Roskilde 2008 - Days 3 & 4

The crescendo of Denmark's biggest festival

Roskilde 2008 - Days 3 & 4

Photographer: Peter Corkhill10 July 2008

Despite struggling to all fit on the stage, it proves almost impossible to tear Orquestra Imperial away from it. The ecstatic but inebriated crowd try the best to pull some Latin moves as the collective are more than happy to play on well past sunrise. It's one hell of a spectacle, and a great way to delay collapsing in your tent for a few hours.

From finishing one day with an 'Orquestra' to starting another with a fully blown orchestra; Saturday begins with the rare treat of a midday concert from the Tivolis Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Alexander Shelley is hugely charismatic, relishing every minute of performing to a young audience as his musicians play some of the most beautiful and stirring music the festival has ever heard. Classical music at a festival might not be to everyone's taste, but this triumphant concert shows Roskilde at its eclectic best. Later, Jose Gonzalez plays in front of a rammed Odeon. However he is haunted by his one-hit-wonderdom and half of the crowd leave after a mid-set rendition of 'Heartbeats'. You can't help but feel a tad sorry for him.

Local boys Efterklang also seem extremely popular. As such, the tent is so packed out that it's overheating and doesn't have enough security to cater for the massed hoards. Consequently, they start half an hour late, and the band's quirky experimentalism doesn't quite justify the wait, meaning people leave the intense heat in their droves. This disappointment is made up for by a riproaring set of soul standards from Solomon Burke, the biggest act at the festival. Literally. The guy is so rotund he can't even stand up and is forced to holler the classics from the comfort of an ego-boosting gold throne as a bevy of lovelies mop his sweaty brow at his every beck and call. The gig goes down a treat, and the veteran gets the biggest cheer of the festival following a set-closing rendition of his signature 'Everybody Needs Somebody'.

One bona-fide legend is followed by another as Neil Young takes to the Orange Stage. Looking characteristically haggard in a paint splattered jacket, Young plays a career-spanning set backed by a trusty band of wisened old pros. The crunching mastery of 'Hey Hey, My My' is unrefined rock 'n' roll at it's dirtiest, standing in contrast with tender acoustic laments such as 'The Needle and the Damage Done'. Set-closer 'No Hidden Path' is an epic twenty minute screeching guitar assault that never seems to end, and a surprise encore of a squally take on The Beatles 'A Day in The Life' closes what will undoubtedly be an 'I was there' gig for the awe-stricken crowd.

Come Sunday, legs are starting to wane and people seem to be either taking it easy or leaving the festival altogether. Cat Power however is still purring away in front of a large crowd; clearly loved up, Chan Marshall spends the set either disappearing offstage or writhing on the floor and, upon finishing, she grabs as many small items she can from the stage to hand to the crowds as gifts. Quite who would treasure her bassist's empty water bottle is anyone's guess.  

Later, band of the moment Hot Chip have the entirety of the Arena stage dancing from the outset, competently busting out the standards before ending with a spacey cover of Prince's 'Nothing Compares 2U'.  Festival headliner du jour Jay-Z has the honour of closing this year's Orange Stage, as well as being the only artist unfortunate enough to play in the rain. The set is clearly tailored for a European festival crowd, and his back catalogue is interspersed with classic hooks from everyone from AC/DC to Jackson 5, ensuring a welcome degree of familiarity amongst a crowd more custom to watching big-hitting guitar bands. Despite the downpour, it goes down pretty darned well. After this, and with no other bands playing at the same time, Digitalism have the closest thing Roskilde has to a captive audience. Nonetheless, their set is a triumph, proving outright why they’re the current darlings of the European dance festival circuit.

Roskilde 2008 is the complete festival. A great programme of bands from all musical spheres ensures that this reviewer barely sees an act he's disappointed with. On top of this, the atmosphere is fantastic thanks to the extraordinarily friendly nature of all festival-goers, and there are more non-musical activities than there is Lurpak and bacon in the average Dane's fridge (probably). More importantly, the weather more than holds up, meaning most attendees not only go home utterly satisfied with their Roskilde experience, but with the added bonus of a fetching tan. If Roskilde keeps this up, Neil Young's onstage proclamation that it is "the best festival in the world" may ring true for many a year to come.

By Francis Whittaker.

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