And so, after the low-key warm ups and the emotion of Glastonbury and London, so comes the third chapter of the rewritten Blur story. Would they manage to maintain the momentum of the past few weeks or, removed from any real degree of drama or connection, would this be the point where a level of normality crept in?
No such problems for SNOW PATROL however, who are almost part of the Oxegen furniture by now, working their way through the ranks from their days of playing tiny stages at Witnness. If this had been any other year, Lightbody’s crew would have probably been headliners and more than equal to the task. They have the high tech stage show, they have a frontman with the common touch to communicate to thousands of people, they have the tricks (pulling audience members out to sing on ‘Set The Fire To The Third Bar’ was a masterstroke) and most importantly they have the songs. There may be far more cutting edge, dare we say interesting, events happening to fall smaller crowds on other stages but this feels right.
It certainly sets the stage for BLUR. Ever since their epic Glastonbury headliner was broadcast over the airwaves, the expectation that this was going to be THE set of the weekend was high, this year’s Rage Against The Machine. State too was ready and raring to go. As it seems, are the band – with Coxon and Albarn both throwing themselves around the place. So it all LOOKS marvellous. But as a rather leaden ‘She’s So High’ opens proceedings the old worries start to creep in – namely will the whole thing be scuppered by sound problems. Well, they certainly don’t help but something else is not quite right.
Gigs on this scale are often reliant just as much on the audience as the band to create a sense of event and tonight Oxegen just doesn’t seem to be up for the challenge. It feels like the third night of the festival rather than a first night celebration. Which means that over two hours there are a lot of dips. Where State is standing the crowd go from drunken jumping to confused swaying to lying in a heap. They raise themselves on four occasions, dispersed evenly throughout the set – ‘Girls And Boys’, ‘Parklife’, ‘Country House’ and ‘Song 2’. The problem is the most interesting moments occur in between. ‘Out Of Time’ and ‘Badhead’ are gorgeous and they really hit their stride on the comparatively unfamiliar ‘Oily Water’.
It all comes together on a frustratingly few occasions. ‘Tender’ is fantastic, a fittingly grand version of one of their most striking moments but the ending combination of ‘To The End’ and ‘This Is A Low’ inexplicably fails to match it, bringing the set to a low-key close. It hardly leads to a massed call for either of the two encores, although they do yield a couple of big hitters in the shape of ‘Song 2’ (which, when viewed from the back of the field, looks and – at last – sounds immense) and a stirring ‘The Universal’, dedicated to Joe Dolan. It concludes a night that should have set a challenge to all that was to follow over the weekend but was as much miss as it was hit. Not a low but a long way from being a high.
Photo courtesy of Heineken Music.