BAND OF HORSES have the unenviable task of coming on after MGMT, but the South Carolina-based six-piece seem totally unfazed by the experience. Sauntering on stage with minimal fuss, Ben Bridwell & Co. could easily be appearing on a Texas bar-room in 1978, such is the timeless, old school nature of what they do: but they do it so well. Opener -Is There A Ghost’ sets the scene, building from a gentle ballad into a barrage of power chords like thunder breaking over the festival site. They’ve been touring for most of this year and seem far more chilled than their last visit here, to Tripod in February, while simultaneously, they seem to give it more welly: the sublime -The Funeral’ is a powerhouse, wave after wave of delicious guitar washing over the beaming front rows; -The Great Salt Lake’ ebbs and flows perfectly; and -No One’s Gonna Love You’ is at once blissful and melancholic. Magical.
Over on the O2 stage, THE RACONTEURS are doing their own version of old school, mixing -70s southern boogie with extended rawk wig-outs. When it works, as on a shuddering -Steady As She Goes’ or a tub-thumping -Salute Your Solution’, it’s incredible. Less successful are the 10-minute jams, which basically involve Jack White storming around the stage, firing off solos like they’re going out of fashion (aren’t they?) and screaming incoherently, all the while gurning like a raver from 1991. That said, White looks fitter and healthier than ever: he’s in fine fettle and the man sure can play guitar. Brendan Benson, on the other hand, looks decidedly gaunt – someone give that man a sandwich – but his voice is as good as ever, particularly on the stunning -Rich Kid Blues’, which segues briefly into a snatch of Jape’s -Floating’.
What can you say about RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE? Well, for a start they fucking rock. Like a motherfucker. And then some. Zack de la Rocha , Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk and Tom Morello tear up the rule-book for one of the oldest bands on the Sunday line-up, delivering the most energetic, frenetic and downright mental performance of the entire festival. De la Rocha in particular is incredible: prowling like a predatorial wildcat, before unleashing himself with pistol-whip timing, his entire body used as an weapon of righteous fury, his mouth spitting lyrical bullets as incendiary as any cruise missile, his arms guiding them unerringly to their targets. Morello’s stunning fretwork provides the fuel to his frontman’s fire, from massive slabs of meaty, crunchy chords to short, staccato stabs of searing noise. All the while, they’re backed up by the punchiest rhythm section in the western world.
And they’re loud. Really loud. Ear-bleedingly loud. In fact, the sound cuts out sporadically during their set, presumably because even the enormous PA system at Oxegen has its limits, and Rage push them over the edge. -Bulls On Parade’ is phenomenal, -Bombtrack’ is a revelation; and -Bullet In The Head’ is sooooooo fucking powerful it’s off the scale. What’s most amazing to State’s eyes, however, is how a band like Rage have crossed the generation gap: in between the fresh-faced teenagers are groups of moshing thirty-somethings who remember what all the fuss was about first time around, and both groups of fans instinctively get it. When the band return for a two-song encore, you can taste the expectation, and Rage don’t let us down. What else could it be but -Killing In The Name’? Ferocious, raw and primal, this is 80,000 people tapping into their inner psychopath. Nobody told us there’d be days like this…
Photos (by James Goulden)
Rage Against the Machine
Band of Horses
The Hold Steady