Electric Picnic: Which acts are on form for Stradbally?
As the dust settles on a summer of boutique festivals, the focus shifts to Ireland’s number one music gathering. On the build up to Electric Picnic we examine the recent form of six of the most highly anticipated acts lined up to grace the stage at Stradbally.
The Atlanta duo of André 3000 and Big Boi got their reunion tour off to a ropey start in April of this year with a ‘decade by decade’ setlist that saw their more mainstream hits squeezed into the final 10 minutes of a tedious offering of vintage hip hop.
The minimalist set design and dedication to tracks long forgotten by many were a treat for hardcore fans but a disappointment to many attendees that made up the Weekend 1 Coachella audience. This reporter waited 70 minutes for a sniff of a hit, and it wasn’t until after a two mile walk back to the campsite that the the likes of ‘Ms Jackson’, ‘So Fresh, So Clean’ and ‘Hey Ya’ could be heard in quick succession.
A week later the band adopted a new approach that saw a notable single played every four songs. This technique saw critics’ reviews soften and audiences more receptive to OutKast’s offerings. Even with the revised setlist don’t expect to “shake it like a polaroid picture” until well into the set.
This ‘Loser Baby’ has never had a bad Irish crowd even in the days when he toured only with cover songs and a sprinkling of hits. His 2005 Olympia theatre date, (that my mother still blames as the cause of my dismal English Paper 1) introduced Ireland to the highly respectable album ‘Guero’ and the proof that the Californian songster had his best years ahead of him.
Beck and his much-adored backing band have been playing crowd pleasing sets since he first started touring the critically-acclaimed ‘Morning Phase’. It is unknown what impact ‘Song Reader’ (his sheet music/songs written for other people album) will have on the current setlist rotations, but it could fuel the chances of a special guest or two.
Villagers’ front man and driving force Conor O’Brien has previously joined Beck and a host of stars for a concert playing tribute to the Gamma Ray singer’s work in London. It can be forgiven if an audience approaches a Beck show the same way they would a Ryan Adam’s gig: lots of albums to choose from, little guarantee of any hits being played.
Trust me when I say 2014 is the year to see a nostalgic and entertaining Beck. The only annoyance has come from promoters who find it difficult to get him off the stage after his one hour slot.
In the modern music scene it is almost a crime to say something bad about Annie Clark/St Vincent, especially since she was chosen to perform alongside Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic for a rendition of Lithium, at a Rock and Roll hall of Fame induction that also paid tribute to the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain.
Many will have fond memories of her gracing Laois in the company of Talking Heads legend David Byrne in Picnics past, and a few eagled eyed concert goers will remember her as the guitarist of the ever-expanding Polyphonic Spree. St Vincent, however, is Clarke’s show and don’t expect to see a performance that strays from her perfectionist idea of a concert.
Another artist who respects the fact that audiences expect to hear favourites from 2007‘s ‘Marry Me’ and ‘Actor’ from 2009, Clarke and co. will hypnotize audiences with more recent offerings such as the superb ‘Digital Witness’ before baffling them with the art installation-esque choreography of ‘Prince Johnny’: a routine that has to be seen to be believed.
St Vincent also includes the talents of former Jeff Buckley drummer Matt Johnson, another musician who no doubt holds Clarke in high esteem.
James Vincent McMorrow
I remember hearing the ‘Cavalier’ for the first time and clicking repeat on the flash player so many times that I must have contributed about a grand in ad revenue to the music website that was hosting the clip.
Once I stepped away from the 4 minutes and 43 seconds of heaven, I hoped to God that McMorrow could hit those high notes live. In April I got my answer as hundreds of fans flocked from the campsite of an American festival to see the relative newcomer to the stateside circuit pack out a tent at 12.15pm and deliver a falsetto that would make Matthew Bellamy turn his head. The Longitude review was positive, but one thinks that those who witnessed performances in the National Concert Hall earlier this year, saw McMorrow in his natural habitat.
The current setlist splits between 2010‘s ‘Early in the Morning’ and the fantastically-produced ‘Post Tropical’. The newer material is so strong that hits like ‘This Old Dark Machine‘ and ‘We Don’t Eat‘ make welcome appearances to McMorrow’s set, but are no longer the cement foundations supporting it. There are one or two changes to the backing band since the first tour but all involved look delighted to be along for every minute of the James Vincent McMorrow experience.
“I’ve never seen Hozier live.”
“Did you see the Trinity Orchestra at EP 2012?”
“Then yes you have.”
This is the most surprising revelation for many a fan of the Irish music scene who has jumped on the Hozier train in the last 12 months, expressing delight for the Wicklow native’s continued success. Andrew Hozier-Byrne is no stranger to Electric Picnic having performed vocal duties with the aforementioned Trinity Orchestra in 2012 and under his own steam at a very early 12.30pm slot last year.
Hozier will no doubt find himself elevated to a more ‘prime slot’ given his thriving popularity in recent months, on a journey that has witnessed him perform on David Letterman, the Ellen DeGenres Show and has most recently seen ‘Take Me to Church’ featured in the HBO show True Blood.
By now thousands have watched the footage of the ‘Amen singalong’ from this year’s Longtitude festivities in Marlay Park and are hoping that the upcoming Stradbally show will see the audience and Hozier himself trying to top this audible wonder.
The only criticism, if you can call it that, is that Hozier and his band are somewhat fresh. Despite the induction of fire they are no doubt receiving during their concert dates around the world, it seems the band are still in a transition period in which the delivery of the incredibly-produced tracks from the ‘Take Me to Church’ EP have not yet hit their full potential live.
Regardless of this, fans will need to arrive for Hozier’s set early for a good position. There will be no oxymoron shortcut through the Body and Soul area for those on the Hozier mission.
Despite O’Connor being the closest thing to music royalty on this year’s lineup, (not forgetting Nile Rodgers of course) a stigma has become attached to ‘The Wolf is Getting Married’ star because of her off-stage publicity. In my opinion O’Connor keeps ‘all that’ separate from her live performances and goes into ‘professional mode’, or if her new album is to be believed ‘I’m the Boss’ mode the moment she steps on stage.
Having entertained the thousands of attendees at the Westport Festival of Music and Food in late June with a blend of classic hits and songs from ‘I’m not Bossy, I’m the Boss’, the crowd embraced the welcome reveal that her new band features the talents of Ken and Carl Papenfus of Irish pop/rock Relish.
For 60 minutes O’Connor delivered a solid performance and looked in her element at WestFest. The only disappointment was a sense in the atmosphere that people were expecting, dare I say hoping for a moment of upset or spontaneity during her performance.
That weekend in Mayo it was as if O’Connor dressed in black, channeled the spirit of local legend Grace O’Malley as her voice echoed across the grounds of Westport House, a force she is destined to bring to Stradbally. And yes, she still plays that song.