Wednesday 15 July 2009

Rock Werchter Sizzling Hot

A big line-up and four days of lots of sun shine definitely made me looking forward to this edition of Rock Werchter. To avoid traffic jams we did the whole trip in two parts and left early for the final stage.

Thursday July 2
And eventually...we ended up being stuck in traffic only 16 kms from the festival. After 2 hours we decided to take our changes and relied on the car navigation to lead us around the traffic jam and what do you know? It got us to the festival in no time instead of the 6 hours we heard it took some people to get there. After another long wait in the burning hot sun to enter the festival area we finally made it in. Unfortunately we already missed Eagles of Death Metal, sorry guys. By then we knew he big golden ball was gonna be ruthless this weekend. But then we met Mr. Joe Piler who was gonna try to make it easier for us. Thanks Joe! On to the first band!

Fleet Foxes (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
These guys can sing very nice harmonies and it all sounds great. But it does get a bit boring for me in the end. Also there's not a lot happening on stage. Still not a bad performance though. But I enjoyed it the most while sitting outside the Pyramid Marquee and getting to know Mr Joe Piler better.

Placebo (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Their new album "Battle for the Sun" is pretty good and the songs fit in nicely with their big hits like "Every You Every Me" and "The Bitter End". But we've seen Brian Molko more active in the past. They played a solid set but it needed some salt and pepper.

Oasis (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I don't know what to think of Oasis. I never really got into their music and they haven't done anything new for the past ten years. I also don't like the brothers Gallagher's attitude. But on stage it sure works and kind of comes together. They play a solid greatest hits rock show that warms everyone up for closing act "The Prodigy".

The Prodigy (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
Of course their music is perfect for jumping around and dance away the last bit of energy. But we've seen it all before and it does get a bit old in the end. The stage act isn't really exciting either. Keith Flint and Maxim Reality walk and jump around the stage and scream into their mics now and then. Time for something new? But fortunately good friends including Joe Piler were keeping me company.

Friday July 3
He was all nice the day before but Joe Piler hit me hard today. However the big golden ball burned us out of our tents so we made it to the field in time easily. Time for coffee and some music.

White Lies (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
I like some of their hit songs and they sound okay on their album. But the main stage was too big for them. Very static performance and Harry McVeigh's voice just didn't sound good live. Bummer since it could have been nice.

Elbow (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I have mentioned before that I gave them a shot a couple of times but somehow it doesn't work for me. So I tried really hard this time and I get it now. I'm still not into their music but Guy Garvey is a great singer with a fantastic voice and they kind of suck you into their world of sweet elf songs. Even on the main stage they managed to put down an intimate performance without getting boring which is quite an achievement on a hot afternoon.

Bloc Party (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I saw Bloc Party earlier this year and noticed how their stage performance improved. Last time on Werchter it seemed the main stage was a bit too big. This time it fit them extremely well. I think you really have to dig their music to appreciate this the most. And since I like their music a lot I could definitely do so. The fine beats by Matt Tong were powerful and you can't but like singer Kele Okereke who looked like he was having a lot of fun up there. Especially during their hits like "Banquet", "Hunting for Witches" and recent hit "Mercury" the crowd seemed to enjoy themselves as well and were jumping to all the way in the back.

The Killers (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
With The Killers I just don't know what to expect. I liked them in the beginning and after that not so much anymore. Their sets becoming to pompous. But lately I seem to like them more than ever. Not so much their latest album but their performances have improved a lot. And this time was no exception. They played a strong sets with lots of their hits including many of their first album which I like the most. Singer Brandon Flowers seems to have loosened up a lot and was enjoying himself. Moving around the stage and smiling he certainly has grown bigger lately. Maybe they will finally grow into the big rock act they want to be so much.

Coldplay (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Let me start by saying I don't like Coldplay's music. Their first album was alright but after that it all sounded too sweet and polished (someone once said it is music for bed-wetters and I agree). But fair is fair they proved why they are one of the biggest band at the moment. Chris Martin was running across the stage and was already sweating after two songs. Of course the rest of the band is fairly invisible but they played all the hits and the crowd loved it. I kind of lost interest halfway and got more interested in Joe Piler since I'm no bed-wetter.

Saturday July 4
I was able to sleep a little more and definitely felt better this day. So after coffee, a bacon and egg roll and a 50 cent toilet festival dump it was time to rock!

Triggerfinger (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Hooray for good old honest rock to wake you up. And Triggerfinger did exactly that. They were the opening act today and sure opened my eyes and ears again. All dressed in black this not so young band (bass player Paul Van Bruystegem even played Werchter in 1975) sure kicked ass. Singer Ruben Block looks pretty comfortable on stage. Although some of his little speeches didn't really seem to go anywhere he looked pretty relaxed. Good music did the rest.

Social Distortion (Ronald Says 2 out of 10)
I'm not even going to write a lot about this. Just horrible. Go away and never come back. They did the worst Johnny Cash cover ever.

