day five review

Wireless Festival (London) 2006 review

published: Tue 27th Jun 2006

Wednesday 21st to Sunday 25th June 2006
Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH, England MAP
£37.50 for each day
last updated: Wed 10th May 2006

The final day of Wireless Festival 2006 ushers in the finest of the five headliners, 80’s electro-pop megastars Depeche Mode. With this being their only summer show in the UK, there is considerable draw for faithful fans nationwide to come see them. As a result, the day feels less like a festival, and more like an independent stadium show, with the afternoon acts working merely as warm-ups for the grand finale.

Glaswegian indie rockers The Fratellis are tipped for success, but if today’s Main Stage performance is anything to go by, it won’t be justly deserved. They tick all the right boxes for addictive guitar-pop, sounding like a more visceral punk run-around version of The Coral, but they leave almost no lasting impression, save the vague one I forced myself to remember so that I’d have something to write about here.

Far more interesting is Thomas Dolby’s first live performance in fourteen years, making for the more surreal forty minutes of the entire festival, as he stands bald-headed atop a platform surrounded by keyboards, laptops and synthesisers. The electronica pioneer may not have a stash of memorable top-ten hits to his name, but after collaborating with everyone from David Bowie to Def Leppard, before disappearing to form a company that would eventually go onto invent the polyphonic ringtone, for his contribution to society both technologically and musically, it’s hard to find him at fault (unless of course you count the fact that it was his polyphonic invention that gave way to the Crazy Frog).

Speaking personally to the audience between each song adds honesty to the performance that’s uniquely unshowy in amongst the mega-acts performing across the five days. A black and white photo in his childhood kitchen, we learn, inspired “One of Our Submarines”, showing an uncle he never met who died in at sea during the war. Little insights like these add extra understanding to his performance, making it all the more engaging to witness.

In his most inspiring moment (that beats the bizarreness of bringing perplexed daughter Harper on stage for no good reason other than to show his success in procreation), Dolby produces an affecting sonic arrangement created using numerical data from the SOHO satellite, a human-satellite used to study behaviour on the surface of the sun. With the figures programmed into his electronic keyboard, he creates a haunting convalescence of free-roaming blips and beeps, which surreptitiously blend together to form a brooding rhythm. Companioned with real images of the sun’s activity that created the data used for his programming, the performance is perhaps the most thought provoking of the week.

As people are still screwing bits of their brain back together after Dolby’s disassembling, The Dears return to the Wireless platform (after last year’s second-stage headline performance), to soothe the crowd with their disaffected indie lullabies. The Canadian songsters hold their ground, but on this occasion succeed in little more than passing the time.

More culture shock is to be found over on the Xfm stage, where Matisyahu is delivering Hasidic Jewish reggae of the finest order. The New York rapper looks uncomfortable on the London stage, but beyond the awkward front his innovative and truly original music soars with the confidence of an on-target homing missile. His beat-boxing puts Killa Kela to shame, and as he performs tracks off his new album ‘Youth’, it becomes apparent that far from just a succession of big names, Wireless organisers have taken the time to book-in worthy underground talent for it to be then brought to a wildly impressed wider audience.

Following on, Goldfrapp are on typically seductive form as they play second headliner for the festival’s final night. In cherry-red love heart sunglasses, with long-straightened blonde hair, singer Alison is the Main Stage’s own Pop Aphrodite. Their grimey electro dance gets the whole crowd singing and swinging as they roll out hits past and present, including ‘Train’, ‘Strict Machine’ and the more recent ‘Oh La La’. Presence maintained by nubile dancers flipping between outfits ranging from ‘sexy’ wolves to terrifying chorus-masked aliens, it’s all eyes on stage for the band’s perfectly executed display of lusty, inimitable glamour pop.

Yet despite the thrill of the ride, it all sinks into memory as anticipation for Depeche Mode grows. As they launch into recent single ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’, the crowd scream fanatically and the whole thing kicks into top gear. Singer Dave Gahan rallies the crowd with his trademark yelps, and has them singing along wherever possible. Old material sits comfortably with new, creating a perfect balance that’ll please a fan no matter what stage of the band’s career they started listening.

‘I Feel You’ is a towering rock fist-pumper, whilst ‘John The Revelator’ is proof they can still write great pop songs well into the their third decade as a band. By the time they reach mass-sing-a-long ‘Enjoy The Silence’, the success of Wireless 2006 has been sealed, so for them to throw in a rare live outing of early single ‘Photographic’ is just the icing on the cake.

So... now it’s all over, what can be said? Five days is a long slog, but most people only popped in for one or two. The main stage may have looked empty and contrived on paper, but it turned out there were plenty of treats hiding on the smaller stages to make each day an potential exciting experience (even though most people didn’t bother to go see them). The crowds maybe weren’t as thrilled by it all as they could be, but that’s just London for you, and the corporate element always leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But on the whole Wireless Festival 2006 has picked up from its awkward position last year, and turned itself in a really rather good music even. Let’s hope they can improve it even further for 2007...
review by: Alex Hoban

Wednesday 21st to Sunday 25th June 2006
Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH, England MAP
£37.50 for each day
last updated: Wed 10th May 2006


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