V Festival, Chelmsford

The Pixies add some magic to a line-up that?s just too nice
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The Independent Culture

It is, of course, scrupulously polite. Since launching in 1996, the V Festival at Stafford and Chelmsford has been burdened with a nice-but-dull image: neither as rock'n'roll as the Reading Festival nor as colourful as Glastonbury, it relies on the spread of its bands rather than a distinct sense of character.

It is, of course, scrupulously polite. Since launching in 1996, the V Festival at Stafford and Chelmsford has been burdened with a nice-but-dull image: neither as rock'n'roll as the Reading Festival nor as colourful as Glastonbury, it relies on the spread of its bands rather than a distinct sense of character.

This year, too, it seemed to be asking for trouble by putting Dido in a co-headlining slot. On Saturday at Chelmsford, she performed as expected, with all sheen and no substance, her decent enough, albeit airy, voice wasted on coffee-table-confessional lyrics. For V critics, hers may be the archetypal V set.

Thankfully, yesterday perked up the minute Goldie Lookin' Chain spilt onto the stage. The 12-strong Welsh rap posse might be the silliest thing on 24 legs, but they're a band made to blow away Saturday night cobwebs in a Sunday afternoon festival.

Fountains of Wayne and N E R D upped the effort levels but the weekend belonged ­ and wouldn't it always ­ to the Pixies. As if leaving the V crowd slack-jawed at being in the presence of the re-formed Bostonians wasn't enough, they were also magnificent to a fault.

Lead Pixie, Frank Black, may have reformed the band for the money, but as they get down and burn, not bothering with the idle business of between-songs chit-chat, they come on like a band you would happily pay the entire weekend's ticket price to see.

Pity the poor Strokes, then, who couldn't hope to follow them. Although they did manage to marry singer Julian Casablanc's dishevelled cool to a set full of effortlessly decent songs.

The Saturday bill had lurched towards Dido's set. Of the main-stage afternoon bands, only the Divine Comedy's warm, winsome drollery held the interest. Otherwise, the main stage was devoted to virtual V Festival house bands such as the Charlatans, Faithless and Athlete, all sounding tired. The Charlatans looked stiff in the daylight, struggling to hit their Hammond groove and prompting a chunk of the crowd to leave and catch those piano-driven sad boys Keane on stage two.

Elsewhere, it felt like V had failed to nail the art of scheduling. While Dido droned on, Kelis played in the JJB tent, which doubles as the third stage and clearly wasn't big enough for all her fans.

Meanwhile, Kings of Leon proved themselves far from ready for their stage-two headlining slot, rumbling through their boogie-rock by rote. As punters drifted home or back to their tents, decidedly non- V-style mutterings of impolite annoyance were heard.

In the end, this year's V Festival was in debt to the Pixies ­ and as they stood stock still and diffidently lapped up the applause at the end of their set you wanted to hug each of them for making the weekend worthwhile.

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