Having trounced an invite for tea by sleeping in till midday, we instead wandered off for breakfast in the pouring rain. We ended up taking shelter by the food truck, and dashing between cover, usually cowering in the Word Arena tent. Fortunately, this was where Adam Ant flounced onto stage, dressed for all the world like Jack Sparrow gone to seed, and proceeded to rock through Goody Two-Shoes, Prince Charming and Antmusic while steadily divesting himself of his clothing. A nipple made an appearance. He owned the stage, though, prancing up and down, slapping his thigh and almost bothering to do the Prince Charming moves–though of all his songs, he was quite clearly bored while reciting that particular albatross for the nth time.
We caught the ends of They Might Be Giants and Ed Sheeran. I’ve never “got” the Giants; as fun-loving nerdcore rockers they’re good in principle, but they seem impenetrable. I don’t even know what the hell Birdhouse in Your Soul sounds like. All I learned from the tail-end of their gig was that the backup singer has a great voice for narrating Hammer Horror. Sheeran pulled off a decent cover-of-a-cover of Make You Feel My Love, though it only made me want to go and play the Adele version.
Rumer had a cold. This isn’t good for someone who emphatically relies on their voice being able to reach certain heights, though she spectacularly managed not to turn her rain-sodden gig into a damp squib. Okay, she coughed into the microphone a few too many times between songs, but she sounded as pitch-perfect as on the album. A pity her only cover was an obscure one; I’d have loved her to have picked up from her spot at the John Barry Memorial Concert and belted out an You Only Live Twice.
I missed British Sea Power, though I wasn’t too fussed. The cry of “You’ve got to see them live!” is often heard, but there are some bands whose sound works on an album. Carrion and Waving Flags live just didn’t have the oomph of their studio-bound counterparts, and I contented myself with mumbling along as we wandered around the stalls. I Am Kloot, however, were on great form, and even played From Your Favourite Sky amid making merry with a surprisingly appreciative audience. I never thought Kloot had a particularly sizeable fanbase, but their set got a great reception.
Seasick Steve, of course, was amazing. He started off by introducing his self-made “Diddly Bo“–essentially a plank of wood with a string attached, which he played with as much skill and rough-housing as anyone who’s previously heard him would expect. He proceeded to wheel out various other musical contraptions that looked like the kind of thing you’d find in a hillbilly’s backyard, all of which produced an amazing sound. Jools Holland wouldn’t dare boogie-woogie-piano over that. But Seasick didn’t stop there: He only went and brought out John Paul Jones–the actual John Paul Jones–to which the audience responded with a suitable roar of delight. It was fantastic to see him and Steve rock out on stage, and, as always, Seasick’s face was creased into the perfect image of a man thoroughly loving every second of his extraordinary life. But he wasn’t content to wallow in his own joy, no; he went and spread it to the audience as well, plucking a starstruck girl from the crowd and sitting her down to play an intimate and heartfelt love ballad. This girl sat between Steve and Jones as they played their hearts out. Brilliant.
My personal highlight was Thea Gilmore, who had been boated across to the far-flung Sunrise Arena; which, while sitting picturesque in the middle of the forest, felt a bit like a consolation prize for the performers, while the bigger crowds flocked to the main stages. Still, it was about right for Thea, heavily pregnant and describing herself during the boatride as “ballast”, who did her own soundchecks and launched into her set alongside producer/guitarist/harmoniser/husband Nigel Stonier. She drew mostly from her 2010 album, Murphy’s Heart, including You’re the Radio and Teach Me to Be Bad, which I’d been hoping for. She also declared she was about to sing “a folk song”, and after an intro from Stonier, launched into a mellow, acoustic rendition of Sweet Child o’ Mine, not unlike Sheryl Crow’s version. It was fantastic, and made me fall for Thea all over again.
The highlight for most, however, was Paolo Nutini’s headlining set. And yes, it was full of brassy energy as he flung himself into Pencil Full of Lead, Candy, et al, though I found myself unable to appreciate it. Maybe it was being stuck in the middle of a veritable sea of chanting people–most of whom seemed to be screaming girls from the Beatlemania era–while isolated bits of the crowd flung water bottles at the other bits, often full. It was messy and annoying, and it seemed more like the fallout of a World Cup game than a concert. But ol’ Paolo didn’t notice, having the time of his life on stage, and finishing up, of course, with a soulful Last Request, complete with fireworks. Maybe the breadth of his popularity surprised me; I didn’t think he could draw such a massive, devoted and incessant crowd, but there we go. The second day of the festival felt like the last, and I was a little drained.
But, one more day to go, with some of the best gigs to come.
To be continued.