You expect they'd sooner appear on Top of The Pops than at T in the Park, right? Well, not this year. It's easy to observe that the 2012 bill is significantly more pop-orientated than it used to be, boasting reality TV contestants (Cher Lloyd, Olly Murs), boybands (The Wanted, McFly) and a plethora of urban chart stars (Dappy, Tinie Tempah, Labrinth). This is a far cry from T in the Park's early line-ups, which favoured indie and alternative rock music.
The problem isn't the abundance of pop music – far from it, if Florence And The Machine's performance is anything to go by. Flame-haired Florence was in a celebratory mood on Friday – not only was this her third time performing at Balado, it marked the third-year anniversary of the release of her debut album Lungs. Her peculiar brand of ethereal pop is as stirring a live experience as it is tranquil. She playfully bounded across the stage, occasionally pausing to swig generous helpings of a suspiciously amber-coloured liquid. Interest lulled during the lesser-known songs, though Dog Days Are Over and Shake It Out went down exceptionally well, as did, it goes without saying, You've Got The Love.
No, the problem is how generic and stale the rockier portion of the bill is. That's even true for The View, whose appearance at the festival has become as ubiquitous as the weather-beaten yellow rain ponchos. Under the misdirecting name of The Dryborough Soul Band, they performed a crowd-pleasing set early on Saturday, but for those less enamoured with the Dundee four-piece it left a lot to be desired.
Snow Patrol's Friday night headline set was similarly uninspiring – if it weren't for the new tracks, it would have been difficult to distinguish from their 2009 performance. Yet when frontman Gary Lightbody crooned the last few lines of Just Say Yes, he left the stage to generous applause. It's clear the fans loved it, but for the rest of us it begs the question: is this really all that the indie rock scene has to offer?
At the same time, in the dark confines of the King Tut's Tent, New Order were giving a performance that would show up a band half their age. Blue Monday and Temptation sounded remarkably current despite being just shy of 30 years old. The crowd danced gleefully, thanks in large part to the band's incredible instrumental precision. The rhythm pounded faultlessly; even Isolation, a song which from Joy Divison was a foreboding and industrial slice of post-punk, became a layered synth-pop track fit for the Hacienda.
The Maccabees also flew the flag for innovative alternative rock with their Saturday evening set. The South London band's sound has matured a lot since the days of 2007's Colour It In, yet they still perform with a youthful effervescence that lifts as many spirits as it does pints. Frontman Orlando Weeks sang with a passion and intensity that set him apart from his peers, particularly during the brilliant No Kind Words. Can You Give It and Love You Better inspired triumphant singalongs – this is a band worth embracing and worth getting excited about.
One of the hidden highlights of the weekend was the Captain Morgan's Spice Shack, which hosted sets by the finest DJs from Glasgow's thriving underground scene; disco aficionado Billy Woods, Optimo and Numbers' very own Jackmaster all appeared. Esa, one half of the Auntie Flo live outfit, played two hours of gorgeous African-tinged house music on Friday night. His selection was impeccable, with Julio Bashmore's Au Seve and MK's Burning evoking a particularly strong reaction. Elsewhere, on the Transmission Stage, Mixed Bizness's Boom Monk Ben seamlessly blended garage, hip-hop and grime for a more-than-willing audience.
The Slam Tent, curated by and named after Glasgow's legendary techno duo, seemed dated in comparison. Skream, one of dubstep's pioneers, drew a huge crowd on Saturday night, but it was a bit of a lazy booking – a reliable, safe choice. His slot could have been filled by one of the more contemporary names in UK dance music. Nonetheless, with the stage having been out of action during the first half of the day, revellers had no complaints about his selection of earth-shattering, pulsating basslines.
Earlier that day on the Main Stage, Emeli Sandé had the unenviable task of distracting disgruntled festival-goers from the mud bath that had engulfed the arena area. The Alford songstress gave an impressively versatile vocal –from the upbeat glossy tones of Heaven to her soulful mashup of Bob Marley's One Love and No Woman No Cry. Next To Me's catchy refrain ended the set, though unfortunately didn't outlast the torrential rain.
In theory, Jessie J should have had a tough slot playing before Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and Saturday's headliners The Stone Roses. Her crowd was composed of eager Madchester fans, who at that point in the evening were very drunk and very boisterous. However, her sunny vocal and energetic performance acted as an antidote to the Main Stage's swamp-like surroundings, leaving even the burliest Stone Roses fan unable to suppress a grin. She delivered a hit-packed set, from laid-back number Price Tag to recent chart-topper Domino.
After an ideal warm-up set from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, anticipation for The Stone Roses was at fever-pitch. It's only been a week since their trio of reunion gigs in their native Manchester, but it's been more than 15 years since they last played in Scotland. Given Ian Brown's questionable reputation as a live performer, it's fair to say fans were anxious. Yet as the opening bars of I Wanna Be Adored were teased out across the field, doubts were quashed and replaced with shameless nostalgia.
At times Brown's vocal was weak, almost embarrassingly so, but it was rescued by bassist Mani and drummer Reni's hypnotic sense of rhythm. Waterfall was a euphoric and emotional moment, while I Am The Resurrection made for an outstanding finale. Despite having to navigate through an ocean of mud, fans left for the campsite or for home infused with exuberance. After all, what's a little mud and rain compared to a once-in-a-lifetime performance like that?
Catriona Stewart reviews last night's T in the Park line-up in The Herald tomorrow.
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