Friday review

Wireless 2008 overview

published: Tue 8th Jul 2008

Morrissey

Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th July 2008
Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH, England MAP
one day £45 - for the Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday
last updated: Mon 7th Jul 2008

Normally the preserve of those looking for sanctity from muddy, farm-focused festivals out in the countryside, after last week's filth-free Glastonbury resurrection Hyde Park's inner city music haven Wireless looked set to slide under the radar a damp squib. With three of its four headliners (Jay-Z, Fatboy Slim and Crowded House) having all played the Pilton bash with so much received reverence, this year Wireless really had little to offer that couldn't be found elsewhere.

Except, that is, for Steven Patrick Morrissey, who graced the second night of Wireless festival exclusively – his first gig in the UK since pulling out of the final nights of his Camden Roundhouse residency in January. In return for him showing up: a large fee no doubt, and a selection of his favourite bands playing elsewhere on the bill. New York Dolls, Siousixe, Dirty Pretty Things… all Morrissey doings. Oh, and meat was banned from the backstage area. Now, as every good Morrissey fan knows, if the great man salutes a band it's very much the kiss of death – for all his great musicianship he's got some shoddy tastes. So, in light of this fact, this review stood well clear of the aforementioned.

Arriving as Guillemots performed on the main stage, it was noticeable how empty the arena was. That's what happens when you flood the market with festivals, all with very similar line-ups.

The Wombats

The Wombats were next to grace the stage and did a fine job of doing exactly what they do best – play happy, frivolous pop that's so harmless that to hate it would be like taking a pot shot at a kid in a wheelchair. Rolling through their small batch of sun-kissed singles, 'Moving To New York', 'Let's Dance To Joy Division' et al gets the crowd dancing and upbeat as the afternoon sun beats down, though it doesn't inspire the kind of self-reflection that earnest Morrissey fans are used to finding in their music. They close with 'Backfire At The Disco' in a mess of guitar fuzz and it's an awful lot of fun.

Following them is Beck. I have a pet theory that in the psychic landscape of a certain type of music fan there is a grassy knoll upon which there is room only for a devotion to a very particular type of rock act, one that can be narrowly classed as either Beck or Eels. And if this certain type of music fan should dedicate a significant part of their lives to one, there is no room for the other – as musicians, both outfits essentially do the same job. And as this review spent his youth listening to Eels, the bulk of Beck's backcatalogue side-stepped his radar. So, it's impressive to realise that, despite this, you still know a hell of a lot of Beck tunes. They’re all here, from as early back as 'Loser'. Sadly though, his stage presence leaves much to be desired, as he rejects communicating with the crowd, hiding behind a large pair of dark sunglasses.

Beck

By the time Morrissey comes on the crowd are... well, if not in a frenzy, quite excited (these London festivals never really kick off). Opening with Last of The Famous International Playsboys followed by Smiths classic Ask and comeback single Irish Blood English Heart makes for powerful introduction that gets everyone very excited. Things flop a little in the middle as he trawls through a quagmire of under-whelming new material, and the moods not wholly saved as he peppers the mix with a quick airing of The Queen Is Dead's 'Vicar in a Tutu'.

It's only by the final three tunes that Morrissey returns to form, with a beautiful rendition of one of the most underrated Smiths songs ever, 'Stretch Out and Wait', followed by the monolithic 'Life Is A Pigsty', segueing straight into the triumphant climax of 'How Soon is Now?' It's just a real shame that for the encore he decides not to capitalise on the euphoria he has generated by tossing the moment away with a mediocre run through Meat Is Murder filler-track, 'What She Said'. What a very Morrissey thing to do.

Morrissey
review by: Alex Hoban

photos by: Melkorka Olafsdottir

Thursday 3rd to Sunday 6th July 2008
Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH, England MAP
one day £45 - for the Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday
last updated: Mon 7th Jul 2008


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