Tame Impala, Chvrches and Fat White Family light up Citadel Festival 2018
By the time the sun begins to dip below the trees of West London at the self-described “ultimate summer Sunday”, the relocated 2018 Citadel Festival is already hours old. South-London’s Goat Girl have already impressed on the Communion stage and Parisian pop collective La Femme have brought underground charm and easy-cool to the main stage.
The first big name on the main stage is Fat White Family. A controversial band, divisive on-and-off stage, they’ve certainly made mistakes for which they’ve been rightly criticised. Undoubtedly, though, they have a live presence which can electrify a crowd. Frontman Lias Saoudi, most of the contents of a can of Guinness dripping down his white vest and shorts in a stain that only grows as the set continues, screams his way through I Am Mark E Smith and Is It Raining in Your Mouth? Everything’s turned up to 11, some of the genre-bending nuance of the studio tracks is lost, instead of exploding live with outright vulgarity. They finish off with crowd-pleaser Touch the Leather, a crafted song that feels more like the centrepiece to a Tarantino soundtrack than their typical raw, fuzzy, frantic sound.
Next up on the main stage is Chvrches. Lauren Mayberry twirls, glides and effortlessly chants her way through the Glaswegians’ back catalogue of anthemic synthpop, dressed elegantly in white top and black, layered skirt. She displays an enviable ease in her stage presence and her voice – everything comes naturally and she, and her audience, are immediately comfortable. Perfect for a lazy Sunday.
From the opening Get Out to the more aggressive Never Say Die, and especially their biggest hit The Mother We Share, the crowd sing pretty much everything back. While it’s enjoyable, the set is graceful rather than electric – friends and lovers sharing memories rather than an audience moving and feeling as one.
Tame Impala have been away from the stage for over a year, making their live comeback recently at Madrid’s Mad Cool festival. There is anticipation in the air. Maybe their brand of heavy and hazy, guitar-based pop psychedelia will be perfect for this sticky Sunday evening after a day drenched in booze, sun and smoke. But as the festival-goers begin to tire and drift away, it does have an inescapable feeling of slight anti-climax. There are moments where headliner energy does sweep the crowd, notably early on during confetti-cannon accompanied Let It Happen, or mid-set as the glorious bassline of The Less I Know the Better kicks in. But this is a set where tracks melt into one another, against a visual feast of fuzzy swirling pinks and blues, producing a vibe that the audience can bask in without ever truly erupting. This cohesive atmosphere is clearly intentional but leaves opportunities on the table, for example, the group deliver only a truncated mid-set rendition of 2012’s Elephant, perhaps their most festival-friendly track.
Finally, the band begin their encore with modern classic It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, and now it’s the show everyone came to see. The confetti-drenched music fans sway and serenade the Aussie rockers in an orgy of neon psychedelia.
Overall, this feels like a perfectly pleasant lazy Sunday rather than a pulsating weekend blow-out.
For further information about the festival visit the Citadel website here.