Monday, July 03, 2006

A Little Too Safe From Harm, Actually

Massive Attack/Flaming Lips/The Shortwave Set/Gnarls Barkley/Mojave 3/Midlake, The Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, London, Friday June 23 2006.

The weather forecast is warmish, cloudy with the slight threat of rain so your correspondent tries to be all-weather clever and dons his white cotton hoodie. Feel ever-so-slightly less clever when the sun is baking hot with nary a glimpse of cloud cover, and within 10 minutes of getting in I've already spilt some Wherry right down the front making for a rather unpleasant yellow stain.

Good job then that there's a marquee to hide in and catch up with Denton Texas's finest Midlake whose great fortune it is that their splendid second album The Trials Of Van Occupanther hits the stores just as Grandaddy have called it quits. Just like their fellow Texans, Midlake bring beards; keyboard noodling; wistful melodies and recycling of 70s AOR to the party, but unlike their predecessors, at least they do so with a sense of humility and the hint of a smile on their bewhiskered lips. And with songs of the quality of Roscoe and the bruisingly beautiful Young Bride in their repertoire we might even yet find the oarsome Midlake laughing all the way to the (river)bank.

Move swiftly on to catch four of five songs from Mojave 3 the outfit formed by Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell when shoegazers Slowdive fell into a fatal tailspin. M3 are now, rather incredibly, five albums into their career with barely a hit to their name, and while it's a pleasant enough way to while away a few minutes listening to their Home Counties take on Americana pop, yer correspondent doesn't feel compelled to run down Oxford Street and clear the shelves of their back catalogue. Nice bonus to see Rachel Goswell contribute some backing vocals though, as we'd heard she'd got a sicknote.

Then sweat it out in the sunshine to see Gnarls Barkley, and find DangerMouse; Cee-Lo and their backing singers bedecked in fetching red-and-white (Jack and Meg should sue!) as they do their best to liven up an audience seemingly keener on picnicking and posing than shaking their ass to Barkley's bedevilled beats. When a really quite thrilling run-through of 'Gone Daddy Gone' fails to stir the masses, Cee-Lo stops trying to be our friend and bares his belly to the audience (Dead Kenny's stained hoodie is a prettier sight) which gets the biggest crowd reaction until the inevitable (and indeed, inescapable) 'Crazy' is released into the community with due care and attention.

Meet up with Ray & Deb for beers, then wander off for The Shortwave Set on the Acoustic Stage, which is actually a picturesque bandstand in a quiet corner of the grounds. Well, it was a quiet corner until Damien Marley's booming basslines all but drown out the London band's swoonsome sixties-stylised sounds. They try hard to make the best of it with some good-humoured quips but you sense this won't go down as one of the group's fondest-remembered gigs.

Round up R & D and head back off to the main stage where Flaming Lips are, for reasons best known to themselves, midway through a cover version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Not to be outdone by Gnarls Barkley's robed gospel chorus, Wayne & Co. surround themselves with people dressed in a variety of Santa Claus and superhero costumes, and there's even a staged backing-band proposal to complete the feel that the Flips are becoming the modern indie embodiment of the travelling medicine show. And yet this is a band that always seem to make complete sense in the live arena - stripped of the prog padding that often threatens to fatally destabilise their albums, even recent tunes like 'Yeah Yeah Yeah Song' and 'Free Radicals' feel like classics, and the likes of 'Do You Realise?' still retain sufficient poignancy to stir the heart of many a happy drunk in a field.

There's an inescapable feeling of anti-climax as Massive Attack take stage, seemingly given the task of single-handedly replacing the Dance Stage of this year's missing Glastonbury for surviving 90s rave casualties. The Bristol collective's stage rhetoric remains relevant (there's some repeated jibes against the BNP) and 'Unfinished Sympathy' and 'Safe From Harm' retain the majesty that justifies their place in history, but history is now where they belong and there's no place for museum pieces at the head of festival bills, in Dead Kenny's Parallax View.


Anonymous Russ L said...

No sympathy at all regarding The Shortwave Set. You should have been watching Damo Marley anyway.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Dead Kenny said...

Well, the tent was rammed to the guypoles for Marley Jr so that wasn't really an option.

The Shortwave Set are lovely, though. Give 'em a chance!

10:19 PM  

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