The Flaming Lips & Primal Scream Triumph At Victorious Festival
Peter Hook & The Light and Laura Mvula also entertain on a soggy Saturday on the south coast.
“It’s just like Manchester, only the people are prettier,” is Peter Hook’s opening gambit to a sodden Southsea crowd. He has a point, though this a typically wet August Bank Holiday weather hardly shows the cagoule-clad masses in their best light. Hook and his band, The Light, command the Saturday early evening slot at Portsmouth’s impressively grand Victorious Festival, now in its fourth year.
Having gained a reputation for diversity - from local talent on the Real Ale Stage, through to the likes of Tinie Tempah, Basement Jaxx and Ray Davies as headliners - this two-day affair aims to please all and sundry.
There couldn’t be much more difference between Hooky and this afternoon’s previous act; the stately, seductive Laura Mvula and her ensemble, meticulously recreating the wonder of last year’s eclectic 'Sing To The Moon' LP.
Whereas Mvula is one to let her incredibly soulful voice take centre stage on the complex, jazzy ‘Make Me Lovely’ or the swirling stomp of ‘Green Garden’, for Hook it’s all low-hung bass guitar gun-slinging and pounding the naysayers into submission.
Dressed like he’s just raided the local TK Maxx, in a fashionably arty t-shirt, jeans and fresh pearly pumps, Hook has reason perhaps to be combative.
Not everyone's been impressed with his apparent defalcating of the Joy Division/New Order back catalogue (not least I’m sure his former band mates), but there’s no denying that these tight renditions of ‘Ceremony’, ‘Transmission’ and ‘Blue Monday’ still hit harder than a Solent storm.
A legend he may be, but then Hooky goes and sours the mood by ripping off said t-shirt, and with that disturbing image of baby boomer bulge, I take the quick decision to steer clear of the nearby burger vans.
Someone who looks like he could do with a decent meal is Bobby Gillespie, the svelte frontman of Primal Scream, who takes the stage for a greatest hits set. It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since 'Screamadelica', but it’s credit to the band that they can still deliver the likes of "Loaded" and "Movin' On Up" with such potent mix of guile and gusto.
"Rocks" has always been a festival crowdpleaser. Its a chance for Gillespie to show off his full range of Jaggerisms, while "Swastika Eyes" provides welcome grit; a lasting souvenir to hang onto when we later scrape the mud from our shoes.
While Gillespie and co keep their interaction with the crowd to a minimum, tonight’s main attraction The Flaming Lips are a completely different proposition.
If you’re lucky enough to have seen the Lips perform before, you’ll know what a wonderfully unpredictable and special experience it always is. This is a band that put as much care and attention to their on-stage gimmicks as they do their songs, many of which appear ready made as, for want of a better phrase, festival ‘anthems’.
Grubs with crowns, aliens with stars as faces, psychedelic lizards in tuxedos and, er, Father Christmas, all make on-stage cameos while a massive silver balloon, in the shape of "F**k Yeah, Portsmouth" keeps things personal during early hit "She Don’t Use Jelly".
A naval town, Pompey has its fair share of cannons, though the Lips add to the fun with their own confetti-spraying weapons. And, yes, of course, Wayne Coyne obliges with the giant hamster ball.
While the last couple of Flaming Lips albums suggest the band now be teetering past its peak, tonight they wisely largely stick to the hits, "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song", "Yoshimi..." et al.
By now the rain has ceased, but there’s few dry eyes as "Do You Realize??" brings Victorious to a gentle, winning close.
“The happiest sad song ever written,” my companion opines. “I thought that was ‘God Only Knows’,” I reply. “No”, she says, “That’s the saddest happy song”. It’s not until I’m ringing soggy confetti out my socks the next morning that I truly appreciate what she meant.
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Words by Gary Shepherd