T in the Park - Balado, Kinross, Fri 8–Sun 10 July 2011
Beyonce, Pulp, Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, Lady North, British Sea Power and Tom Jones among highlights
A city-sized piss-up spread across seven stages, T in the Park has grown to almost incomprehensible proportions. With the territory comes an obligation to please everybody some of the time, something which inevitably has a habit of leaving fans of relevant and vital music cold most of the time. But such an enormous event has to be judged on its broadest strokes, and in that sense 2011 was a great year for T.
The festival welcomed arguably its most impressive headliner yet, and she didn’t disappoint. The weather saved its worst mercifully until the last day, and there was occasional sunshine. The atmosphere was good-natured almost to a fault. And Jarvis Cocker mimed doing something filthy with the last edition of News of the World.
Beyonce’s Saturday appearance was an undeniable star turn, packing all the punchiest bits of her celebrated Glastonbury show – a deliriously fun ‘Crazy In Love’, a sassy ‘All the Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)’ and a super-slick Destiny’s Child medley. Take nothing away from the other headliners – Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay and Foo Fighters’ sets delivered everything you’d expect for from such seasoned big-name bill-toppers – but unlike Queen B, they’re nothing this festival hasn’t seen before and probably won’t see again.
Standouts from the less glamorous end of the bill included Lady North’s power-prog heroics in the T Break tent and British Sea Power’s rousing gossamer indie turn ending with a fight between two BacoFoil robot men. Indie-ravers Friendly Fires’ frontman Ed Macfarlane disco-danced breathlessly in his Hawaiian shirt looking like he hadn’t got the memo about the torrential rain. You had to love the irony of seeing Manic Street Preachers blast-out punk-rock anthems about suicide, working class solidarity and the hollowness of modern consumer life on the same stage to which game gal popster Ke$ha had minutes before invited a man dressed as a giant willy.
Pulp were led charmingly through all their best bits – ‘Do You Remember The First Time?’, ‘Babies’ and ‘Common People’ included – by a frontman in good mood to speak his mind. ‘Do you remember the last time we saw this piece of shit?’ sneered Cocker before pretending to wipe his backside with Britain’s hitherto biggest-selling Sunday tabloid.
If there’s one thing T has a good instinct for, it’s when to roll out an unlikely veteran for a so-wrong-it’s-right singalong. Tom Jones in the Friday teatime slot got the party started to the point of inspiring one drunk fat bloke to do a striptease in the mud during ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’. If that didn’t somehow sum-up T in the Park in a nutshell, then surely nothing did.