V Festival 2013 Chelmsford review

'Another fun weekend'

Photographer:Shirlaine Forrest

Chris Eustace - 21 August 2013

V Festival is never going to be cool – it’s all about the simple matter of giving people songs and acts they know. Nothing wrong with that, right? Right, but it’s a little harder to muster enthusiasm for some of the line-up this time round.

Accordingly, everyone seems a bit sleepy as Saturday kicks off, the exception being those watching Conor Maynard’s "JT Junior" schtick, which attracts plenty of screams. His covers of ‘Don’t You Worry Child’ and ‘Get Lucky’ are overly polite, but thankfully he delivers his own ‘Turn Around’ with a little more gusto (6.5/10).

Similarly, Gabrielle Aplin (6) has ‘Please Don’t Say You Love Me’ hollered back at her, but while her acoustic pop is nice, it’s woefully short on spark.

Thankfully in just five songs, Katy B (8) provides a truckload, with big beats, attitude and a classy duet with Jessie Ware on ‘Aaliyah’ as the day finally seems to get going. Spare a thought for Mark Owen (6), though – despite playing Take That songs, the tent rapidly empties. His own Radio 2-friendly numbers are serviceable enough, but with the tent now barely a third full, things fall a bit flat.

Over on the Main Stage, Two Door Cinema Club’s Alex Trimble is enjoying a glass of wine. “We last played V in 2009,” he smiles. “Nobody came.” The mass singalong to a sprightly ‘What You Know’ has probably made up for that (7.5).

Walking off towards the 4Music Stage, we find Labrinth (7) has become a reliable tea-time set smasher. ‘Earthquake’ gets everyone moving, but it’s probably time for some new songs now.

Some of those have been long overdue for Travis (8), who’ve been off the radar “being Dads” for a few years. Essentially Coldplay before Coldplay were, their set tucked away in The Arena tent is an unexpected highlight. A huge crowd are in to sing along to ‘Turn’ and ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’ as if they’re still headliners.

The punters are hovering around the Main Stage now, and while a guest appearance from Labrinth on ‘Hall Of Fame’ livens up The Script’s lumpen over-emoting, a Timberlake/U2/Westlife hybrid doesn’t seem like a good idea (5.5).

Rain’s coming down in sheets, but the faithful will not be denied – or will they? Chelmsford’s getting drenched and impatient and a few boos ring out, though all is forgiven as Beyonce (8/10) finally emerges 20 minutes or so late.

She starts things up at a furious pace with ‘Run The World (Girls)’, but things start to go awry with too many unfamiliar tracks and momentum-sapping, costume change-covering short films.

When it’s good though, it’s very good indeed: ‘If I Were A Boy’ gets re-tooled with the strings from ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ and fingers click all over Chelmsford for a sashaying ‘Love On Top’, and, when she powers home with ‘Crazy In Love’, ‘Single Ladies’ and ‘Halo’, the day is saved, but it was a close one.

Sunday starts with Five (5, obviously) on their Big Reunion-assisted comeback. At least ‘Keep On Moving’ is still good. John Newman (6.5) follows, sticking firmly to the ‘Strickland Banks’ blueprint with a belting, raspy voice. There’s nothing yet to top a towering ‘Love Me Again’, but plenty of promise.

The crowd on the 4Music Stage has clearly earmarked Tom Odell (7) as their “sit down and eat something” moment.  There’s a certain charm to his piano-led singalongs, and we get the added bonus of an endearingly ragged cover of ‘Get Back’ with unlikely guest Seasick Steve.

The Arena tent is half-full just before Everything Everything (8) start up – with a good 70% of the site heading to Olly Murs on the Main Stage, it looks worrying for them initially, but starting with ‘Cough Cough’ is a canny move which sees loads more run in, who are then treated to a dizzying singles-only set, finishing with a fizzing ‘Don’t Try’. A stroll over to the Main Stage confirms we made the right decision – even with most of Essex on his side, it looks like the pork-pie-hatted one is off his game today, with ‘Troublemaker’ a damp squib (6).

Rudimental (8) provide a festival workout that even the massed ranks of gym-bros here today struggle with. The fiery breakbeats of ‘Not Giving In’ and ‘Waiting All Night’ keep everyone bouncing, on the orders of relentless hype man DJ Locksmith. ‘Feel The Love’ is the perfect note to finish on in the blazing sunshine.

Emeli Sande’s mega-selling soul is pleasant enough, and V takes the opportunity to chill with ‘Heaven’ (6.5), but it’s not quite compelling enough when there’s the prospect of tearing things up again with Kendrick Lamar (8) instead, and the Compton MC’s onstage confidence is as infectious as the tunes, with the anthemic trio ‘Backseat Freestyle’, ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and ‘Swimming Pools’ causing circle pit-assisted chaos.

Following Rita Ora’s decent jittering R’n’B set (7.5), the two tribes of V separate, with one huge crowd heading to the 4Music Stage for Calvin Harris, the other to the Main Stage to watch Kings Of Leon (8), and while we only get one new song, the return-to-form single ‘Supersoaker’ , there’s plenty of evidence elsewhere that the Followills have some of their fire back.

They tear into ‘The Bucket’, while ‘Holy Roller Novocaine’ is a thumpingly welcome blast from the past, and a pensive ‘Pyro’ is an early standout. They’re not ones for moving around too much, or for the stage banter - Caleb’s faltering greetings are about all we get – but it’s the songs that generate the energy, and that bar is raised higher tonight – someone’s told them at last that they’ve been playing ‘Molly’s Chambers’ at half speed for the last few years.

The biggest difference from their last round of festival shows over here is they finally look like they’re enjoying playing ‘Use Somebody’ and ‘Sex On Fire’, and there’s a sense that the autopilot has been turned off, which bodes well for the new record.

As for the festival as a whole, it was another fun weekend, but a slightly lacking line-up early on in the day should sound a note of caution - a festival is never as simple as "book big headliners, watch tickets sell out".

It was still pretty easy to plot a good day's entertainment this time round, but organisers may need to look over their shoulders. Reading & Leeds has hoovered up the bulk of the new guitar talent, forcing V to rely on older acts for the most part in that department, and with their rivals now moving in with a more imaginative take on their urban and dance rosters this year as well, not to mention the likes of Creamfields, there’s no room for complacency.

Give the people what they want” is V’s unashamed motto – but what if someone else gets there first?


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