Sunday 30 June 2019

Rock Werchter 2019 Friday

I love Belgian festival Rock Werchter, with its epic line-ups and lovely crowd that only spreads good vibes. We used to go there annually for the full four days but after a while went on to discover new worlds. However once and a while when there's an absolute must see line-up we'd like to go back for a day. With The Cure and Tool on the bill it was impossible to resist, so we went back to that lovely place.

Rock Werchter Friday, June 28 2019

We are lucky enough to have a place to sleep in the nearby town Leuven, which is only half an hour away by bus and allows to be on time for the first band without having to stay on a hot festival camping.

Whispering Sons

Belgian band Whispering Sons are opening the main stage today and we don't want to miss them. They blew our minds last month at the Best Kept Secret festival and we definitely want to see them take on the monstrous main stage on their home ground. It is clear many people know about them over here, since there's quite a large turn up for a first act. For a good reason because the group doesn't seem overwhelmed by the huge stage at all. Singer Fenne Kuppens shrinks the stage with her somewhat theatrical but very convincing performance. She's wonderful to watch and her tight band makes sure she can comfortably sing the dark songs with her low voice. This show is another winner for them and I just can only imagine this band is going to big.

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Nothing But Thieves

The sun is high up in the sky and it is getting blistering hot. Under these hot conditions in front of a baking crowd, the English band are the ones to keep them on their feet. I like their sound with the great voice of Conor Mason, whose vocals are clear and strong live as well. They have a bunch of good songs and should be able to even get a cooking crowd to move. However their show is a bit uninspired and if I remember correctly I have seen them play shows more actively. Maybe it's the heat on stage getting to them, but it never gets really wild today. Part of the band certainly is trying, but Mason looks a bit absent minded today. They close their set with their hit song 'Amsterdam' though, and anyone singing a song about my hometown, stating "I left my heart Amsterdam" is okay in my book.

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Jessie Reyez had to cancel her appearance today at the festival and Belgians Warhola are filling in. I recognize singer Oliver Symons, who is also fronting his other band Bazart. The music of both bands isn't very different although in Bazart he's singing in Dutch, while in Warhola it is english. Their pop music has warm electronics and the songs are mostly mellow indie songs that allow you to rock along gently, which is perfect on a hit day like this. Symons is clearly a talented and skilled musician and the music surely is interesting. Two drummers are playing the groovy beats that give the songs a bit of swing and punch. It's not exactly my kind of music though and I notice I start to loose interest after a while. But this performance is inside the air-conditioned Klub C, that is staying quite cool because of that, so we stay until the show is finished anyway.

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Back in the heat at the main stage rock veterans Weezer are playing. It's been a while since I've seen this band play a live gig. I like some of their records, although they have written quite some disappointing songs as well. This makes them quite a fickly band that can go either way. This shows today as well where they open with 'Buddy Holly' straight away and have scattered their other hits like 'Hashpipe' throughout their set. It doesn't always sound very tight, but that is maybe the charm of this band. However their show does have a few weaker moments, especially when they play A-Ha's 'Take On Me' and Toto's 'Africa', that don't really sound solid. Their recent 'Teal Album' full of covers suffers from the same problem, that the songs are probably fun to play but simply cannot come near the original and feel a bit pointless. It still is an entertaining show though, that is entertaining to many people.

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The Cure

English legends The Cure are having a good year. They are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their classic album 'Disintegration' and are playing almost every festival there is this summer. On these festivals they have enforced long festival slots and today they are playing for more than two hours. It allows them to slowly build up their set and that works out very well. The first half has some deep cuts and fan favourites, but not many of their biggest hits. Although 'Pictures of You' and 'A Forest' which come by in that part are well known of course, this part is quite mellow but does show the incredible talent of this band and singer Robert Smith.

Smith may no longer have the slim figure he used to have, or look kind of creepy nowadays wearing his make-up like he always does, he still is an incredible musician. Bassist Simon Gallup is the only one who is actively moving around stage, pacing around like a caged tiger. Smith walks to the far end of either side of the stage a couple of times, but for the rest the band stays at the centre stage. This group has never been one that uses large gestures, let alone fireworks or other gimmicks. And why should they? When you play such wonderful music with so much intensity you don't need anything else. The band leaves the stage for a short while to return for the big climax that has all the big hits we know so well: 'Lullaby', 'Close To You', 'Why Can't I Be You?' score big cheers from the crowd. 'Boys Don't Cry' is a fitting end to an amazing The Cure, that can make any boy cry.

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After that wonderful The Cure show this night is far from over, because we still have one more performance left. After seeing them play an insane gig at Ziggo Dome only one and a half weeks back I know what I'm in for. It is clear Tool has raised anxiety levels through the roof after not playing here for 13 years. Most people in this crowd will not have seen them since then and young fans probably have never seen them at all. Like the night in the Ziggo Dome, the band is unbelievable again. The setlist is only a few songs shorter and the transparent screen in front of the stage, didn't make it to Werchter. The perfection of the songs did make it though, and the songs sound just as powerful and with the same intensity. The weird twelve minute break and awkward drum solo moment are left out today, which actually works even better, turning it into a 90 minute trip into planet Tool that is simply mind blowing.

On an outside stage like this you know the sound isn't always going to be great, still there are some moments where weird things happen to Maynard James Keenan's vocals and the balance in the mix seems to behave funny now and then. It's not something the band has control over and is only a very minor detail in a for the rest stunning show. I'm sure many heads were blown tonight with monumental songs like 'Parabola' and 'Schism', a once again epic performance of 'Forty Six and 2', and new song 'Vicarious' that sounds promising for the new album. Again the band ends on an absolute high with an inspired 'Stinkfist', leaving everyone in awe and euphoric. This time I was even able to take pictures (yay!).

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This was such a beautiful day and despite the many changes to the festival site, it felt like coming home. Rock Werchter still is one of the best festivals I've ever been to with one of the best crowds. I'm sure we will be back again, maybe even the whole four days when the line-up stays this good and we can find a comfortable place to stay instead of on the camping site.

All Pictures

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