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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Big Day Out 2007 - review

More than happy to sidestep the Australian flag debate on the strength of being English, this particular reviewer (below) was keen to focus solely on the music rather than the politics at Big Day Out. The Butterfly Effect though, were full of patriotism. “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,” they yelled before launching into a routine set of heavy rock, while people who prefer their rock to be less obvious and more brooding went to check out an impressive show by The Drones.

Lily Allen treated punters to witty and intelligent stories wrapped in bubblegum pop with hints of reggae and ska, and proved to be the perfect antidote to the plethora of bland pop stars around at the moment. Her tongue was typically sharp, and between songs she gleefully attacked George Bush and, slightly less obviously, Jet’s drummer, Chris Cester, who she had had an altercation with earlier in the week. “Fuck you Chris, and your rubbish band,” she yelled, to the amusement of a heaving Boiler Room.

Less controversial, but equally appealing were The Sleepy Jackson, who offered a grand and poignant display, before The Vines rolled onto stage. Anyone who thought The Vines were yesterday’s news will be surprised to learn that, just as they did at Homebake, they belted out a cracking set to a crowd that was practically turning cartwheels while hollering along to every word. Maybe it’s simply because they were playing on home soil, but there seems to be a bit of life left in the old dogs yet.

While The John Butler Trio offered the Main Stage’s most charming and eclectic set of the day, Englishmen Kasabian performed on the Green Stage with a swagger that suggests they are used to playing to European crowds who worship their every move. But, while their indie-dance set was well-enough received, they’ve still got plenty to prove on these shores before they are entitled to strut in such a way. Still, a little self-belief never hurt anyone I suppose.

Over on the Local Produce Stage, Dappled Cities Fly played to a criminally small audience, and those who stayed away missed some interesting, upbeat arrangements. Perhaps the reason that the crowd was so diminutive was because, at the same time, The Killers were drawing the biggest attendance of the day with an efficient set of crowd-pleasers. As the Americans left the stage, a massive chunk of the crowd dispersed while scratching their heads and wondering how the next performers, Jet, were afforded such a high placing on the bill when the likes of My Chemical Romance were relegated to a much earlier slot. Judging by the way the band pouted and postured their way through their set, it seems that Jet genuinely believe that they are the greatest band in the world, which is something that saddens me to my very soul, as this offering was nothing more than a clich├ęd collection of painfully generic rock songs so bland that they failed to connect on any level whatsoever.
Juxtaposing Jet’s hackneyed display with what followed from Muse made the barmy British prog-rockers’ performance seem all the more outstanding. Embellishing their relentless attack of hits with stunning visuals, this was a band clearly intent on rocking Big Day Out to within an inch of its life with their space-age opera. Frontman Matt Bellamy produced sounds, both vocally and from his effects-laden guitar, that ripped through the crowd like a cyclone, as hits like Time is Running Out and Knights Of Cydonia somehow made the vast arena seem intimate. It was a breathtaking and engaging hour, which attacked the senses to such a degree that it left most of us feeling the need for a little lie down.

There was no time for rest though, as, not prepared to let Muse pull the rug from under them, Tool immediately belted out what was essentially a greatest hits collection, which delighted ardent supporters and the uninitiated alike. Full of those trademark chunky riffs, their menacing prog-metal sound had fans from the very front row to the VIP boxes going totally nuts.

In an ideal world, the proceedings would have been rounded off by Lily Allen and Chris Cester resolving their differences with some kind of public dance-off, but this world is not ideal, and so the drunk and dishevelled crowd simply shuffled home, happy that the astonishing sets from Muse and Tool were still ringing in their ears.

Review by Rob Townsend

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