live review

Big Day Out 2011

Big Day Out 2011

January 21 2011
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam
24th January 2011

Most successful Big Day Outs rely on one or two great performances to transcend the multitude of music on offer during the day e.g. Flaming Lips in 2004 or the Stooges in 2006. And for me at least, MIA and LCD Soundsystem killed it: offering not only shelter from the incessant evening rain but some electric performances. And as two of the decadeís best indie musicians, they were well worth the hype.

MIA made sure the night ended on a high. It was a hard choice between her and Grinderman to close the night, but the rain and the fact Iíve seen the Bad Seeds perform before meant MIA won out. And by god, it was brilliant. Her live show was extremely well-crafted: with its arrangements for the concert sounding that much more furious and dangerous than on album (even Maya sounded great live), and her strutting and presence leaving her in complete control of the crowd. The encore in particular was brilliant, with seemingly half the crowd up on stage for ĎBoyzí and everyone else going beserk when she closed with ĎPaper Planesí.

LCD Soundsystem unfortunately had the worst clash of the night with Scottish legends Primal Scream playing their seminal 1991 album Screamadelica. It was a choice between a potentially unreliable band (it is after all Primal Scream) playing a great album (although I canít say Iím a fan of this new trend of bands playing a whole album) versus a band potentially playing their last tour ever. But thanks to LCD Soundsystem starting late, I was able to catch a good half hour of a very good Primal Scream set, while still most LCD Soundsystemís wonderful set. James Murphy can croon and scream like the best of them, the band stunning, and the finale of ĎAll My Friendsí was quite stunning.

The rest of the day was solid enough. It started off with some excellent homegrown produce: T54 were good and sludgy, proving once again that Christchurch is perhaps one of the most underrated musical places in the country. Die! Die! Die! and Bang Bang Eche as two of our best bands were as reliable as ever, though Bang Bang Eche were a little dwarfed on the main stage. Steriogram are a good live band but are hampered by the fact their music is shit. Ratatat were solid Ė the guitar riffage and the rock god theatrics as enjoyable as ever (though their pre-programmed beats do hold them back a little in terms of improvisation etc.). They took advantage of a much improved Boiler Room Ė no longer does the tent live up to its name, no longer do the E-heads need to rely on condensation sweat falling from the roof to keep their hydration levels up, no longer is it too hard to get a good position when the tent is really packed.

Andrew WK was brilliant. Itís easy to underestimate his bandís musicianship given the party-vibe of the band and the rumours about him, but his infectious live show was impossible to dislike. Apparently his Lilyworld performance was even better. Lupe Fiasco was a rare hip-hop performer for the day (unless one counts the cornucopia of MIAís music to be hip-hop), and very good; he somehow he managed to appeal to a crowd who had just finished with the Deftones and were waiting for Wolfmother.

Crystal Castles proved to be the first disappointment of the night. Hampered by the fact the previous Die Antwoord went way over time (though they were also hard to dislike, taking advantage of their fifteen minutes of fame in as excited a way as possible) and by a long set-up, they only played a few furious songs (mostly without the mic turned on). However, hearing afterwards that Alice Glass had a broken leg, it was probably fair enough.

Iggy and the Stooges were the next band that I took much notice of during the day (There was in-between: Shihad, although to be fair one of New Zealandís best live bands, didnít need to be seen for the fiftieth time nearly a decade after their peak, Edward Sharpe sounded somewhat tinny despite having hundreds of people playing on stage, and Kora just werenít the Black Keys). However having seen the Stooges perform brilliantly in 2006 meant any follow-up performance was never going to be as good. With sludgy sound and a crowd frantically trying to avoid melting in the rain, his show felt a little subdued, even though, Iggy, the man who invented a lot of rules for live performances, was as energetic as ever. J-punk band Red Bacteria Vacuum were lots of fun in the rain on the underrated Lilyworld Stage. But once the rain came, it took LCD Soundsystem and MIAís heroics to elevate the day into something great. Itís easy to underestimate the Big Day Out (especially for those who believe good music and big crowds shouldnít mix for some reason), but for sheer variety and value for money, itís still pretty damn good.

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Kody and Bic
Rammstein

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