The Who show new breed the meaning of riff

Review: Oxegen 2006 was the place where new faces had to prove they could live up to the hype, and old bands had to prove they…

Review: Oxegen 2006 was the place where new faces had to prove they could live up to the hype, and old bands had to prove they could live up to the legend.

Third on the bill on the main stage on Saturday were Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys, whose spectacular rise to fame this year has been put down to everything from the internet to divine intervention. They delivered a set of smartly worded and sharply played tunes from their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's what I'm Not, and showed they had the steel to back up the swagger.

Second-billed, The Strokes were far less convincing, even though singer Julian Casablancas displayed jaded cool, and the band thundered through some of their best-known tunes, including Sometimes, Reptilia and Last Nite. The problems came when they tried to stretch beyond the garage and into a wider stadium sound, and crashed headlong into their own limitations. Guitarist Nick Valensi, for instance, clearly wants to be an indie guitar hero, but his playing was a tangle of twisted scales and clumsy runs.

Top of the bill on the main stage were The Who, whose collective age is probably higher than everybody in Oxegen put together, whose guitarist is - reputedly - deaf as a post, and two of whose members have gone to the great gig in the sky. But you can't beat 40 years of experience and a back catalogue of tunes that many new bands would kill for.


They opened with I Can't Explain, Townshend windmilling his guitar and risking pulling a shoulder muscle. They then tore through such classics as The Seeker, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes and My Generation, Roger Daltrey effortlessly replicating his bull's roar of old. Pino Palladino stood in for the dearly departed John Entwhistle, and Zak Starkey took Keith Moon's drum spot. The finale featured an extended excerpt from Tommy, including Pinball Wizard.

On the other end of the age scale, Lily Allen, much-touted daughter of comedy actor Keith Allen, charmed the crowd with her easy-going blend of ska, rap and girlie pop. Even when she sank into cheesy europop, with a tune that sounded like Sandie Shaw's Puppet on a String, she didn't lose the respect.

Headlining the NME stage was former Verve man Richard Ashcroft, who has become a little self-indulgent of late, but who still shows sparks of brilliance in Break the Night with Colour. It seems, though, that Bitter Sweet Symphony has become a bit of a millstone, and he performs it with more than usual resignation.

Many acts on the new band stage seemed bent on replicating the success of Arctic Monkeys but, sadly, some seemed intent on merely replicating their sound. Milburn fall into this particular trap, but at least they haven't boxed themselves in as badly as Morning Runner, who perform a tune similar to Coldplay's Yellow. Feeder made a triumphant return, with such tunes as Just the Way I'm Feeling and Buck Rogers.

In the Green Room, Gomez, who won a Mercury Music Prize in 1997 and then seemed to just fade away, gave a fine set that blended new tunes (Girlshapedlovedrug) with old favourites (Whipping Picadilly). Primal Scream leaned towards the new, which of course sounds just like the old stuff from The Stones and The Ramones. The highlight was Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins, who came onstage in sexy, sequined minidresses.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist