by / July 10th, 2011 /

Oxegen 2011 – Saturday: Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys

Foo Fighters – Main Stage

Rock and roll legends don’t come much more ‘larger than life’ than Dave Grohl. Growling, flicking his mane back and forth and firing his way through a frantic selection of Foo Fighters classics, the front man is on absolutely top form. His early set promise to “play until we’re asked to stop” ensures a set of at least fifteen tracks, riddled with Foos classics such as ‘Monkey Wrench’, ‘All My Life’, ‘Best Of You’, ‘Breakout’ and ‘My Hero’. There’s a relentless feel to the set; a manic, riff-tastic flow from track to track that sees the rock legend live up to his reputation as an incredibly giving performer. The crowd return the love in huge multiples, screaming and leaping their way through a set that’s visually simplistic – lights and side screens only – but needs nothing on top of what the Foos themselves have to give.

There’s an inarguable sense of respect between audience and band: the Foos occasionally stop simply to soak up the atmosphere, with Grohl cocking an ear to the crowd as the volume rises to a huge peak, or allowing entire sections of tracks like ‘Wheels’ to ride on the peak of the audience’s emotional wave. ‘Stacked Actors’ sees an absolute beast of a guitar battle commence, with Grohl and Chris Shiflett facing off across the stage, or eyeballing each other at close quarter as they try to outdo each other, and quip “this is some commitment shit now”. At the best part of 100 minutes, the band are as good as their word, too, showing seemingly genuine adoration for the crowd, many of whom have clearly made the trip just for the occasion. Closers ‘Times Like These’ and ‘Everlong’ might be at the slower end of the Foos manic rock spectrum, but they’re the perfect emotional, sedate close to a set that’s packed full of songs from the Foos genuinely huge and classic-ridden back catalogue. Would they actually have gone on all night? After a performance like that, we wouldn’t put it past them.

Arctic Monkeys – Main Stage

Since their Arctic Monkeys followed their near-spoken word poetry debut-album intro to rock n’ roll, they’ve never entirely convinced me. The assorted style changes have resulted in inconsistent records and some big highs and lows, including a less than compelling Alex Turner solo career, but it doesn’t take much of today’s set to see that the live arena is where the band really comes into their own. Turner – who no longer wears his guitar Buddy Holly high across his chest – now has the swagger and sophistication of a major league front man, strutting and snarling his way through a career-spanning show that lifts the level of the main stage. Fused together into one abrupt, menacing menagerie of tracks, Monkeys four albums seem to meld more enticingly live, forming a heady if sometimes slightly atonal sing-along.

While many of the highlights still come from the debut (‘I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, of course, but also ‘Still Take You Home’ and fans-favourite album track ‘Mardy Bum’), the likes of ‘This House Is A Circus’, ‘Crying Lightning’, ‘Brainstorm’ and even bizarre new single ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ sound stronger, more substantial and spicier in a live setting. There’s no doubting its Turner that makes it: the rest of the band are performers to his ringmaster, and the frenzy kicking off in the few front rows revolves entirely around the charismatic frontman. His lyrics might have waned from the brilliant observational to the eclectic and occasional downright bizarre world of his inner thoughts, but live it doesn’t seem to matter one jot.

Photo: Kieran Frost for Phantom FM.