Pearl in the Desert on Friday at Rock Werchter

Rock Werchter 2012 review

By James Hyde | Published: Thu 5th Jul 2012


Thursday 28th June to Sunday 1st July 2012
Werchter, Rotselaar, Belgium, Belgium
79 Euros - sold out
Daily capacity: 80,000
Last updated: Thu 24th May 2012

It was hot but not boiling on Friday morning in Werchter, perfect weather for a festival then? Well, yes, but unfortunately the music wasn't quite as hot as the temperature. After walking past a rocky performance from Mastodon on the main stage, I settled down at the back of the crowd watching Miles Kane in The Barn. I hadn't heard much of his material before, and don't ask me to name any songs, but it was all pretty catchy and reminiscent of Kane's side project The Last Shadow Puppets. Kane's a talented young guy and I'm sure he'll be a success as a soloist.

I walked down to the main stage for American rapper Wiz Khalifa. I was expecting to hate it but the North Dakota born star was surprisingly energetic and managed to excite the crowd despite his early afternoon slot. He ran fifteen minutes over his allocated hour(probably because he spent so much time discussing the various qualities of marijuana) but it was fast-paced throughout and final song 'Black and Yellow' brought the house down. This isn't really my bag at all, though.

I stuck around the main stage for Gossip. The Texan group performed very well, with their triumphant calling card 'Standing in the Way of Control' sending the crowd crazy. A seemingly impromptu sample of Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' went down a storm and bubbly singer Beth Ditto's vocals are incredible. Despite their obvious talent, though, I was a bit bored at times and eventually left early to grab a good place in The Barn for Aussie band The Temper Trap.

I spent most of the hour-long set waiting for the exceptional 'Sweet Disposition' (so naturally they played that last) but I was surprised by the spectacular audience reaction to the band, who performed relatively well throughout. It never really enthralled me, though.

Jack White
Next up was the spectacularly talented Jack White, and no-one was disappointed. An incredible singer and a fantastic guitarist, White turned in a performance totally vindicating his status as a modern music superstar. Tracks from his debut solo album, 'Blunderbuss', were positively received- but the highlights were favourites from White's former projects - 'Steady as She Goes' by the Raconteurs, and an incredible finale - The White Stripes classic 'Seven Nation Army'.

Back to The Barn for music's new sweetheart, Lana Del Rey. I'd heard rumours on the grapevine that the American's live performance was poor, the rumours were false. This was simplistic but brilliant- with the artist's stripped-back style resonating perfectly with the emotive nature of her songs. Hit singles 'Born to Die' and 'Video Games' inevitably drew the most enthusiastic reaction from the sizeable crowd, but the set was strong throughout.

A two minute walk later, I had reached the Pyramid Marquee to watch man-of-the-moment DJ Fresh. 'Gold Dust' was a decent start but it all sounded the same to me after that. I left after about twenty minutes.

Friday’s headliners were legendary grunge rockers Pearl Jam. I'm not a huge fan of their music but this was of little consequence - they were unbelievable nonetheless. Frontman Eddie Vedder's growling vocals are as exceptional as ever, with Stone Gossard's improvised guitar solos equally stunning. A half-hour long encore was breathtaking ('Alive' in particular was spectacular) and a note-perfect cover of Neil Young's 'Rockin' in the Free World' was the ideal finale for an ideal performance.

Closing the main stage on Friday was Canadian house producer Deadmau5, who delivered a spectacular show. A marvellous visual display perfectly complimented the exceptional music, and it was clear throughout that Deadmau5 is at the absolute top of his trade. Perhaps the 1hr45m set was slightly excessive, and it did drag at times, but this was, generally, stunning.

review by: James Hyde

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