Live review

Roxy Music, Lovebox Weekender, July 17 & 18, 2010

The defining moment of this year’s Lovebox – possibly, even, of any festival this year – comes about 10 minutes into Peaches’ Sunday afternoon set. It’s already got off to a colourful start. We’re greeted by the sight of the electro provocateur arriving on stage wearing a head-to-toe coat that appears to be made of raggedy fibres. This is soon dispensed with, and she cavorts in what resembles an S&M bra and panties kit, wearing some kind of gimp mask. So far, so odd. Then it gets really weird. This, it transpires, is not Peaches....

The real Peaches is wheeled on stage in a pink wheelchair with a throne attachment, leg in a plaster cast, and spends the rest of her set being pushed round the stage by a naked pre-operative transsexual, whose name might be Danny. Well, it’s certainly a talking point.

Lovebox has become an easy enough weekend out for us good folks of north-east London since it moved to Hackney’s Victoria Park in 2005. As you might imagine from a festival curated by Groove Armada, Lovebox has until recently been predicated around dance acts and DJs. This began to change three years ago, where the remit broadened to encompass good-time heritage acts (Blondie, the B-52s), the more interesting end of the indie/rock spectrum (Super Furry Animals), and some wonderful exclusives - a magnificent four-song cameo from Sly Stone, making his first appearance on a British stage for 20 years in 2007.

At it’s least satisfying, the Lovebox line-up can feel a bit hotchpotch. This year, for instance, we have a typically wonderful Saturday afternoon set from Wild Beasts – who I always seem to encounter in fields in joyous, clement weather – and a disappointing set from Yeasayer, who don't quite seem to work too well in the open air. Larger names like Palmona Faith and Mark Ronson fail to engage – although Ronson pulling on Duran Duran for “Planet Earth” at least feels to some degree like a suitably game festival moment.

Saturday’s headliners Roxy Music are, broadly, excellent. They look incredible – as dapper as you’d expect, not a hair out of place, all suits and crisply ironed shirt collars. Possibly the only festival headline band I can think of who probably wore cufflinks. The band are flanked by four backing singers wearing white; on violin and keyboards is a girl in a silver jumpsuit. So far, so glamorous. The opening salvo of “Remake/Remodel” and “Out Of The Blue” is tremendous, as the songs thunder along, noisy but elegant creatures. I’ve always been struck by the dichotomy between the primitive roar and the avant garde ambitions of those early Roxy albums. Listening to Andy Mackay’s bursts of sax or the walls of guitar Phil Manzanera conjures up and I’m momentarily surprised at how feral their sound is, but never brutishly so. Equally, I adore the lush romanticism of Avalon (maybe because it’s the only Roxy album to date released in my record buying lifetime). All the same, I wonder if it’s wise to play “While My Heart Is Still Beating” to a festival crowd who’ve been on the pear cider since mid-afternoon. There's sound problems, too - the area round Victoria Park is heavily residential, so the band are never quite as loud as they should be. It's a conspicuous problem during the gentler songs. Similarly, I’d have gone for a more upbeat track from Flesh + Blood like “Same Old Scene” over “My Only Love”. In fact, on reflection, it was quite a contrary set; there's no "Street Life", no "Angel Eyes"; "In Every Dream Home A Heartache", as stupendous as it is, feels like one for the fans rather than designed to appeal to a broader festival crowd. But then it's very difficult to argue with “More Than This”, “Ladytron”, “Virginia Plain”, “Love Is The Drug" and “Let’s Stick Together”.

Sunday is certainly the stronger day in terms of colour. Rebranded as a “groundbreaking, no-holds-barred, non-stop polysexual party”, it feels like every drag queen in east London has descended on Victoria Park. It’s tremendous fun. Peaches, of course, seems to take the remit as far as she can with her pal, Danny, and the army of dragged up dancers for “Fuck The Pain Away”. You might think that Hot Chip’s blue-eyed electronic soul could come across as slightly reserved after the antics Peaches. But “Over And Over” and “One Life Stand” are surprisingly sturdy and far more muscular live than on record, and the band wisely concentrate on keeping a steady party vibe going. Grace Jones arrives some half an hour late, looking terrific and hula hoops throughout "Slave To The Rhythm". In a nice moment of symmetry she covers Roxy's "Love Is The Drug". Bryan did it better, tho...


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