by / July 9th, 2011 /

Oxegen 2011 – Friday: My Chemical Romance, Weezer, Peter Hook

Peter Hook – Heineken Green Spheres

Peter Hook and The Light are simple and traditional in the way the present a rock show. Strumming against a backdrop of a run-of-the-mill light show and focusing heavily on their big-name frontman, the group’s celebration of Joy Division – who came to their tragic end just over 21 years ago – features all the classics from the bands two albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer. They might not be much to look at (original bassist Hook certainly lacks the brittle and compulsively watchable stage presence long-deceased Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis was so famed for), but the reproduction of the band’s materially aurally is absolutely nailed on. Hook throws in ‘She’s Lost Control’ early on as a crowd sweetener, but saves the two truly massive smashes, ‘Transmission’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ as mammoth closers, at which point the Heineken tent crowd absolutely lose it. It’s dingy, direct and entirely lacking in niceties, but Joy Division tracks wouldn’t seem right performed any other way. Close your eyes, and it could almost be 1979 again. And there’s not a glimmer of New Order to be found.

Weezer – Main Stage

Weezer, then, have some act to follow, and they open slowly. The Californians have always been something of a collection of alt. rock misfits, and today’s no different. Opposite end of the spectrum covers from Wheatus (‘Teenage Dirtbag’) and Radiohead (‘Paranoid Android’, with that very apt ‘rain down on me, from a great height’ line sitting fantastically) punctuating a career-spanning set. ‘Pork and Beans’ and ‘Island In The Sun’ provide the early set highlights, as well as a mass sing-a-long to that ode to the rich and famous, ‘Beverly Hills’. Rivers Cuomo conducts the crowd from all corners, strumming beneath the big screens or shaking hands in the front row, before the big hitters come out for the finale. The set on the whole is a bit of a geek-rock fiasco, lacking the punch that would draw in those who are only curious, and a little too heavy on the band’s childish edge. In ‘Hash Pipe’ and ‘Buddy Holly’, though, Weezer have two genuine rock classics, and – for ten minutes at least – they’re every bit as good as a fan base that’s travelled from across Europe today would have you believe. Just don’t mention that “a million dollars to stop recording” offer they had not so long ago…

My Chemical Romance – Main Stage

Next up are one of the most divisive bands on the modern music scene. If there’s one big plus that’s come from My Chemical Romance’s recent dalliances with the concept album, it’s that it’s significantly developed their musical range. Today’s set lacks the almost Gorillaz-esque cartoon accompaniment that’s been a feature of MCR’s arena tours, and instead returns to a simple band and audience scenario, one in which Gerard Way seems to thrive. Several of the newer tracks have rhythms that border on ska, or draw on Cuban influences. On the other hand, they do still pedal tracks that are titled with an endless stream of ‘Na’s, (the opener), and emotionally tinged rock certainly remains the dominant force.

The Irish crowd, clearly, are still into their oldest material above anything else. ‘I’m Not Okay (I Promise)’ and ‘Welcome To the Black Parade’ are set highlights, between which Gerard thanks every other band on the bill, professes his undying love for our country and sings a few tracks from the stage runway, hovering over the crowd and delivering vocals in a way that at times genuinely feel like he’s talking to each member of the crowd individually. You can’t argue with the stage presence: Way is fast becoming iconic, frail yet compulsively watchable. He rarely puts a foot wrong vocally, and performs with the ease of a front man who’s clearly used to holding sizable crowds in the palm of his hands. While he doesn’t always succeed in winning over the festival crowd entirely, My Chemical Romance are pure rock and roll theatre. Today’s live show doesn’t quite do enough to justify their incredibly adoring fan base, but in this kind of environment, few would. It certainly gives a great taste of just what all the fuss is about.

Photo by Peter Neill.

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