by / July 9th, 2011 /

Oxegen 2011 – Friday: The Strokes, Glasvegas

The Strokes – Vodafone Stage

Latest album Angles might have been met with less than critical adoration, but that certainly hasn’t affected The Strokes live show. Bracketed by a stark yet beautiful stage set up consisting of lit up chevrons(angles, presumably?) and a pixelated screen that channels ’80s video games, Casablancas and co. are in no mood to mess around, launching into a set stuffed full of their biggest hits and mercifully thin on the ground when it comes to newer material. Julian struts his stuff in leather and sunglasses, and times ‘Reptilia’ to coincide with the sunset and the breaking of an absolutely monster storm, creating the perfect festival moment. ‘New York City Cops’, ‘Someday’, ‘Juicebox’ and ‘The End Has No End’ are scattered through a set characterised by the slurring vocals of the ice-cool lead singer and infectiously stark riffage.

When gratuitously misspelt early hit and second-to-last track ‘Last Nite’ kicks in, the mosh pits open up down the front, Casablancas ice cool demeanour breaks for long enough to reveal a mammoth smile and all hell breaks loose down the front. It’s been some time since we’ve been graced with The Strokes presence on these shores, and their return stands out as a massive triumph, showcasing every ounce of the heady, abrupt brand of garage rock that rushed them into the limelight a decade ago. In keeping things simple and concentrating on what they do best: play genuinely moving, socially affecting rock songs to massive crowds, yet somehow make things feel intimate, The Strokes set will take some beating this weekend. Who knew the slick, crisp, vocally quirky style of New York’s coolest band was so well suited to a Kildare field?

Glasvegas – 2FM / Hot Press Academy

The Strokes are followed by the pre-headliner lull (yes, we have no idea how they’re not even headlining the second stage, either), during which we catch a little of Noah and the Whale unveiling a live show that’s impressively boisterous next to their sedate recording style. The crowd waiting for Glasvegas are then treated to the bizarre aural mish-mash of Swedish House Mafia and their manic, Morse-code-ish light show in one ear and the sugary pop of Black Eyed Peas in the other. Swedish House Mafia’s throbbing beats are dwarfed from afar by their stunning laser show and what looks like a full on stage-front smoke screen. Nice. When the Allan’s and Co do finally emerge, though, it’s a triumph.

Frontman James loves a good, blunt image. His lyrics are those of the emotional yet hardened modern man, delivered in a pronounced Scottish drawl from beneath his shades. The Scots have brought their own ‘Vegas lights for tonight; huge, Blackpool-style monstrosities that flash in time with their brute-ish chords. They play a good blend of tracks from their self-titled debut and this year’s follow up, Euphoric Heartbreak. Glasvegas are fast becoming one of those beloved cult bands, with a dedicated following established in part through the pages of NME and in part through their genuinely different approach to producing an indie rock track.

James struts about the stage with his lit-up tapeworm microphone wire draped around his body, and mixes in adapted children’s nursery rhymes and a strutting stage presence in the kind of melting pot that will either irritate or blow your mind. For us it’s a festival highlight, with early smashes ‘Daddy’s Gone’ and ‘It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry’ delivered with the raw emotion that made them such fan favourites in the first place. This is indie rock for the emotionally tender, performed with a simple yet memorable image and packed full of sing-your-heart-out crescendos. James lies on the floor, collapses to his knees and regales us all with indecipherable tales of his homeland, without ever losing the sense that this is a band built around his overwhelming stage presence and unique vocals. All in, it’s an absolutely storming end to the night.

Photo by Peter Neill.