Roskilde, Denmark, 5-8 Jul
With images of a mud-filled Glastonbury fresh in our mind and with weather reports suggesting similar fare at our southern Scandinavian destination, the Skinny was perhaps rightfully fretful...
With images of a mud-filled Glastonbury fresh in our mind and with weather reports suggesting similar fare at our southern Scandinavian destination, the Skinny was perhaps rightfully fretful at the prospect of five nights of tent action complete with associated trench-foot and hypothermia. However, the festival God eventually smiled upon us and after an initial warning shot (more rain in one day than has ever fallen over an entire Roskilde festival before), things cleared up and allowed the considerable array of musical treats, spread over four days, to be savoured in relative comfort.
The mass popularity of Arcade Fire, coupled with their presence undercover meant that the Skinny's first show was a tightly-crammed affair and although the 'Fire were tight and generous with the hits (Rebellion and Keep the Car Running were particular highlights), the crowd seemed more grateful of respite from the weather than for the ditties which effortlessly filled the Arena tent.
Next stop, the Orange stage, the festival's main stage and home to the biggest draws of the festival. We arrive as local act Volbeat are pounding the rain-soaked masses with some kind of heavy rock and although their appeal was mostly lost on the Skinny, a barnstorming version of 'I Only Wanna Be With You' brings a smile to our sodden faces. Having endured the Danes in an attempt to take up a favourable position for the Killers, the Skinny then becomes aware of Roskilde's policy for ensuring complete safety in the pit area of the larger stages. In light of 2000's tragedy where nine fans were trampled to death during a Pearl Jam show, a strict limit to pit numbers has been implemented via fencing and increased steward presence. At the end of shows on the two larger stages, everyone is cleared from the pit area, with queues formed to gain attendance to the area for the next act. Aside from the undoubted safety benefits this also allows those not willing to stand at the bar for the entire day to get a good view of their favourite bands. As the Killers take to the stage, it becomes obvious that the pit area is not as in-demand as at other times and the Skinny manages to avoid queuing and strolls in. Putting the MOR in Mormon, Brandon Flowers is tonight all glitter and gold amongst the now-standard 'Sam's Town' backdrop. The band play all the hits and people dance a little but it would appear that despite the impressively upbeat atmosphere, something special would be required to raise the roof. The Killers are not it.
Having fallen asleep beneath the comforting sound of rain on canvas, we awake to relative silence as Friday heralds the beginning of the the drying period for Roskilde's wetted souls and their clothes. With renewed optimism, we head back to the Arena stage to catch Scandinavian trendies the Sounds complete with Debbie Harry-clone Maja Ivarsson, displaying more knicker than should really be allowed before 9pm. Their synth-laden rock and roll certainly goes down well with standout track, and opener, Living in America, inducing much head-bopping from the cool kids.
Although not au fait with My Chemical Romance's back catalogue, The Skinny appreciates the entertainment value of the band and genuinely enjoys the rock show. I'm Not OK and The Black Parade are particular standouts, with an eagerly responsive crowd taking to Gerard Way's lead like a teenager to eyeliner.
Klaxons are next up in our first visit to the small Odeon tent. We arrive early, which is just as well as the crowd is spilling out of the tent by the time the boys arrive and with good reason too - the trio prove to be in phenomenal form. Opening with a ferocious bash at The Bouncer, the tempo doesn't dip as New Cross' finest tear things up in now-characteristic fashion. Crowd favourites Golden Skans, Gravity's Rainbow and Not Over Yet are lapped up whilst the rest of the band's debut gets the live treatment to maximum effect. As the band leave the stage amidst a swell of feedback and chanting, it's clear the bar has been raised, the big boys have some catching up to do. With this in mind, it's perhaps slightly unfair to judge the Beastie Boys' response by just a few tunes as the Skinny dashes and wades its way back over to the main stage. Sabotage is as superb as you'd expect and the crowd appear jubilant in the presence of the festival veterans, but there's an almost tangible drop in energy levels as the Skinny considers on the old versus the new. As the pit empties, ear drums are readied for Josh Homme and his desert warriors. Sure enough, Queens of the Stone Age are the loudest thing these ears have heard in a long time. Unfortunately, the new-album-heavy set is a little disappointing, with many songs seemingly merging into a blur of feedback and distorted bass, only No-one Knows and Little Sister shine through.
