Giant Sand. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]
Again, a slow lazy beginning to the second day of the festival. While the uninteresting PT/BR outfit Banda do Mar opened the afternoon on the main stage, Lebanese songwriter Yasmine Hamdan was spotted chilling on the green grass before her show. Accompanied by a drummer, a guitar player and a keyboardist, her voice soared through the mostly empty meadow right in front of the ATP stage. Her music deserved more attention but after a couple of songs Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand was calling and gathering a decent amount of people in front of the Superbock stage. In the preview of the festival (and in one of our weekly playlists) we said their latest album, Heartbreak Pass, might be one of the best in their 30-year career. Their show, based mostly on the new record, proved us right. “Transponder”, “Song So Wrong”, “Every Now and Then” or “Man on a String” were some of the highlights – along with the rollercoaster ride that was the show closer, oldie “Tumble & Tear”, straight from their debut. The only concert in the whole festival where we felt there was no need for more pedal steel. Top 5 material.
Patti Smith. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]
On the other hand, Patti Smith’s second concert of the festival, performing Horses in its entirety, apparently (at least taking into consideration the opinions of those who saw both gigs) wasn’t as powerful as the one on the day before – some of the songs aren’t really tailored for being performed live, so we moved on to Viet Cong on the ATP stage… only to leave it less than ten minutes later. “Let’s play louder than everyone else to sound really powerful and tough” is almost never a good approach, so we managed to go back to the NOS stage just in time for Patti Smith’s encore: the lively classic “Because the Night” and the boring hopeful-leftie-young-adults-anthem “People Have the Power”. Speaking of boring things, who decided to allow José González to play at dinner time? Probably the show more suited for sitting up in the hill discussing football/soccer news until you lose interest in González’s languid folk songs and decide to go eat something. Or check out aussie jangly pop sensation Twerps, whose two songs we listened to were pretty interesting. Remember that Australian singer-songwriter that also played early at the Pitchfork stage last year? Check where she is now. Let’s see if we see something similar happening with them.
The Replacements. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]
Turning our heads to the past now: The Replacements are up next on the main stage and it seems like time has been kind to Paul Westerberg. Jumping around, his voice as good as always, Westerberg certainly looks younger than he is. He thrashed one of his guitars, mentioned this was their last show ever (is it?), sang classics like “Bastards of Young”, “Androgynous”, “The Ledge”, “Can’t Hardly Wait” or “Waitress in the Sky” before jolting into an encore that started with a version of T.Rex’s “20th Century Man” and ended in apotheosis with timeless classics “Left of the Dial” and “Alex Chilton”. Sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to look back.
The same opinion might hold Jason Pierce and his Spiritualized, dedicating a massive chunk of their setlist to Amazing Grace, the not-so-amazing ugly duckling of their discography (the usual suspect “Lord Let It Rain on Me” plus “Rated X”, “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)”, and the admittingly gorgeous “Oh Baby”) and revisiting absolute classics like “Shine a Light”, an amazing, endless version of “Electric Mainline” and a surprise appearance of Lazer Guided Melodies’ “Take Your Time” by the end of the show. Spiritualized’s delicate but powerful sonic endeavours need space and time to cooperate in order to provide the audience with the best possible experience, and a (starry) night slot at the ATP stage is all they needed to shine brighter than everyone else. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best concert of the festival.
After such an incredible show, only someone special’s music could possibly hold my attention. At this point I wondered if other artist’s music could add something valuable to my night, and I thought I should probably let my eardrums think and dream about what they have just experienced and call it a night – like I did some years ago after finally seeing Tortoise in Barcelona, only to be reminded that Mission of Burma were playing not far away from where I was standing, refusing to listen to other music – but the thought of experiencing Antony playing live with an orchestra quickly set me in motion to the main stage, passing through what seemed like a boring Belle and Sebastian show, unlike their Paredes de Coura one a couple of years ago.
Sure, Antony & the Johnsons’ latest album isn’t the most interesting work of art I’ve appreciated, but his live shows are always breathtaking – and songs like “Cripple and the Starfish”, “Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground” or “Hope There’s Someone” will always try and push a shy tear out of the most stone-hearted person in the audience. If Spiritualized wasn’t one of the greatest live bands on Earth – or if older classics were played instead of “Swanlights” and the likes – Antony would be taking the crown.
What are the choices after such an emotional rollercoaster? A one-hit wonder nu-soul band, the most bland and just plain shitty songwriter on Planet Earth or the hip-hop version of a Michael Bay movie ridden with explosions, shouting, special effects, etc? I went with the latter, and although Run the Jewels 2 was a decent, badass album and Killer Mike and El P’s over-the-top stage antics were entertaining for most, fortunately – for my own good – my mood isn’t easily swinged and I would rather sit on the grass by the ATP meadow taking and uploading really bad photos for the Bolachas instagram account. There’s still a big day ahead.