Rock Werchter 2004: Saturday
Roy Kasius - 03 July 2004
The day starts off with a Finnish version of Pop Idol, and we're talking the ropey preliminary stages. Had The Rasmus' singer Lauri Ylönen ever been on the program he would never have made it through the first round. His fellow band members press the right buttons, throughout hits like 'First Day Of My Life' and 'In The Shadows', but they must be brimming with frustration at their vocalist's lack of talent.
Is this the Canadian Radiohead? Or is it Pavement joined by some random guests? We are talking Emo with a capital E here. We've never hears such emotional, intense music, topped of with a moody trumpet solos. Broken Social Scene are a rather large band, 12 of them today, bringing both positives and negatives. A dozen musicians on a rather small stage is too over crowded and the effort taken to take them all in makes you forget they are actually making music, which can't be the idea can it? Better just to close your eyes.
Talking of extended bands, Black Eyed Peas have another new band member in the form of Tippa Irie, who has the privilege of opening the show. Maybe a strategic move by the Peas, having exploded on the global scene following the addition of their stunning singer Fergie last year. What we get today is a mixture of greatest hits ('Hey Mama', 'Shut Up') and peace raps a la A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. The crowd wants more of the first, but the Peas seem intent on doing most of the latter, so when they vary the style of their hits, some are left a bit disappointed. However, a banging version of 'Where Is The Love' to close the set ensures they are fondly remembered.
Now, at this point we could say the hype surrounding Franz Ferdinand is a bit overblown, the Scots being no more than a gimmick band who will be forgotten a year from now. But their performance makes us instantly abolish such crazy notions. Franz Ferdinand are simply one of the best things to happen to this festival and they are clearly as startled about is as their adoring audience. Every song from 'Dark Of The Matinee', to 'Michael', and of course 'Take Me Out', hits the bulls eye and knock us for six. If Franz are a one day fly by, they are a fantastic one we will always love. But it looks as though they are here to stay.
Lying on the grass with a beer in hand is how you should enjoy the laid-back grooves of Ben Harper, but with the ground soaking wet from the rain, we bob along to his mellow and funky outlayings just as satisfied. Who wants to lie down and relax anyway? Possibly the Wu-Tang Clan. One of whom is dressed in a negligee, quite symbolic considering the rappers perform as if they've just got out of bed, their lazy and dull rhymes compounded by pale beats. The only bright points are their messages for world peace and the classic 'Gravel Pit'. Joss Stone, on the other hand, appears as if this is her first ever festival, judging by the huge smile on her face. She enjoys the show as much as her audience, or maybe even more. Her sensual, sometimes even sexual, versions of the blues are enough to win the hearts of the crowd, especially the fellas. Her amazing voice, great looks and good songs add up to an outstanding performance.
Moloko will be remembered as the freakiest act of the festival. Ever. Singer Roisin Murphy uses every square inch of the stage as if she were hoovering. And she can sing too. The audience is treated to an overly dramatic, powerful mixture of jazz, dance and rock. They've played better in other shows, but they still burn the house down. Tip: when you are a bit weary after a day of rocking Werchter and you need to wake up, don't go to Zero 7. Yes they are terrific band, playing acoustic sweet songs, tingling electronics alongside warm and cosy soul. But they're not suited to a rock festival and come across far too sickly.
The heroes of today are Muse, who give a mesmerising performance. After the death of Dom's father at Glastonbury it was unsure whether they'd even play Werchter, but man, how they do. Matt Bellamy is one of the best artists alive, his voice combining with stinging guitars and lush pianos. 'Sing For Absolution' echoes around the grounds as thousands join in. Not singing along is not an option. It's a total sound, one that retro rocker Lenny Kravitz picks up on and takes forward well into the night with an hour and a half greatest hits show. Significantly, he doesn't play much of his latest album 'Baptism' and that's not a bad thing. But while he splays out his gravelly mix of rock and funk, we still miss something - maybe it's any real spontaneity. Kravitz is on cruise control tonight, clearly having done too many shows in too little time.
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