Saturday prompts an early start with the National playing the second show on the Odeon stage. An apparently popular choice, the tent is swollen with expectant revellers, waiting for nuggets from Boxer and its predecessors. They're not disappointed, as Matt Berninger preaches melancholy to the early-afternoon crowd. Start a War is beautiful, as is Slow Show. The tent is woken from its forlorn state with the arrival of Hayseed Dixie who bring us their impressive array of rock and roll classics done in a bluegrass style. Breaking the Law is especially effective and results in extensive moshing, perhaps a first for country music.
Tonight's main stage line-up is somewhat of an elder statesman's affair, although headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers are fresh-faced whipper-snappers compared to the Who, whom they follow. The Who are met with the kind of ovation their years in the business deserve and they're certainly not shy in wheeling out the hits for this their first, and probably last, Roskilde show. The problem is that the Who in 2007 are a mere shadow of the band they once were and this isn't just a reflection on their reduction in original band members. On tonight's evidence they're comparable to an elderly relative going through the motions just to get by. Daltrey has a dodgy voice and seems intent on breaking some kind of microphone-swinging record (to the point where he drops it), whilst Townshend's characteristic windmills are as raw and dangerous as their Dutch namesakes. The setlist is a greatest hits affair and Baba O 'Reilly, My Generation and The Kids Are Alright are undoubtedly vital tunes - it's just that the band themselves are not anymore. The on-stage chemistry between the two is frosty and when Townshend says goodbye, you get the feeling he's speaking to a wider audience than the Roskilde crowd.
Apparently RHCP are a bit of an enigma when it comes to live shows and we've been warned that we'll either be amazed or disappointed. Unfortunately, the show that follows is resoundingly the latter and that's probably being generous. After leaving the largest crowd of the weekend waiting, the band minus Anthony Kiedis take to the stage and begin the first of roughly 20 freestyle jams. How nice. It takes a good five minutes for their leader to arrive and while opener Can't Stop sounds good, their between-song jamming and lack of interest in the crowd smacks of superstar arrogance that gets our goat. It's only during John Frusicante's solo effort (a cover of Songbird) that we get the feeling that the real deal is shining through.
Festival's final day is a UK-heavyweight affair with Arctic Monkeys, Spiritualized and Muse all making appearances. However, The Skinny's first action of the day is found on the Astoria stage where Beirut provide one of the festival highlights. Running through debut LP Gulag Orkestar, Zach Condon and his band of multi-instrumentalist misfits leave the crowd in awe of the beautiful gypsy-folk-rock being performed before them. We manage to catch a glimpse of Spiritualized's Acoustic Mainlines (perfect early-evening fodder) before we take our position for the Arctic Monkeys. The Sheffield quartet are in typically jovial mood and put on a cracking show as the sun shines down on the now-dried masses. The singalong tracks are wheeled out obligingly. Brianstorm, Mardy Bum, When The Sun Goes Down and Teddy Picker are riotous and invoke the biggest crowd participation of the festival. A criticism could certainly be levelled at the similarity of certain parts of certain songs although with the band as tight as this and with Alex Turner's between-song banter bringing a smile to the face, we'll let them off this once. By the time set-closer A Certain Romance comes and goes, the crowd's heart has been well and truly stolen, again.
The final band we take in this weekend consists of the current darlings of British live music, Muse. While there's nothing this reviewer can say that hasn't already been said about the Devon trio, it should be noted that they are a phenomenal act for which no expanse of Danish countryside is too big. A bruising set with all the operatic rock and roll you'd expect is closed with an encore of Unintended, Plug in Baby, Stockholm Syndrome and Take a Bow suggesting that if it were there to be reclaimed, Bellamy and Co. would have just done so, but the title of best live band was surely theirs all along.