and not speaking until the end of the set where she gives a simple “thank you so much” before following it up with “I hope it was all right”. Despite her trepidation the set is faultless and closer We Carry On seems more than apt, not only because it subtly hints to another album, something Geoff Barrow stated was in the pipe line a while back, but also because of it’s prosaic lyrics. As the song ends with the line “no place is safe, can’t you see the taste of life” I’m reminded that whilst Portishead manage to create a sound filled with down tempo electronica, it is laced with a political edge.
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