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Way Out West — Day Three

  • Published in Live

Day Three at Way Out West begins with us stuffing our bags full of waterproofs borrowed from friends and by putting on pairs of wellies (also borrowed).  We’re taking no chances after yesterday’s drubbing.  

Our first stop of the day is to see Amanda Bergman perform on the Höjden stage.  She plays lots of tracks from her debut album as an artist in her own right, Docks.  Golden' is stupendously good live and her dulcet tones are as striking as ever.  We leave her set halfway through so that we can catch Daniel Norgren and later learn that both The Tallest Man on Earth and First Aid Kit joined her onstage later in the set. Of course!

Thankfully, Daniel Norgren’s set on the Linné stage is so good that we don’t regret making a move at all. The tent is absolutely crammed full and the audience gives him the warmest reception of the weekend so far. Daniel runs through a packet set that features plenty of tracks from 2015’s The Green Stone. He’s really unassuming, humble and looks delighted by the fact that so many people have come to see him play. When he launches into closing track 'Whatever Turns You On', the tent erupts in cheers and everyone is jumping. It’s a treat to watch.

From one rollicking set to another, this time courtesy of Eagles of Death Metal. They are awesomely entertaining and it’s great to see a band who are clearly delighted to be on stage performing together. Boots Electric is as charismatic as ever, regaling us with anecdotes about being sent to a psychiatrist by the band who suspected him of being incapable of love and, at one point, proposing marriage to Davey Jo Catching. It’s a dose of good ol’ rock n’ roll, and like tipsy folks in a dive bar, the crowd is all over it.

After that raucous onslaught we tone things down by checking out Beth Orton. It’s years since I last saw her live and her voice as great as always. She appears shy at first, telling the audience that she’s nervous about she’s getting it wrong when she says "tack" (thank you), but she relaxes into things as the set continues. It’s great to hear tracks from her most recent album Kidsticks and tracks like 'Petals' and '1973' — if only everyone could release such great material 23 years into their career. After Orton’s set we check out two popular Scandinavian acts: the Norwegian Ane Brun and Swedish Deportees. Brun is wearing the kind of outfit I’d sell my granny for (an awesome orange pantsuit) and the energetic, upbeat tracks from When I’m Free land perfectly with the crowd. Deportees arrive onstage to a rapturous welcome from both the crowd and the heavens: as the crowd roars their approval, the skies open and drop what seems like an ocean’s worth of water on our heads. It can’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm for tracks 'Love me like I’m Gone' and 'Islands & Shores', though.    

Our last band of the festival proper is Massive Attack & Young Fathers, who play second to last. They’re on superlative form and it’s an amazing gig, with presence of Young Fathers really turning things up a notch. It’s a heavy, industrial, grinding set accompanied by a light show that looks spectacular in the fading light. 'Inertia Creeps' is a standout, along with the throbbingly heavy version of 'Safe from Harm' that closes their set. At the end of the, the video screen flashes up “Je Suis Charlie” and then cycles through the other cities that have been victim to recent terror attacks. It’s horribly ironic that, in politicised set that challenged people’s passivity in the face of the world’s problems and their preference for reading gossip columns over headlines, the message is lost as a huge crowd rushes towards the Flamingo stage to see Sia’s headline set. As for that, we stay for about 7 ½ seconds and then decide that we’d rather swing from the chandelier of a nearby pub.  

After-hours, seeing as it’s the final night of the festival, we decide to venture out to Stay Out West. We head over to Pustervik and check out Cloves on the venue’s Lilla stage. She gives a great performance that’s full confidence and plenty of soul. The tracks from EP 'XIII' work really well with electric guitar and she takes things down a notch with a few acoustic numbers. The crowd, quiet at first, are quickly won over — if phones in video mode and raucous applause are anything to go by. After that we head downstairs to the venue’s main stage for Niki & The Dove. I’ve had their most recent album Everybody's Heart is Broken Now on high rotation since it was released and had high hopes. The gig’s a bit of a disappointment as they come over as being as much about the gimmicks as the music. There’s no need to dress up as Cyndi Lauper when the tracks are good and it’s a shame that they rely on fannying about vocoders and club beats to get the crowd on side at the start. We finish off the night by going to see punk stalwarts The Damned. This involves hopping on a tiny ferry across the river to Gothenburg Studios and being adopted by some drunk lads who interrogate us about whether we play Pokemon Go while they google directions to the gig. The Damned are just what we needed to finish off the festival: they’re aggressive, gutsy and play the hell out of their instruments as they hammer their way through tracks like “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today”, “Ignite” and “Neat Neat Neat”.  By the end of the set, no-one in the crowd is standing still. At 3.45, we stumble out of the Studios as the dawn’s first light breaks across the sky.    


Way Out West — Day Two

  • Published in Live


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. 

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