Rodrigo y Gabriela (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
A man and a woman with flamenco guitars on a big stage. Now that must be hard to entertain around 50.000 people (I assume not all 80.000 were there). But Rodrigo y Gabriela had no problems with that at all. Playing heavy metal riffs mixed with flamenco sure caught everyone's attention and then never let go.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
It's back to the 80s for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Their older albums leaned heavily on guitars but their latest one is mixed with a lot of electronics. And this works well on stage. Especially with a singer like Karen O. in her colourful outfit. Although it becomes a bit too arty farty sometimes their energetic performance sure is great to experience.

Franz Ferdinand (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
If you need the crowd to get fired up get these guys. With their no nonsense songs and easy to sing choruses they sure have the crowd jumping in no time. Going through all their hits they played a nice festival set. However I've seen them doing better. They played their best songs in the beginning of the set and I've seen Alex Kapranos looking more relaxed. And what happened at the end of the set? They were all banging the drums in a song at the end of the set that abruptly ended. After a short discussion Kapranos then sang a few lines of 'Jacqueline' before seemingly angry leaving the stage. If you know leave a comment.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Ronald Says 10 out of 10)
Oh yes! By far the best concert of the festival. They were playing very aggressively like they had the devil on their backs. Nick Cave (without mustache) was looking like the devil himself now and then with piercing eyes and angry looks. They played a great set with songs of their latest album "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!" that is by far one of their best albums lately. Someone holding a sign saying "Give me your guitar". Nick answering "I'm not giving you my fucking guitar!". The last song of the set "Stagger Lee" never sounded more frightening and better. A well earned 10!

Kings of Leon (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
I kind of had to get into Kings of Leon. Saw them twice before on this stage and wasn't impressed. But then I listened to their albums and liked it a lot. And now they had their major break through so what would their performance be like? Well it was definitely a lot better. They played a strong set and they looked a lot more convincing than the previous times. They could do a lot more about their appearance though. It's all a bit static. And what's up with drum player Nathan Followill? He's playing without emotion and looks like a cold blooded psycho who drowns kittens for fun.

2ManyDJs (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
If the Dewaele brothers show up you know that you will have a great time and people will go wild. Great set with unexpected and original tunes mixed in a crazy blender (including Sepultura's "Roots Bloody Roots"). Great visuals of the record covers with crazy hilarious animation. It didn't take long before everyone was jumping including Joe.

Sunday July 5
Three days of burning hot sun, sweat, lack of decent showering and too much hanging out with Joe was getting the best of us. Time to take it slow and fortunately we could hang out with Seasick Steve to start our day.

Seasick Steve (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
An old guy in a chair and a drummer on a big stage. What to expect? Well, good old honest blues and rock. Maybe the stage was a bit too much but still a good performance. Steve is a nice man who plays great blues songs. Not a bad way to start the day at all.

The Mars Volta (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Whoa! I never made it through any of their albums and was curious if I could make it through their concert. From the moment they climbed the stage they went full-force and never looked back. Lots of noise and heavy rock tunes. They even unleashed the anger of the rain gods that poured heavy rains on our burnt faces. But even that couldn't stop them and neither did it stop me.

The Script (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
Choosing between this band or Limp Bizkit was easy. I don't wanna see Fred Durst with his head up his ass ever again. But this show wasn't going down easy either. Kind of your regular boy band with instruments. Soft poppie tunes that are just too slick. I guess I will just spend some time with Joe next time.

Kaiser Chiefs (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
If you wanna have fun get these guys on stage. So they did for the fourth time in a row. Everyone having a good time, jumping, singing the easy lalala chorus lines and a slimmed down Ricky Wilson bouncing up and down the stage. But this time it did get a bit old. Even Ricky climbing the light pole was copied from last year. Like their latest album nothing changed so it's time for something new. At first I was in doubt but in the end I chose to see this performance. Big mistake because I heard Ghinzu playing the Marquee at the same time turned out to be the revelation of Werchter. Ouch!

Nine Inch Nails(Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I'm not a huge fan of Trent Reznor's NIN projects. But you know he's good for a testosterone packed rock show and this was no exception. He brought a ceiling filled with lights and rocked everyone's socks off like a rock truck running you over. It was rough, it was sweaty and it was good. Apparently for the last time as well.

Metallica (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Metallica loves Werchter and Werchter loves Metallica so they were here for the 7th time. I think it was my 4th time and I have mixed feelings about the previous times. Sometimes very good sometimes a bit too much leaning on routine. This time it kind of fell into the last category. Of course they always are true professionals and probably never will play a bad gig. They have enough good songs to choose from and their last album has some great songs that work well live. It was just all too much prepared and not really spontaneous. For the real fireworks we had to wait until after their performance.

So that was it for Rock Werchter 2009. Another good edition with lots of good music. I think that they should play a bit less safe next time. With big bands you can please a lot of people and sell out the festival anytime but it doesn't really result in many surprises. Next year better traffic control and maybe a little less sunshine. But make sure Joe Piler is there again. I like him...

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