Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Morrissey at Wireless, Hyde Park

Glastonbury’s younger, dwarf-like cousin has upped his bags and moved into Hyde Park for a holiday – bringing with him expensive gifts like super-amazing flushing portaloos. Not only that, but he’s brought with him the sun, and a fantastic line-up.

So, for The Rascals: the performance is a strange contrast between showmanship and technical introversion, almost too precise despite the fun the trio are having. The consistent sense of urgency does the trick in the short run, but it’s an unvaried set at least until Alex Turner makes a cameo on set-closer ‘Is It Too Late’ – which finally feeds the audience some much needed gusto.

Next up on the second stage is Jacksonville’s Black Kids. Their set’s a shambles, or more specifically, a mess of indistinguishable noise. Sure, ‘Hit The Heartbrakes’ wails some on record… but that and ‘I’ve Underestimated My Charm Again’ are reduced to screeching, out-of-tune cringefests live. Frontman Reggie Youngblood tries way too hard to impress, though Dawn and Ali’s 60s girlgroup harmonies do carry off live, redeeming the frontman a little. And it’s way too referential live. Shameful, and surely not down to the soundsystem because the same thing happened at Glastonbury last week.

Following that was Guillemots on the main stage, the diverse setlist taking in everything from the wistful ‘Made Up Lovesong #43’ to all-out dance on ‘Last Kiss’. Sporadic and not at all sitting right next to each other, they’ve a strange way of making it work. How unique a frontman Fyfe Dangerfield is becomes evermore apparent on ‘Standing On The Last Star’ - which is more stunning and skittishness live than can ever be imagined.

It’s now mid-afternoon/early-evening, and lapse ensuing, the PA announcement instructs the audience to “cry milky tears” in preparation for The Wombats’ arrival. Dubious. If dumbed-down, pappy, throwaway, foot-stomping, anthem-by-numbers indie-pop is your thing, then it’s a veritable feast. Doubtful though, with the high calibre elsewhere on this day’s bill. Perhaps I’m just irked about how The Wombats have followed me to every festival I’ve been to over the course of the summer. Against my will, may I add.

Aside, higher aspirations lead to the falafel stand – which sits happily alongside the burgers despite the believable rumours of a meat ban (!) – and then towards The National back on the second stage. Time constraints mean that I miss Beck’s set, which is a shame. But it’s more than compensated for by a fantastic display from frontman Matt Berninger, rich baritone in top form. ‘Slow Show’ is just perfect live, the whole set building and building and building into a giant climax of symphonic hyperbole. Boxer is such a stunning LP, which begs the question why The National haven’t been latched onto Arcade Fire-stylee. Not that the half full tent are complaining.

And now for the Moz; it’s vintage, quite simply. Three costume changes and a load of nipple sweat later, the night escalates into a brilliantly orchestrated 21-song set comprising new material, solo hits, and a select few Smiths’ favourites. With Bush-bashing and Kylie-commendations in almost equal part. Opening with ‘Last Of The Famous International Playboys’, it’s ‘What She Said’, ‘Vicar In A Tutu’ and ‘How Soon Is Now’ that get the heartiest receptions. The comeback era songs like ‘First Of The Gang To Die’ and ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ come off brilliantly live, as Morrissey transforms into a super-human being seemingly born for playing these massive gigs. There’s even a cover of Buzzcocks’ ‘You Don’t Say You Love Me’, shamefully lost on much of the audience. New material such as 'Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed' impresses too, with impassioned jangling like any of his best cuts. Forget the ‘depressing’ moniker that’s attached itself to le Moz because he comes across naturally funny, and humbled by the minions. I want to invite him to a private book club, but that’s another story.

In this ever-changing musical climate, Morrissey is the eternal paradigm. And that’s the greatest achievement of them all.

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