First Night: O2 Wireless Festival, Hyde Park, London

Farrell and White Stripes set a high standard
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The Independent Culture

For a warm up, White Stripes performed an unlikely acoustic set for Chelsea Pensioners. As this festival's most eye-catching coup, they were at their heaviest.

Such is the saturation of brands here, Wireless would make a perfect bolt hole for the London 2012 logo should it need to go into hiding. Nevertheless, this inner-city festival has acquired such a reputation for quality line-ups, it has expanded to four days, with the first setting a commendably high standard.

One name to file for further reference is Pete and the Pirates, so assured for such a young outfit. They apply such intensity to their blend of folk, punk and pop, you soon ignore comparisons with the Proclaimers.

Equally impressive, the Sounds, from Sweden, are more muscular in the flesh than their disco pop records suggest, on occasion matching fellow Scandi exports the Hives. Not that this was any concern for The Only Ones, with a gaunt Peter Perrett's whining drawl translating well to mid-afternoon outdoors. As did John Perry's chiming, supple guitar lines, cementing the most unlikely and welcome comeback of the year.

And hello again Perry Farrell back with his new band Satellite Party. The former Jane's Addiction frontman returns in a corset and close to his raunchy best. We can forgive him, then, his use of a backing singer seemingly there for her looks. His old group's "Been Caught Stealing" is more playful funk than urgent need, but newer material hints he has retained some edge.

More than can be said for Josh Homme. Previously, his Queens Of The Stone Age filled the mildly subversive gap left by Farrell. Underwhelming current album Era Vulgaris sees them replace irresistible hooks with sinister atmosphere, a squib as damp as the oncoming drizzle. As on record, the presence of sacked bassist, exhibitionist Nick Oliveri is missed more than ever.

Where Air fits into the scheme is anyone's guess, though the French duo rise to the challenge with essentially a greatest hits set. So, lots of squelchy hooks from classic album Moon Safari. "It's like a lava lamp," cooed someone within the second stage tent, growing ever more womb like. For once, their studied cool makes complete sense. So too the evening's headline act, where Jack and Meg White prove once again they are the most exciting thing in guitar rock.

After the mariachi threads of their last album, the Stripes return to simple T-shirts and slacks, in their customary red and white. Their backdrop is an expanse of scarlet, while video screens either side, glow in their house colours. Jack was here last year with side project The Raconteurs, fun but unfocused and no match for the bristling energy now on display. A keen student of the blues, it is the relationship with his ex-wife drummer that makes the difference. As with his searing "A Martyr For My Love For You", which he sings directly to her. Emotional warfare has long been a rich source of inspiration, surfacing again here and in other numbers from their forthcoming album Icky Thump. Perhaps their most unremittingly heavy record to date, it accounts for a set biased towards monster riffage, always leavened by Jack's virtuoso musicianship.

Of the quieter interludes, Meg takes first prize for an assured vocal on "Cold Cold Night". She has obvious kept busy while Jack was playing with the boys.

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