03 June 2014 (gig)
03 June 2014
It’s so difficult it seems of late, to live the moment, to feel firmly in the present tense, at the right place at the right time. But yesterday I had no such doubt. Prey tell me, where in Europe, or maybe beyond, can you find on the same stage, for a one day festival, the likes of We Are Scientists, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Fratellis, Miles Kane, Manic Street Preachers, Biffy Clyro, Pixies and finally Queens Of The Stone Age.
I can’t quite believe it even seeing it in print but on 2nd June at the Joe Strummer festival area of Parco Nord in Bologna, Italy, this was the scenario that awaited us. Throw in a beautiful summer’s day to boot, even if the festival area is very scruffy compared to British sites, the grass was greenish and dry, the stage, massive with a superb sound system.
Times are indeed hard in Italy, manifesting itself in this occasion with maybe only around 10,000 people coming to the accomodating ‘Red, Communist’ Bologna even though it was a bank holiday Monday, but with an even split of cool guys and pretty gals, the vibe was very pleasant and relaxed. Tickets for the day were only 50 euro’s so you can’t blame the promoters,Hub Music Factory, at all, the government undeniably yes!
We Are Scientists, Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Fratellis all put in admirable short and sweet sets with brisk turnaround times and no delays, so plenty of time to relax and watch the bands get into their groove in the hot summer sun.
Miles Kane arrives with snazzy silk shirt and sunglasses looking remarkably fresh and vibrant and enjoys working up his band to a sweat, sticking in a fine ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ as much as for his enjoyment as for the crowds.
Manic Street Preachers, who haven’t played in Italy for 16 years, arrive on stage for a short set, humble to the bone, knowing they would have to earn their applause as they are a rather unknown entity around these parts. James Dean Bradfield no longer handles rhythm and lead guitar as I was used to seeing him, the band now a five piece on stage, but his guitar sound, switching between various Stratocasters and Les Pauls, is great and his voice still shines. Bassist Nicky Wire still looks so young with his punk leather jacket on. The bass below the waist he could have been Sid Vicious’s older brother. Ending with ‘If You Tolerate this Then Your Children Will Be Next’, the Manics got the thumb’s up and left us hungry for more music .
That turned out to be “Biffy Fucking Clyro” as Simon Neil(guitar/vox) likes to announce the band, who, even if it will be headlining many a stage themselves this summer, realizes that you can play second fiddle to Pixies and Queens, without feeling diminished and boy did they gave a performance of 100% passion and purpose, able to keep the buzz and good feeling in the field going. Also a five piece on stage, with the added members suited and booted being frankly rather superficial compared to the core: indeed, this is my only criticism in that as a wonderful precise unit, the three of them, Simon, James(bass/vox) and Ben(drums/vox) Johnston, their naked torso’s on display, there really is no need to add superficial layers to their captivating, enticing and engaging music. Be courageous and go all the way as a three piece is my decree.
Playing tracks mainly from ‘Puzzles’ like the wonderful’ Black Chandelier’ and Only Revolutions’ ending the set list with the powerful ‘Mountains’, they will definitely rise to the bigger occasions that lie in front of them this summer such as headlining Isle Of Wight. The appreciative thanks to the crowd and best wishes to the QOTSA were sincere too; you can just tell.
Enough time to queue up for a beer, drink it and head into the throng and dead on time ,Pixies walk on, standing at the front of the edge of the stage with a wall of cubes, full of bright coloured lights right behind them.
Never seen these icons of indie pop rock before and for me it’s just so much fun to watch and partake in it all. The classics are performed with all the right buttons being pushed at the right time, Frank Black’s voice and guitar sound fantastic, with new bassist Paz Lenchantin filling Kim’s shoes admirably. I know they disappointed a bit on their return to action last year, but with a really good new album in tow, their first since 1991, that has loveable songs such as Magdalena and Indie Cindy, it all works.
Frank says absolutely nothing to the crowd, but what is there to say especially if you end the set with ‘Monkey’s Gone To Heaven’, ‘Debaser’ and then the irresistible Where is my mind ?’ which was the song I found myself humming on the way home; Joey Santiago’s superb hypnotizing hagstrom deluxe guitar lick with a tremolo effect, enchants so much you just hope the song is never ending; all is at peace with this world if only for 5 minutes.
Queens Of The Stone Age. I really don’t think that there are many other bands in the music scene of today that are held in such high esteem by critics, fans and other musicians. Formed in 1996 and with six studio albums completed, they have built up a body of work which is, what is the word; majestic that’s it.
Now they are beginning to cut it live too, delivering such a powerful performance here in Bologna that it took one’s breath away. The set list is superb, opening up, with a 60 second countdown, to an explosion of lights and drum beats that intros ‘You think I ain’t worth a dollar but I feel like a millionaire’ to follow up as on the album ‘Songs for the Deaf’ with ‘No One Knows’ and then the wonderful single from the latest album ‘…Like Clockwork’, that is ‘My God Is The Sun’.
Truly, tell me a rock group today who can beat that repertoire.
The band is tight yet there is always a sense of experimentation taking place because the intensity and drive of the drums and interplay between guitars seems to have no boundary. The pace softens half way through for the gorgeous ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’ with Josh’s voice almost angelic in its performance. Then back to the fast lane with songs like ‘Little Sister’ and ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ wild and captivating. The show ends with ‘ A Song For The Dead’ which is musically the most absorbing piece to be played the whole day. Scintillating in its execution, it drains you of all your energy, reserves and all, because it demands your total participation in both body and mind. The crowd pogo whilst all senses are triggered to full operative mode in this explosion of light and sound .
Seventy minutes and no encore but how can you follow up this closing coda?
Quite simply you can’t and you shouldn’t. This is show business after all; keep them wanting for more. I leave after listening to a full days live music and I can’t wait to get my stereo on, check out old vinyl and new downloads.
Right time right place? For once I have no doubt.
1. You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire
2. No One Knows
3. My God Is the Sun
4. Burn the Witch
5. Smooth Sailing
6. In My Head
7. Feel Good Hit of the Summer
8. The Vampyre of Time and Memory
9. If I Had a Tail
10. Little Sister
11. Fairweather Friends
12. Sick, Sick, Sick
13. Better Living Through Chemistry
14. Go With the Flow
15. A Song for the Dead