Werchter 2006 (Belgium)
30 June 2006
Day One - 29 June, Rock Werchter, Belgium
With no Glastonbury this year festival-goers are travelling further a field for fields of thrills. The small town of Werchter, near Brussels played host to a number of legends over four days as the Brits proved that their European invasion wasn’t just of the football fan variety.
Apart from the wealth of British talent on the bill (Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Muse and The Who) the first thing you notice about Werchter is the absence of that usual carpet of beer cups. That’s because organisers keen to protect the lush green site have taken the innovative step of giving fans a free drink voucher for collecting 20 cups. As the opening throngs of American rockers Deftones ring out on day one, their seedy metal row is strangely complemented by an array of ‘cup monkeys’ badgering people info finishing their drinks.
Where frontman Chino Moreno is, like their sound, baggy, sludgy and overweight, it’s the experimentalism of Tool that is the real draw for Werchter’s metal fraternity. Like Radiohead, Tool have evolved into a genre defying brand that continually manages to innovate and shun the limelight. Despite the Scud-like intensity of many of their tunes, writhing amid fractured rhythms and mesmerising guitar work, they prove to be as immense a live act as ever.
Maynard James Fruitloop also looks rather normal – in that he’s dressed like a rock star and dancing in front of the curtain for a change. All cowboy hate and diamond studded belt, he blasts through ‘Sober’ as if it were the last tune he’d ever play.
It’s a shame the same cannot be said for Red Hot Chili Peppers. Despite John Frusciante’s exquisite solo cover of the Bee Gees’ ‘How Deep Is Your Love?’ it’s not enough to make up for Anthony Keidis, who, dressed like Avril Lavigne, seems to have lost any singing ability he may have once had. The disappointing array of material they play from the bloated Stadium Arcadium double-album doesn’t help matters and many of the Brits can be found dancing to The Streets over on at the Pyramid Tent.
Rather than expand the enclosed second stage, Werchter organisers have cleverly put a nice sound system and large screen on the outside of the ten, meaning that those in favour added beer lairiness can stand by the bar, dance and still hear it all fine.
Concentrating on his pranging antics from
new LP ‘The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living’, Mike Skinner, and full live band, make a cracking
end to the first night’s antics. Even the rather sullen Let It Be-rip that is ‘Never Went To Church’ amasses
drunken swaying. It’s the touching ‘All Goes Out The Window’ that moves us most though, a lament to hip
hop gun crime and the Anglo-American divide. Skinner’s grimy, urban hip hop has a wonderfully stark beauty to it and
live he’s sharp and clearly ‘prang’ free.