Friday, June 14, 2019

NOS Primavera - Jarvis Cocker / Stereolab

NOS Primavera in Porto is the sister festival to Primavera Sound in Barcelona. It's back-to-back weekends – with a fraction of the Barcelona line-up heading west to Porto for three days in Parque de Cuidade. I came last year, got very wet and watched Nick Cave in awe.

Second year running, it's still wet and cold and a lot quieter this year. The lukewarm response to Primavera Sound's "New Normal" line-up in Barcelona has been replicated in Porto causing disastrous ticket sales and a near empty venue. Barcelona was saved by the sheer scale of the operation and huge number of bands – plus additional highlights like last minute booking Miley Cyrus who drew the biggest crowd I've ever seen there. Nothing like that going on in Porto but ... I'm not complaining. It's still a lovely festival, with a polite, respectable, well-behaved, classy crowd, nice food, grass-fringed stages and cheap drinks. We're with first-time Porto Primeraverans Tash and Dan, plus our friend Ricardo and his wife Ivone who are NOS regulars and live a stone's throw from the park.

Jarvis Cocker
I've spent a lifetime successfully avoiding lyrics at all costs. I love music but, generally speaking, I'd rather people didn't ruin the notes with banal comments about life, love and all that. I've also managed to spend around 30 years not really knowing a single thing about Jarvis Cocker.  That all changed for me last night. Revelation time!!!

It helped that Cocker was wearing a nicely-cut suit that makes him look like a Geography teacher. ("Geography teacher" is my favourite rock-star look and part of the reason I am deeply in love with Matt Berninger of The National).

Cocker was playing with new band "JARV IS". First, the banter. This didn't always work. Cocker tends to say whatever's on his mind  - often a bit random. But lots of jokes. He apologised profusely to the crowd for the English fans who had been doing their best to tear down Porto by throwing cans of lager at it. (Tash actually saw a fan trying to open his beer bottle using the facade of a beautifully-tiled church.) He told the audience that there are actually some nice people in England. They remained sceptical. He then handed out Toblerone and Twixes to people in the front row and asked them to share. He gave his set list to a fan who had been holding up a placard saying "SET LIST?" for the entire gig.

Then there were the lyrics. I wrote some down. This is my favourite:

This body is a temporary home. This body wants to take you home. 

All the tracks were great, dancy, and Cocker loped up and down the stage on his impossibly long legs like a Geography teacher explaining in animated fashion how rivers have different ways of shaping the land including erosion. 8/10

I saw Stereolab in Barcelona and couldn't wait to see them again. They are immaculate.

Lætitia Sadier looks exactly like an Air France flight attendant and acts like one too. She wears a demure tailored navy suit with Air France cravat round her neck and a dead-pan expression designed to stop audience members asking if they can change seats. This makes her sound boring but she isn't. She's riveting – and the music is sublime. This year is Stereolab's first slew of live performances in ten years and was a must-see event for many excited fans. Sadier remained calm in the face of all the adulation and pointed out where the oxygen masks might be if we need them.

Stereolab have an awesome back catalogue and every track is engrossing. As the set drives on, the band step up the tempo until by the last track, you're drowning in an absolute frenzy of electronic sound. Even though it's abundantly clear we're about to crash land,  Sadier remains sublimely professional - a focal point of reassurance as we plummet to earth. But it's all fine. We land safely and start taxiing to the terminal. Sadier takes a modest bow and the audience reluctantly start getting their stuff out of the overhead lockers. We'd all have been happy with a ten-hour flight. 10/10