Air roll out the big hits at Somerset House

Somerset House Series 2010 review

published: Mon 12th Jul 2010

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Thursday 8th to Sunday 18th July 2010
Somerset House, The Strand, London, WC1 1LA, England MAP
£20 to £27.50, per day depending on the event
last updated: Mon 5th Jul 2010

It's surely London's most central festival. Somerset House, less than half a mile from Charing Cross, from where all distances to London by road are measured, has been holding summer music festivals for 9 years. It's an impressive building and somewhat of a cultural hub, the courtyard houses one of London's most popular ice rinks in winter, while the building homes contemporary art exhibitions and also has some office space for the Inland Revenue.

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Previous years' festivals have featured heavyweight bands such as Prodigy, Amy Winehouse, Orbital, Snow Patrol and Basement Jaxx. This year's line-up is arguably not as strong, but still includes 11 gigs over 11 nights with a wide range of eclectic acts including Mystery Jets, Soul II Soul, and Florence and the Machine.

Tonight's headliners, Air, broke through in 1998 with Moon Safari, a top 10 album filled with chill out tunes. It was perhaps somewhat of a surprise for them to headline on a Friday night – their music is more suited to a lazy Sunday evening, or perhaps an afternoon slot at one of the recent one-day festivals in nearby Hyde Park.

Certainly, the weather was perfectly suited to the music. Unlike last year, where some of the nights were hit by torrential rain and thunder, the weather this year was perfect - a balmy summer's evening with barely a cloud in sight.

First up were Olof Arnalds, more of a lie-back-and-slowly-fall-asleep band than a warm-up act. Their music was more incidental than being the main focus, with everyone sitting down on the concrete floor concentrating more on enjoying the conversation and the beer. They would have been a perfect background band for a summer's day picnic – and worked well as the support act for Air, but would have struggled to have fitted the bill for a more energetic band.
Air
Just as the sun started to set, Air came on stage, and by now the crowd were onto their feet. This was definitely one of those gigs where people are divided into two camps – either they are true fans of the band, and pay a lot of attention to the music without really dancing around, or they are there because they know one or two of the band's hits and spend the rest of the evening focusing more on their friends and, again, the beer.

Air started off slow, perhaps waiting for the sun to set and the lights to have their full impact, with some mostly unforgettable numbers from their most recent album, Love 2. The crowd were generally appreciative, although the music was pretty flat and didn't really contain enough for those who were unacquainted with the latest album to get people moving around.

Air
It took around half a dozen songs before things got a bit livelier, and a soulful rendition of Cherry Blossom Girl was particularly moving. Only towards the end did Air roll out the big hits that they are known for. Kelly Watch the Stars got the audience swaying along, and the encore included the song that made Air famous and that everyone was waiting for, Sexy Boy. Then after a powerful rendition of La Femme D'argent and a couple of "merci beaucoup"s and the night was over, leaving the audience somewhat more relaxed than when they arrived.

around the festival site
review by: Tim Smith

photos by: Tim Smith

Thursday 8th to Sunday 18th July 2010
Somerset House, The Strand, London, WC1 1LA, England MAP
£20 to £27.50, per day depending on the event
last updated: Mon 5th Jul 2010


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