With only his two customary cohorts huddled around him, BEN FOLDS looks rather small on the large O2 stage. The crowd here to see him are of a similar nature, but Folds manages to turn the open air space into something intimate. The louder stuff (-Rockin’ The Suburbs’ and a rollicking -Underground’) naturally works best but as a sublime -Landed’ floats up into the grey night sky, you think that there may actually be a place for sensitive, thoughtful songwriting amongst this sea of beer, mud , pushing and pissing. Then some person in a Man Utd jersey sticks his bare arse in our face and the moment is lost.
THE GO! TEAM have a little bit of making up to do in our minds, after a disappointing Electric Picnic show last year and a second album that came nowhere near what we might have expected of them. Within moments of their arrival at O2, however, as the stage is bathed in sounds, light and movement all is right with the world. If any other crowd on this site, right here, right now is having as much fun we’d be amazed. Stop dancing and start thinking for a moment, though, and a few cracks do appear – that this is essentially the same show that first blew our minds at the Village four years ago, just how did a band who are this good live make such a mess of a record – but his is not the moment for such considerations. As Ninja leads us in a massed cheerleader chant of -Go! Team’ it’s like falling in love all over again. Let them do what they do for the summer for sure, but let’s hope that they can break out of their creative limbo and really prove themselves.
Far from the madding crowd, the media/VIP area is the usual mixture of musicians, media types and liggers of all shapes and sizes (the two nine-foot-tall Macnas-esque -bouncers’ are hilarious). This year, alongside the various food and drink options, there’s an artist providing free caricature portraits (we’ll nab him yet) and less impressive, a karaoke machine. Why anybody would want to go to a festival featuring some of the best bands in the world and listen to some wobbly journo slur their way through -Back In Black’ is beyond us (note, this comment was made on a very sober day one, so anything can happen, especially if their song-list includes -The Birdie Song’).
Destined it seemed to always live in the shadow of Basement Jaxx, GROOVE ARMADA have nonetheless developed into the perfect closing act, a dance act for those who wouldn’t be caught dead with those chewing their tongues in the black whole of the dance stage. Purists may want to argue that this is all a little bit lowest common denominator (and Marks & Spencer aren’t exactly queuing up to stick Squarepusher on their next advert) but this is all perfectly fine and, in -Song 4 Mutya’, they have THE best pop tune of the weekend.
Additional reportage: John Walshe.