Doves, Elbow, and The CoralEdit this event
- V2002, Romford »
**Okay, okay, it's Sunday in Chelmsford, and to be honest, my head is completely screwed. I went to see the Chemical Brothers last night, and it got a little out of control. **
After arguably the worst breakfast in the history of festival culinary filth (think about that; its quite a statement), we drag our carcasses along to the second stage where we see _"Epic recording artists, Phantom Planet"_. One in a worryingly increasing long line of 'celebrity bands', i.e. normal, bog standard acts with added celebrity attraction. This time its* Jason Schwartzman* of 'Rushmore' fame who is in the look-at-him role, sat behind the drums. Fortunately though, he's a great drummer, and Phantom Planet are a pretty great band. Coming over all Weezer-esque yet with a high degree of playfulness, not a single rock cliché is left unturned or drum riser not sprung from. It's this combined with highly melodic, highly evolved college rock tunes that takes them away from 'P' and 'Dogstar' shame. Not half bad...
4pm, and we're still pickled. It seems, the only route to take is the can't-beat-it-join-it variety. Thusly we go see the Coral. "We've got a replacement drummer, and he's only had two practices" says* James Skelley* of the man who is temporarily replacing his brother; but to be honest, we hardly notice. In the last three months, the profile of these boys has risen beyond the curious to the point where they have y'know, fans. This is well displayed by the burgeoning crowd for their set; full of beer and weed, pretty much like the band they're watching. James is visibly mashed, but it matters little as the band's stomping Zappa/Doors/everything-else-they've-been-compared-to tunes nicely reflect the newly emerged sun. A bit of a triumph, all told.
Elbow are next on the stage, and it's the culmination of two years hard work, the time its been since they first released 'Newborn'. Or maybe they'd argue that it's the culmination of eight years hard work. Whatever, this is pretty much their last gig for a long time, and they make it nigh on perfect. Guy Garvey prowls the stage, delivering lines of such eloquence and magnitude, that he makes it alright for me to use the word 'poet'. Good, in itself, but the fact that it is backed by the sort of sonic assault to make your mouth drop and your head explode means that Elbow ARE better than pretty much any other British band going at the moment. The band can alternate between fearsome, relentless white noise grooves as on 'Coming Second', or the serrated '_Bitten By The Tailfly', and gentle, wafer-thin tapestries of 'Powder_ Blue' and a tear-jerking, set closing 'Scattered Black and Whites'. Or they'll mix the two up, blending calm and ferocity to such good effect on 'Red' and 'Newborn'. Band of the festival, without a doubt. You only wonder how they're going to come back and top their first album, although that question can be placed on the conundrum pile marked 'enjoyable'.
The guitar-rock-heaven theme is continued on the second stage with the appearance of Idlewild. Like it or not (and I suspect that they like it), the band are in the big leagues now, and are expected to perform in said fashion. The size of the crowd reflects this, and the band are probably playing to their biggest English audience ever. It starts well, with a blazing 'You Held The World In Your Arms', followed soon after by 'When I Argue I See Shapes' and 'I Am A Message' with the intensity palpable to all. Unfortunately, for the umpteenth time I have seen the band at a festival, they just don't seem to quite cut it. Yes, their set is well received, and songs like '(I Am) What I Am Not' and 'Roseability' simmer with the usual passion, but its just not quite there. I mean, don't ask me why. It doesn't make sense. The band, especially in its new guise, would appear to be purpose-built for this type of occasion, but I can't deny I am a mite disappointed as the band thrash their way towards the end of their set. Perhaps its because they shy away from the chances to really hammer their qualities home, opting for fast song after fast song rather than to vary their approach. I mean, you'd think that the gorgeous 'I Never Wanted' and '100 Broken Windows'' 'Let Me Sleep (Next To The Mirror)' would be ideal for the outdoor stage, but Idlewild side-step these opportunities in confusing fashion. And then suddenly, it all turns around. Roddy and co. tear through 'Stay The Same' with the conviction of the hit single that it surely will become and it tees us up for the real hit single. 'American English' is absolutely huge. Every person in the crowd sings every word of this lyrically tremendous song with vigour and belief. It's a real chill-down-the-back-of-the-spine-moment and its as REM as you're going to get without shaving Roddy's pate and talking a load of bollocks. Very, very special. They can still do it. It's not that all bands need to be huge and be loved by everyone etc, but in the case of a band as good as Idlewild, and a front man as devastatingly important as Roddy Woomble, its pretty well damn near vital.
From anthem to anthem, Doves see that bar and raise it. Any band that opens with 'Pounding', follows it with 'There Goes The Fear' and still has, as the American's would say, enough in the locker to maintain that level of quality for the rest of their performance has got to be pretty amazing. And once again, the Doves are. Yes, it's the same set that I've seen for the fourth time this summer, but frankly, who cares? The band are mining a seam of such quality, that it currently defies belief. In addition to tracks from 'The Last Broadcast' like 'Satellites' 'Caught by The River and New York, the evenings performance is perfectly augmented by gems from 'Lost Souls' such as 'Here It Comes', 'Catch The Sun' and the ever-magnificent 'Cedar Room'. You all know the songs and the band by now; there's nothing else new to add, just a need to remind you of how good they are. And they do it with aplomb.
And that is pretty much that for Chelmsford for another year. We slope off home, missing the delights of the Stereophonics playing for the umpteenth time on the main stage, but I'm sure they'll be there next year. As possibly, will we. V Festivals; not that bad actually.