Live Review

Good Vibrations, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne

Australia’s premier dance/soul/funk festival is underway again.

Australia’s premier dance/soul/funk festival is underway again this year, this time with such a stellar line-up that punters are making a dash between stages, as they are quite literally torn between many legendary acts playing simultaneously. Nevertheless, on the undercover Roots stage, the current darling of dance, Kid Cudi wavers around the stage, decked out in his trademark baseball cap emblazoned with the letter ‘C,’ warbling in his inimitable laid-back, crooning style. He then asks the eternal question, “Where are the ladies?” to screams, before launching into the Lady Gaga remix of ‘Poker Face.’ The unmistakeable driving piano riffs of his David Guetta collaboration ‘Memories’ ring out, as the crowd sing along. Then the rippling bass-lines of ‘Day N Nite’ drive fans into a dancing frenzy.

On the Good Vibrations stage, the pioneering Grand Dames of hip-hop Salt N Pepa take to the stage, dazzling much of the crowd with their effervescent dance moves, commanding rhyming style and engaging Mae West-style stage banter. As they ogle rather lithe, male dancers, they swiftly launch into ‘Do You Really Want Me.’ Towering over the stage on an elevated platform, a regal-looking DJ Spinderella displays her famed scratching and mixing techniques. Strutting across the stage in tight-fitting black ensembles, the MCs have clearly lost none of their dynamic presence as they launch into the shuffling beats of ‘Express Yourself,’ and the trumpets and funk grooves of ‘Whatta Man,’ as fans sing along. Then, it’s time for arguably one of the most timeless hip-hop anthems, as the exhilarating bass grooves of ‘Push It,’ reverberate through the area, converting the predominately female crowd into a screaming mass, as they chant along with the consummate rappers. “We love you!” the MCs say, before leaving the stage, having convincingly conquered the crowd. Later, The Gossip launch into Bow Wow Wow-style tribal drumbeats on ‘Pop Goes The World,’ while singer Beth Ditto springs around the stage, belting out the lyrics with an impassioned, gospel-style spirit. Decked out in a fitting sky-blue dress emblazoned with cartoon-esque pictures of cakes, hamburgers and various other treats, Beth commands the crowd. The familiar piano refrains of ‘Love Long Distance,’ ring out, as the crowd sing along. Impressed with the sing-song, she exclaims, “A lot of people know that song!” to cheers.

Over on the Roots Stage, old-school hip-hoppers Naughty By Nature take the stage, creating a Tardis-like “time machine” scenario, as the prowling MCs Vinnie and Treach, ask, “Do you want to go back in time?” to which the crowd scream in the affirmative. Treach then says, “We’re going to go back to the year 19 Naughty 1,” before they deliver incendiary rhymes on ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.’ However, during the opening refrains of ‘Hip-Hop Hooray,’ quite a phenomenal apparition appears, in the form of an all-star line-up including Salt N Pepa and Kid Cudi, joining the crew on stage. Salt N Pepa then launch into a frenzied version of ‘Push It,’ as the spellbound girls in the crowd sing along, with the refrain, “Ooh, baby, baby!” Absolute magic. The deafening roar of the crowd attempts to drown out Treach and Vinnie’s farewells. However, Vinnie proceeds to kneel on stage, quite literally kissing the boots of Salt N Pepa, leaving the crowd breathless and dazzled.

On the Good Vibrations stage, Basement Jaxx deliver dancehall-house mayhem, with their guitarist decked out in an orange prison jumpsuit, looking like a renegade Insane Clown Posse member. As drummer Nathan Curren sports an ‘Indian chief’ head-dress on while grinning maniacally, the unmistakable thunderous guitars of a triumphant ‘Where’s Your Head At’ ring out, driving punters into a frenzy. On the Roots Stage, Busta Rhymes has the crowd bewitched with his trademark booming, rapid-fire rhyming style, delivering a raucous version of ‘Break Ya Neck.’ Then, yet another historical hip-hop reunion occurs when Salt N Pepa, Kid Cudi and Naughty By Nature reappear on stage. The completely overwhelmed crowd goes nuts, as goddesses Salt N Pepa strut their stuff on stage, delivering another encore with ‘Shoop,’ which has punters singing along.

On the Laundry stage, bathed in green strobe lights, Armand Van Helden delivers throbbing Latin-house beats and rising synths, escalating into a climax. Meanwhile, on the Good Vibrations stage, Las Vegas kings of dark indie pop, The Killers hit the stage, with an impassioned version of ‘Somebody Told Me.’ Cutting a dashing figure, enigmatic singer Brandon Flowers leads his band members, dressed in black, in an often melancholic, yet triumphant set. Certainly, the metaphysical, haunting overtones of their tracks take on a more profound significance, considering the singer’s recent loss. As darkness descends over the festival, the band weave a heart-rending, romantic spell over the crowd. Brandon takes to the piano, giving a tender, acoustic version of ‘Human,’ which converts the crowd into a huge choir. After a brief departure, the band return, launching into the soaring synths and heart-wrenching vocals of ‘Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine.’ Then, it’s time for the finale, with the majestic guitars of ‘When You Were Young,’ as breathtaking fireworks descend in the backdrop. “Melbourne, we did it!” says Brandon, standing on top of the staircase, with his fists raised in the air in triumph. Despite the recent grief and a prolonged departure from the scene, they prove they are still undisputed masters of metaphysical pop. And long may they reign.

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