Victorious Festival in Portsmouth was nervous, if entire festivals can have feelings (they can’t). This year capacity has been doubled, and organisers knew that bad performances could spell losses in the years down the line. And then it started to rain.
The rain had just started to pour down in earnest when Jaws delivered their afternoon set on the second stage. The dream-pop Birmingham 4 sounded tight, but the setting (previous year’s main stage) was really just too big. Against a massive stage and a massive crowd, the band struggled to infect the crowd with the energy which they had. It all got a bit lost. Maybe it was the rain. Still, they replicated the sound they had on the record near perfectly. It just wasn’t as much fun as it could have been.
Peter Hook and The Light was playing a late afternoon set to a similarly sodden crowd, but that didn’t stop the former Joy Divison bassist and New Order singer from energising everyone over the age of 40; walking sticks were thrown into the air to the sound of Blue Monday and Love Will Tear Us Apart, just two highlights from the whistle stop tour Hook gave us of both band’s histories. I’m not sure it warranted him taking his shirt off, but it really was very entertaining. The only problem was that it was so short – with a back catalogue of that quality, it would surely be stupid to give him only half an hour. But that’s what the organisers did. All in all, the festival wasn’t looking great.
Next on were The Fratellis, who are already a nostalgia act, despite having been around only ten years. But that’s because since then they haven’t really done very much since then, aside from produce a string of dreary sub-country rock singles. The only people enjoying the whole thing were the kids in the little bubble of the front row, blissfully unaware of just how bad the band were playing. Frontman John Lawlker wasn’t really trying, letting the songs carry themselves when the crowd showed the slightest hint of interest and only feigning energy only when the songs were so bad that the rest of the band sometimes looked they weren’t going to make it to the end of the song. Oh, and it was raining. But then the intro to Chelsea Dagger kicked in, and none of it really mattered. John Lawlker could have been asleep in a wheelchair for all anyone cared.
So far, so underwhelming. But a glance at the line up revealed that Primal Scream might save the day. And that’s just what they did. Their songs were fast paced but not chaotic, with ring master Bobby Gillespie simultaneously throwing everything into disorder and controlling it. The crowd adored it, the festival they had been waiting for having finally been delivered. Sure, they were largely playing to a home crowd – the numerous teenagers at the site had mysteriously disappeared by the time they came on in the early evening – but it was still a solidly entertaining set.
But in life there are very few things which live up to expectation, and there was a lot of expectation resting on The Flaming Lips. The volume and variety of the band’s back catalogue- it’s twenty years long – meant that they had a solid, hits filled set ready to go. Their setlist suggested enlightenment. Surely there could only be disappointment from that point.
Of course, there wasn’t. The band’s choice of songs give you the impression that they could have played for hours, such was the blissful harmony that each song induced in the entire crowd. By the time Do You Realize?? played at the end, the crowd felt like a crowd, rather than a collection of individuals. The songs had created this feeling, and this feeling made the songs complete. The confetti, inflatable costumes, flashing gong, frontman in a hamster ball and ‘Fuck Yeah Portsmouth!’ balloon sign didn’t do any harm either.
The scale of the achievement not only as a gig but as an event meant that I left feeling that everybody should see The Flaming Lips at least once in their lives, and telling that to everybody I saw .