V Festival, Hylands Park, Chelmsford <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Around 11pm on Saturday night, the V Festival reaches its peak, as Radiohead surprise everyone with "Creep". Thom Yorke's drains the song of adolescent angst in favour of sad, soft feelings, characterising their remarkable headlining slot. Far from a greatest hits set, they play three new songs, including one which transforms rock into cool blue-note jazz. Here, Radiohead prove it is possible to play challenging music to a massive festival crowd.

But V's usual faults remain. It has no atmosphere, and fans are financially gouged. On the other hand, the line-up finally makes it a serious rival to Reading.

Though Saturday is bracketed by rainbursts, the sun comes out for The Magic Numbers' summery folk-rock. Racing to the festival's smaller stages, you can just catch Echo and the Bunnymen, as an unusually sober Ian McCulloch puffs clouds of smoke through "The Killing Moon".

Keane's vapid angst then drives most sensible people from the main stage for some time, where gems await. My Morning Jacket provide the festival's first great moment, as their guitarists slam into an ear-splitting encapsulation of Seventies Southern rock.

Sunday offers a series of solo performers wrestling with their pasts in great bands. James Dean Bradfield plays two Manic Street Preachers favourites, but his new songs offer more joyous, intelligent energy than the Manics have managed in some time.

The eternally unsung Beautiful South get the weekend's most passionately hedonistic crowd. The sight of couples happily singing along to "Song for Whoever", the most openly cynical love song ever, must warm Paul Heaton's heart. The Crimea's bundle of sexual angst Davey Macmanus is another festival winner, not least for jumping into the crowd while singing "Jealous Guy".

Which leaves Morrissey. Before a backdrop of Oscar Wilde, he addresses his infamous past by splicing The Smiths' "Panic" and the recent "The First of the Gang to Die", demonstrating that both are superb. He is in a feisty mood, stripping his shirt to appear as a middle-aged, homoerotic sculpture in the shadows, and protesting simultaneously against Virgin Radio and Tony Blair. The Smiths' "How Soon is Now" is merely a pleasant coda to the weekend's second proof that thinking, life-enhancing music is what festivals really need.

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