Little Green Cars – Heineken Green Spheres Stage
Little Green Cars were named as one of State’s ‘Faces of 2011’, and for very good reason. The young six-piece kick of Saturday’s proceedings on the Heineken Green Spheres Stage with an impressively polished performance. Little Green Cars have the kind of raw talent that is genuinely exciting – their musicianship is top notch, their vocals – in particular, those brilliant harmonies – are incredibly tight, and their songs are festival anthems in the making. The band’s debut single on UK label Young and Lost Club, ‘The John Wayne’, is due out on July 25th – here’s hoping it’s the beginning of something truly special.
The Minutes – Vodafone Stage
The duty of restoring order to the Vodafone Stage following the abomination that was Amanda Brunker’s ‘performance’ falls to The Minutes – and there are no better men for the job at hand. Opening with a thundering rendition of the brilliant ‘Black Keys’ , it’s clear from the get-go that The Minutes are here on a mission to rock Punchestown to its core. The songs of debut album Marcata are delivered with such incredible confidence and flair that a stage of this magnitude quickly seems like their natural habitat. They certainly make a lot of noise for a three-piece – it’s a ferociously rocking sound. ‘Fleetwood’ plays the role of natural crowd-pleaser well, but ‘Believer’ and ‘Gold’ manage to trump it; and a manic rendition of ‘I.M.T.O.D’ proves the defining moment of a set which saw The Minutes take on the might of the big outdoor stage and come out victorious.
Hurts – Vodafone Stage
Just as serious fear-of-missing-out is setting is due to a flurry of tweets describing how Two Door Cinema Club are playing an absolute stormer on the Main Stage, Manchester synth-pop duo Hurts take to the Vodafone Stage and almost instantly dispel any desire to be elsewhere. 2010 debut Happiness is the kind of album which gradually got better with every listen – but experiencing the songs performed live just makes a whole lot more sense of what Hurts are all about. They are very aesthetically pleasing as a unit – singer Theo Hutchcraft’s style of performance is captivating, the backing band are all clad in black and white and looking rather dapper, and there’s even an opera singer decked out in a full-blown tuxedo. But it’s not all about the style – there’s a whole lotta substance on offer, too. The anthemic ‘Wonderful Life’ is an early winner, with the crowd giving back just as much as they’re getting. A cover of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Confide In Me’ is just weird enough to work – if one didn’t know better, it could easily pass for an epic James Bond movie theme. ‘Better Than Love’ and ‘Illuminated’ are nothing short of brilliant, and an emphatic performance of ‘Stay’ firmly establishes Hurts as one of the highlights of Oxegen Saturday.
Plan B – Main Stage
Benjamin Paul Ballance-Drew – better known as Plan B to the main stage masses – is somewhat of an enigma. You just don’t expect that kind of powerful voice to come out of him – and when it does so at full throttle, it’s genuinely impressive. Concept soul album The Defamation of Strickland Banks proved a huge success as Plan B carved a whole new niche for himself on the chart scene, and it’s easy to see why. He is a very unique performer – and backed by a fantastic team of musicians, he puts on one hell of a live show. Unfortunately, it begins to wane halfway – foiled by a stage slot that was unnecessarily long, resulting in the churning out of pointless covers (Kanye’s ‘Runaway’, Seal’s ‘Kiss From a Rose’, and ‘Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’ to name a few). Thankfully, thrilling performances of smash-hit singles ‘She Said’ and ‘Stayed Too Long’ are saved for last to reel it all back in and end the show in style.
Paolo Nutini – Vodafone Stage
If there’s one sound that can successfully drown out the impressive racket that Arctic Monkeys are making on the Main Stage, it’s the ear-piercing screams that welcome Paolo Nutini to the Vodafone Stage. Paolo-mania has set in – and amidst a sea of revellers clambering up onto each other’s shoulders in a bid to either be noticed or simply get a better look, it’s impossible not to be sucked in by the whole experience. Launching into the rather catchy ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’, Nutini has the crowd hanging off his every note – they know the words just as well, and perhaps better, than he does himself. When the Scotsman croons, the ladies swoon – but disappointingly the performance of ‘Last Request’, Nutini’s standout ballad (and an all too frequent casualty of X Factor auditionees), is completely underwhelming – played acoustically, it loses its all of its original charm. A far superior slow-set comes in the form of the sweet and soulful ‘No Other Way’, backed up with some brilliant work from the brass section. Nutini’s lively numbers are what really shine tonight however – and ‘New Shoes’ is the standout of the set which, it must be said, created an atmosphere that was nothing short of electric.
Photo by Peter Neill.