With a line up that boasted the likes of Sway, Gnarls Barkley, DJ Shadow and Massive Attack, there wasn’t any chance of the day being anything other than brilliant…was there? Well, despite the awesome line up, the abysmal sound set up for the festival meant that the day was certainly nowhere near as good as it could, and should have been.
After a little while mooching about, getting free turns on a PSP and checking out Shorty [I think], we got to the front of the main stage for the chart-topping Gnarls Barkley. Cee-Lo was an awesome front man, waddling around with a beaming smile on his face throughout and finally getting his belly out and telling everyone they loved it. But the problem was that, despite having 3 backing singers, a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, a keyboard player, a string section AND Dangermouse, you couldn’t hear anything! Crazy was great for the sing-a-long chorus and new single Smiley Faces got some people moving, but it was like listening to a CD in the next room with the door closed.
Moving on, we saw Sway on the second stage. The sound here was a little better because it was enclosed and he ripped through his usual routine of hits and even threw in Parklife [my Blur fanboy radar went off the scale] for good measure. Onto the Myspace tent for Akala and his performance was arguably the best of the day, even though there were only a smattering of people ready for him when he stepped up. I missed him having the whole band backing him as he did at the Barfly show, but he was confident and had fun.
Ignoring Pharrel, we headed back to the second stage to wait for Shadow and caught the end of Damian Marley’s set. It’s amazing how many posh upper-middle-class white people turn into Rastafarians at the mere mention of “Jamaica”. Hearing people with their pink polo shirt collars turned up sing “Owt in de street dey cyall it morda” was entertaining in itself, definitely more so than what was actually on stage. After a 20 minute delay though, and also being crushed into pulp, Shadow came on and I have to say I was disappointed. He didn’t do anything in the first two minutes, save put records on and bop his head. The bass was far too weak and his music suffered as a result, so we buggered off early, back to the main stage.
Massive Attack were the group I went for. The thought of hearing Teardrop, Unfinished Sympathy and Karmacoma live was something I could hardly contain myself for. And yet when they came on and the sound dribbled out of the one set of speakers next to the stage, I knew it wasn’t going to live up to the hype. It’s a shame because the songs are amazing and given the right setting would have stolen any show, and yet nothing sounded as dynamic and forceful as it should. Terry Callier’s beautiful voice was muted and melodies couldn’t be picked out.
This could have been a superb day, and though I had fun, it was more to do with hanging out with my best mate than witnessing brilliant performances. O2 need to get off their mobile phones and get to adding more speakers!