Live Review

Sheffield Tramlines Festival 2009

There’s been much anticipation around Sheffield, for this local ‘celebrity’ (Matt Helders, The Reverend and Toddla T) curated city-wide free event.

There’s been much anticipation around Sheffield, for this local ‘celebrity’ (Matt Helders, The Reverend and Toddla T) curated city-wide free event. A last minute decision by the City Council to have the 5,000 capacity main stage on Devonshire Green fenced off (due to health and safety concerns), however, means that half of Sheffield is in town for half ten in the morning on the Saturday in order to get hold of the day’s free tickets.

It’s not an ideal situation, and mid way through the day as we’re sat on the green and the area seems fairly empty, there’s a queue of people waiting outside for departures to make more tickets available. This coupled with the fact that no one really seems sure as to what’s going on (there’s been quite a few cancellations and the timetable is wrong and unclear) means that we decide to stay put for the majority of the day.

We miss the first few acts and instead arrive just before the first couple of miming pop singers come on stage. Jade Ewen is first and really dull ‘performing’ some generic dance-pop. Girls Can’t Catch are next and better with a not intolerable facsimile of Girls Aloud (still, it’s amazing what the mainstream will get excited about in a year where the queens of UK pop are absent). After a short(ish) break we get Raygun (bland but serviceable pop rock), whose set highlight comes when the singer’s attempt to kick a beach ball back at the crowd winds up in him falling off stage, and then The Yeah Yous who entertain the mostly young crowd with their MOR pop music. Aside from actually performing live these two acts really have very little going for them.

A late addition to the bill (presumably replacing the thankfully absent Noisettes), Athlete get the only decent length set of the day, playing six songs and proving to be a festival highlight. It’s after too long a wait and they come on in front of a crowd eager to see some proper music. ‘You’ve Got The Style’ is first, followed by the near perfection of ‘Half Light’. We then get a new song called ‘Superhuman Touch’ that’s powered by a brilliant keyboard part and gets us surprisingly stoked for the new album. ‘Wires’ follows and has the whole crowd singing and swaying along. ‘Twenty Four Hours’ is played with a lot of energy and we get another new song before the band depart.

There’s another sizeable gap next and we get especially tired of the terrible local radio stations song loop. Nonetheless to the screaming of loads of underage girls Preston comes on stage. For better or worse, he’s ditched his Ordinary Boys and seems intent on making some ‘proper’ pop music now. Today at least, he doesn’t do it very well. A good singer but sounding a bit out of tune, all his songs sound unfinished with at least one element needing a lot of work and all ending rather abruptly. However, he’s absolutely terrific when compared with the terrible miming and lack of stage presence that is Pixie Lott, who follows shortly after.

The next gap is ridiculously long as we await the main act that we’re at Devonshire Green to see. If there’s one big complaint about this festival it’s that they need to get their timings more consistent – there’s no flow to proceedings. More’s the worry that we want to be halfway across town by 10 o’clock to see Johnny Foreigner. At just gone half nine Little Boots finally comes on stage. She is really quite brilliant. Blowing all of the manufactured acts clean out of the water with genuine star quality she commands the stage playing only three songs: ‘Remedy’, ‘New In Town’ and ‘Stuck On Repeat’. She’s a proper star but we have to dash in the final seconds of her performance, leaving Dev Green just as Booty Luv are rushed on stage.

We get to the Stockroom two songs into Johnny Foreigner’s set. It’s rammed. There’s people watching in through the windows and photographers are standing on the windowsills trying to get shots. The set is mostly a showcase of new material, although ‘Eyes Wide Terrified’, ‘Sofacore’ and ‘Salt, Peppa and Spinderella’ get airings also. The last of which gets the crowd moving as much as they physically can. We can’t see anything and most of the sound is absorbed by the first row of people but this is still a good gig. At various points Alexei asks a member of the crowd where they got their goFASTER>> t-shirt from (commenting on how the quality of a gig can be judged from the crowd’s shirts) and apologises for the band being rubbish (they’re not) due to not playing together for three weeks because of holding down proper jobs.

We spill out once the set’s finished as it’s too warm to hang around in the venue, thanks to the lack of tickets and this whole festival being free The Stockroom is well over capacity and we decide that although various venues are continuing the revelry until 3am, seeing as most of the bands are done that we’ll call it a night. Not massively well organised and with too many shit pop acts, Tramlines was still worth a day investigating. We’re sure that with experience they’ll deliver more next year.

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