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Tuesday 22 August 2017

Rita Ora's slick singing raised festival above the usual dope shows

"Make some noise" – the unofficial tagline for Oxegen 2013. Make some noise for the band. Make some noise for yourselves. Example took it one step further: "Make some noise for the beautiful Irish weather." Clever boy (it was raining).

But DJ Fresh's MC wins the gold star. "Are you ready to go f***ing stupid?" Dope. He'd fit right in on the late bus home, that one (an experience I'd like to forget, thanks).

Indeed, it's a new era for Oxegen. Dance, hip hop and a single ukulele. I preferred the earlier stuff. Remember when you'd come to Punchestown and the Ferris wheel wasn't a highlight? Those were the days. Different beat, smaller field, same old messy clientele. All those horrible things you hear about this festival? Well, let's just say there are only so many times you can watch a person fall over from afar before it's your feet they land on. At least the tunes were decent.

And that's why we came. How about the Original Rudeboys? Dublin-flavoured hip hop, they're about the only band in the world that would take pride in covering an Asher Roth number (I Love College). But they've got the ukulele. And they know their way around a decent hook (Travelling Man).

A tad disjointed, perhaps, rapper Sean 'Neddy' Arkins is lucky to have Robert Burch beside him, the bearded, guitar-slinging heartthrob adding a touch of soul to proceedings. A work-in-progress.

The aforementioned Fresh lad? I'd rather take my chances in the Red Bull Electric Ballroom (a dark, oversized shed). Example fares better. The British electro house superstar is a limited vocalist, but he more than makes up a showman. Lairy hip hop dance, Mr Elliot Gleave may be the luckiest chap in the world, but he's not a bad melody-maker (the sublime Watch The Sun Come Up proves that much). Impressive laser show, too.

A sharply-attired Labrinth cuts a fine R&B figure. The Simon Cowell-approved wunderkind was upset that his Irish cousin couldn't make it. So, you know, we had to be his family for an hour (I heard no complaints).

Of course, we needed Rita Ora. Hair like Beyonce, smile like Rihanna, yet more stunning than both, Ora's arena-ready pop could do with some tweaking, but on the main stage, after an afternoon of chancers and button-pushers, it sounds incredible. It doesn't look too shabby, either.

A slick production, complete with dancers dressed like Ghostbusters, proper visuals, shopping trollies with drums in 'em (imagine if the punters got their hands on those) and glossy top-ten hits (How We Do, Shine Ya Light), it's a strong show from a fantastic pop star. Which leaves just enough room for Calvin Harris' DJ-in-a-box routine at midnight. I'd sooner watch a Bosco rerun.

Until next year ... HHHII

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