Channel 4 Stage, Chelmsford. Saturday 19 August
Road To V winners Bombay Bicycle Club open the Channel 4 Stage on a blustery afternoon, a tidal wave-like storm soaking both onlookers and the band early on. However, a dedicated army of flag-waving fans keep the spirit alive as the jagged, Editors-inspired rock of BBC kick the day off to a great start.
By the time Biffy Clyro take to the stage, there’s not a single grey cloud in sight. Meteorological respite, however, is quickly replaced with sonic distress, as power outages suspend and stall a fitful set. The Glaswegian trio roar their way though their perfected tightrope of grunge versus melody. The old favourites, ‘Justboy’ and ‘57’, shining out in their loud/quiet, frenetic/calm grandeur and deserve to be mobile waving anthems in their own right.
The fearsome grunge trio, are succeeded by the happy-go-hippie Kula Shaker. Crispin and his merry men praise the sun and pacify the crowd by unleashing with ‘Hey Dude’. Still channeling the peace-love–harmony vibes of yesteryear, the revelers hark back and with arms aloft sway in unison to the mantras of ‘Govinda’ and ‘Tattva’. The newer songs take a political leaning but lack the zeal and zest of previous material. All is set to rights with a galvanizing rendition of 'Hush', the crowd singing along in giddy compliance.
The sun continues to beat down as the innocuous yet affable Orson take to the stage. ‘Bright Idea’ and ‘No Tomorrow’ certainly have the crowd eating out of their hand, belting out the choruses with some gusto, however the set mirrors a crestfallen ambience of general disinterest. Orson’s antics are polished and at best translate as contrived puppetry.
In stark contrast then, come The Cardigans. Impish vixen Nina Persson offers up songs for those who love, those who hate and those who love to disco. Reigning in and side-stepping belligerent requests for ‘Lovefool’, she gracefully saunters and exudes a porous charm. ‘Erase, Rewind’ and ‘Favourite Game’ stand out tall as adept crowd pleasers, whilst Nina sashays from one end of the stage to the other chatting and crooning her arresting vocals with ease.
It’s with wide eyes and wider smiles that we welcome We Are Scientists to the stage, their ingenious entrance providing a necessary injection of humour to the festival. To a furore of background noise of revving engines, they cycle on stage on three-wheeled go-karts and white crash helmets. Careering through their set to an eager and visibly younger crowd, lead singer Keith flails and wails to Chris’s sardonic stage banter. Featured new songs nestle in well amongst the rapturous reception received for the singles, ‘It’s a Hit’, ‘Nobody Moves, Nobody Gets Hurt’ and ‘Great Escape’. Even Edith Bowman at the side of the stage is singing along, a visible captive to their infectious high octane pop thrills.
The ska-tipped Ordinary Boys, propelled back to dizzying heights following Preston’s brush with reality TV, open up with their take on the misgivings of an office job with ’Nine to Five’. They continue on in the same vein, appeasing the Fred Perry army with their anthems of everyday life, without really achieving anything new. It's a true case of 'heard it all before' and it's difficult to see much shelf life for the band beyond the questionable celebrity status of their frontman.
Editors are an altogether far gloomier affair. The weather is in uncanny synchronicity as the sky fills with grey clouds, punctuating Tom’s desolate baritone vocals. Slightly struggling through ‘The Back Room’, Tom soldiers on against losing his voice, but hangs in tight for a resplendent synthed-up monster version of ‘Camera’, an electrifyingly eerie ‘Munich’ and a sinister, compassionate rendition of ‘Lights’. Flanked by members of We Are Scientists they cover REM’s ‘Orange Crush’, the vocal duelling call and response between Tom and We Are Scientists illuminating a definitive V Festival highlight.
Headliners Kasabian polarize the audience but still retain a wealthy following considering they are competing with Radiohead and Fatboy Slim. With their sophomore release ‘Empire’ looming, they swagger on positively self-assured. Singer Tom Meighan visibly overawed, almost apologetically, thanks the crowd after each and every song. They launch into a cavalcade of hits old and new. ‘Club Foot’ is convulsed out in all it’s glory, complete with crude boorish bass and sinuous, almost villainous refrain. It is dedicated and serves as a fitting tribute to Liam Gallagher, who is standing watching from the side of the stage. Of the new material, ‘The Doberman’ is particularly noteworthy with its flamboyant trumpet solo alongside the trademark bleak and sinister synth squelches and hammering bassline. However, their crowning moment of glory is without a doubt ‘LSF’ as Meighan outgrows his Bobbie Gillespie complex to transcend as a star of his own making. 'LSF' epitomizes Kasabian’s mentality and descends from the blinding stage lights with seismic proportions. Serge barely breaks a sweat as Tom delivers the rapacious vocal. Kneeling down at the foot of the stage he bows down in reverence to the crowd as an empowered Kasabian walk off as kings to a covetous crowd, still singing their songs long after the band have left the stage.