Live Review

Super Bock Super Rock 2013

Portugal leaves happy.

Super Bock Super Rock is a silly name for a festival. It’s a silly name to us Brits who’ve barely heard of this particular fizzy alcoholic beverage; it’s probably still a silly name for the locals who are used to seeing it on every second billboard around. The three-day event takes place just outside Lisbon, and it’s just as well it’s so close to the Portuguese capital – the bands only get going after 8pm.

Thursday is kicked off by a group who live up to every letter of their name – Anarchicks are Portuguese girls who make suitably riotous punk noises. Granted, they’d be better suited to a sweaty basement instead of the expanse of the Super Bock stage here, but they impress nonetheless. Keeping it confrontational on the Super Bock stage, an oddly-dressed Azealia Banks leads a relentless set, crowned by – what else – a rousing ‘212’. Johnny Marr’s solo material may leave much to be desired, but the crowd assembled in front of the Super Bock stage for the guitar legend’s set don’t seem to mind – and in any case, he’s brought along some golden oldies. If it’s not his own anthems ‘How Soon Is Now, ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ or Electronic’s ‘Getting Away With It’, it’s the made-famous-by The Clash ‘I Fought The Law’. Marr knows how to work a festival crowd.

But he’s not who the crowd’s here to see. Kicking off with the brilliant newbie ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, Arctic Monkeys’ set is as assured as any festival headliner’s; and few have quite as many instant anthems as Alex Turner and pals. ‘Brianstorm’; ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’; ‘Teddy Picker’; ‘Flourescent Adolescent’; even the relatively new ‘R U Mine?’ sounds nothing less than massive. There’s even time for another from ‘AM’ - ‘Mad Sounds’ goes from Beatles-esque epic to Primal Scream singalong. Indeed, the crowd already are.

Friday’s main stage openers Black Rebel Motorcycle Club sound laboured; whether it’s the still-daylight outside, the lack of smoke on stage, or the lethargic manner in which even one-time anthems ‘Spread Your Love’ and ‘Whatever Happened To My Rock ‘n Roll’ are played, they’re very much a band going through the motions. Kaiser Chiefs’ motions – later on, still on the Super Bock stage – are quite different, having replaced drummer/backing vocalist/songwriter in sort-of recent time. The shifted on-stage dynamic is, well, rather odd. There’s less humour on stage, and it’s left to frontman Ricky Wilson to create drama instead; taking to standing on a bar half-way back in the crowd during inevitable set-closer ‘Oh My God’. The set – featuring a little too much of the newer, less-known of the band’s catalogue – is overshadowed by what’s going on off-stage. ‘I Predict A Riot’ (what else?) soundtracks flares and the aggressive man-handling of crowdsurfers. It’s not missed on stage, either. “Whether it’s fire, or these guys beating the shit out of you…”, Wilson muses.

Miguel, over on the EDP stage might be coiffed and smooth with his R&B pop, but The Killers are slick as. If it’s not Brandon Flowers’ whiter-than-white teeth glowing in the dark, it’s the light-up stands he’s got to walk on from one side of the stage to the other. Or it’s the mock bombs going off during ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’; the confetti canons blasting out miniature K’s and lightning bolts. The lasers during ‘All These Things I’ve Done’; the pyro for ‘When You Were Young’. It’s no surprise they’re a Vegas band; this is a Vegas show with as much flourish as the four-piece can muster. It’s also (probably) scripted to the last letter; Flowers’ winking “what more could you possibly want?” before closer ‘Mr Brightside’ honed beyond perfection.

The nostalgia trip extends in to Saturday, with Ash blasting through their old hits on the Super Bock stage, and We Are Scientists – who, inevitably make more than a few references to their friends who are watching from the wings – cause giggles at the EDP stage. !!!’s Nic Offer decides to perform in his boxer shorts during their party-fuelled set also at the EDP stage, all before the weekend’s big event. Organisers were asked months previously by fans if they camp out in front of the Super Bock stage over Friday night; Portugal is desperate for a piece of Queens of the Stone Age.

The set is hit-tastic, with a huge, sleazy dollop of ‘…Like Clockwork’ thrown in. Album highlight ‘Smooth Sailing’ makes an appearance alongside ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’ and single ‘My God Is The Sun’; there’s time for ‘No One Knows’, ‘Go With The Flow’ and ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’. It’s solid; without Arctic Monkeys’ wit or The Killers’ showmanship (though, yes with clever animations on the screens behind), but somehow infinitely bigger than either. Portugal leaves happy.

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