Neon Lights, 26 & 27 November 2016 / PJ Harvey, 13 January 2017
As usual, I’ve been tardy writing about shows so I’m making up for it by covering Neon Lights 2016 and PJ Harvey back-to-back in this post.
Neon Lights @ Fort Canning Park, 26 & 27 Nov 2016
The weather during Neon Lights might have been stormy but it wasn’t going to put off the crowds who had descended on Fort Canning Park for the festival’s second edition. Standing on the raised platform and clutching the barrier with rain pouring down on me, I even felt fuzzy as it brought back memories of the first Laneway Festival in 2011. Undeterred by the rain and wearing ponchos “in solidarity” with us, Chairlift put on an amazing set, delivering new songs like “Romeo” and “Crying In Public” and older gems like “Amanaemonesia” and “I Belong In Your Arms”. Dressed in a hot pink cropped top and shiny black pants, Caroline Polachek got everyone singing along while dancing gracefully on stage. Theirs was one of my favourite sets of the festival and needless to say, I was pretty crushed to learn just days later that they had broken up. RIP Chairlift. I’m glad I got to see you guys one last time.
Foals was an angry, intense affair reminiscent of their set at Laneway 2011. The majority of the crowd were here for them and the air of anticipation had grown so heavy that you could slice it with a knife. Unfortunately there was a group of drunk guys a few rows behind us who started singing Foals’ songs during Gentle Bones’s set which wasn’t cool at all. I’m not a fan but at that moment I felt really bad for him. When Foals finally came on, it took all my strength not to be swept away by the heaving crowd. A wasn’t as lucky – he lost his footing on the muddy ground and fell; luckily some helpful festival-goers pulled him up. To be honest, I stopped listening to Foals after their second album and was clueless about the more recent stuff they played. It didn’t matter though – they played an energetic set and it felt great to let my hair down and rock out.
Blood Orange kicked off the second day with a stunning set filled with sensual, new wave grooves and melancholic, soulful musings. Equal parts introspective and danceable, he flitted between themes like race (“Augustine”) to heartbreak (You’re Not Good Enough”). Dev Hynes is a crazy talented artiste, and I really hope he returns for a full-length concert because a 45-minute festival set just isn’t enough.
Malaysia’s Yuna was probably the most mainstream of the acts and though her music isn’t what I’d normally listen to, I have to admit I enjoyed her set. She has a good voice and catchy songs and after standing all day, it was nice to sit on a mat and chill to her brand of R&B-infused pop while enjoying the night air.
The largest crowds were arguably reserved for Icelandic post-rock icons Sigur Ros with hordes of people packing the front of the stage to as far back as the eye could see. I saw them at the same venue in 2012 (where coincidentally a light drizzle fell) and remembered being unable to get into their set, much to my anguish. This was my third time seeing them after Primavera Sound several months earlier. I felt their set at Primavera was better in terms of sound and lighting. That said, this was still as ethereal with soaring instrumentals anchored by Jonsi’s incredible falsetto. They ended with a fiery blaze of lights which I thought was a nice touch to cap off a wet and wonderful weekend.
PJ Harvey @ Esplanade Theatre, 13 Jan 2017
I’d seen PJ Harvey at Primavera Sound last year but I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to see her play here. She was absolutely incredible during the two-hour show, mesmerising the audience with her flawless vocals and bewitching dance movements. Credit too to her backing band who provided the bedrock. Most of the setlist consisted of songs from her latest album The Hope Six Demolition Project, but near the end she switched things up by launching into the angst of “50 Ft Queenie” and the creepy “Down by the Water”. 2017 couldn’t have started off on a better note and I’m looking forward to what the rest of the year brings.