We kick off our second day at the festival by checking out José González on the Höjden stage. It’s unsurprising that the stage area is absolutely packed, given the fact that he’s one of Gothenburg’s own, and security shut it down within twenty minutes because it’s at full capacity. It’s a great, understated performance and a gentle start to ease us into the day ahead.
Arguably the best gig of the day happens at the Linné tent, where Kamasi Washington takes to the stage. It’s a brilliant set and Kamasi and his band are on top form, oozing musicality, as they crack through tracks from The Epic. With such superlative musicians on stage, it’s no surprise that the crowd is roaring by the time they’re halfway through the opening track. It’s a jazzy, bluesy, souly, funk-shake, shot through with African rhythms. We drink it up. Afterwards, we go from one epic performance to another. By the time Grace Jones makes her appearance, the skies have opened and the festival site’s slowly being transformed into a quagmire. We barely notice the rain when she takes the stage: skulking out wearing a black cloak and a gold skull headpiece with a crown of black feathers. On losing the cloak and putting on a golden headdress, we discover that she’s covered in tribal body paint. She is fierce, commanding and completely compelling.
When The Tallest Man On Earth takes the stage he is genuinely delighted to see such a huge crowd waiting, given the fact that we’re all in danger of being washed away by the rain. He’s as great a stage presence as ever without needing any gimmicks: the songs fly on their own. His most recent album Dark Bird is Home saw him embracing a full-band sound and these tracks, combined with reworked tracks from his earlier albums come across really well despite the fact that the band are playing borrowed instruments after their kit got lost on a plane. We love the new versions of 'Wind and Walls' and '1904' and 'The Wild Hunt', arranged for guitar, pedal steel and violin, is something really special. He abandons the band for some of the set, playing some earlier tracks in their original arrangements. 'Love is All' and 'The Gardner’ prove that Kristian Matsson is at his best with just his vocals and guitar.
Based on my previous experiences with The Libertines, where the gigs were either blisteringly good or cancelled, it’s 50/50 as to whether they’ll pull of their first performance in Sweden in twelve years. By the time they take the stage, it’s public knowledge that Pete wasn’t even in Sweden when they were due to play the day before. Now he’s here, but he’s pallid and woozy and looks like he’s just back from a date with Gazza, circa 2014. Things get off to a good start with 'The Delaney', mainly because it’s nostalgia in overdrive, as Pete and Carl appear on the stage in their scarlet guardsman jackets. Appearance-wise, it looks just like the old days. Performance-wise, it’s just like the old days too: pretty shambolic in parts with moments of brilliance where the band really gets it together and are on top form. After a great start, the set goes awry and by the time they get to 'What Katie Did' the cracks really start to show. Carl’s been looking wary all through the set and there’s a moment where he seems to have to chivvy Pete along, Gary’s looking wary too while working overtime on the drums to keep the songs on track and John is getting the job done with aplomb but looks like he’s quietly fuming. At one point, Pete gets so frustrated that he throws his guitar into the crowd and his guitar tech has to scramble out to get it back. It’s a shame that, on some of the band’s best tracks like 'Can’t Stand Me Know', the guitars are all chord work and really scrappy. As the set nears its end, though, they really get it together. 'Vertigo', 'Death on the Stairs' and 'Time for Heroes' are absolutely smashing and show that The Libertines can still really deliver. The set rounds off with 'The Good Old Days', 'Up The Bracket' and 'Don’t Look Back into the Sun', and the crowd is delighted. Like previous Libertines gigs, the set is brilliant and frustrating in almost equal measure but still worth seeing. Carl and Pete still have great, fractious chemistry but they can’t hold the band together. It’s time we got over idolising the leading men and gave the Gary and John the credit they deserve for being the ones who work overtime to hold the band’s live performances together. It’s no wonder that Gary whips his top off and hops about the stage at the end of the set.
PJ Harvey’s headline slot is both austere and magnificent. She comes onstage flanked by men in grey suits, chanting, swathed in indigo and carrying a saxophone. We can’t take our eyes off her. She plays most of her most recent album, the monumental The Hope Six Demolition Project, some tracks from Let England Shake and it’s only after over an hour that the 90s classics get an airing. By the time the lights finally go out, we feel like we’ve just witnessed something monumental.