V Festival, Hylands Park, Chelmsford

Who needs a drink when you've got Oasis?
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The Independent Culture

If you prevent punters from bringing booze into a rock festival, you had better provide a bloody decent line-up. This year, V's promoters have ruthlessly done that, with a hatful of exclusive appearances.

Known more for branding exercises than the quality of its line-ups, the festival has carved out a niche over 10 years as the mainstream choice. Now it has hit pay day by attracting a crowd that mixed student disco with a night out in Romford.

Saturday was one for the lads, with antipodean rockers Jet making their first UK appearance for a year. People still remembered "Cold Heart Bitch" and "Roll Over DJ", though the remainder of their set was lumpen blues rock sung by a frontman who had drunk too much paint stripper. Apart, that is, from a new track that hinted at Oasis-style terrace potential. Outlying stages carried more esoteric fare. The day's most dramatic set came from the Polyphonic Spree, a 20-odd crew of musicians and singers. They may never hit the heights of their debut album, but the group made up for it with band leader Tim DeLaughter's fist-pumping desperation and eager dance routines from the chorus. Altogether, an unholy marriage of Wagner and Brian Wilson.

And Kaiser Chiefs revelled in their headlong rise. Stuck on V's second stage, singer Ricky Wilson hobbled on crutches thanks to an injury from a previous gig, so he hopped rather than skipped across the stage. Instead of the usual crowd-pleasing antics, his banter made up for deficiencies in a muddy sound. "I Predict A Riot" caused the sort of chucking-out mayhem the song denounced, as the band's signature tune was met with a storm of beer jugs, Frisbees and even wine bottles. More soporific was Mike Skinner's bloodless performance. The Streets had performed in Brixton the night before, so maybe he was still recovering from the warm-up. Skinner's sidekick stole the show with a rich falsetto and call-and-response skits. Yet the frontman's way of padding around the stage meant everyone knew who was in charge.

With all the talk about Britpop's 10th anniversary, it was fitting Oasis were top of the bill, although they have continually dampened expectations at festivals with surly sets. This time, the group even looked as if they wanted to be here, though Liam laid into Jet, Pete Doherty and any Essex boy in earshot.

They teased the crowd with the plodding "Turn Up The Sun" and "Lyla" from current album Don't Believe The Truth. After that it was hits from long ago. Liam's husk of a voice could not carry the hunger of "Bring It On Down", though he had enough life to inject into "Morning Glory" and "Wonderwall".

And the sun shone on Tony Christie. The old trouper entertained the crowd with a vibrant Lennon and McCartney medley that suggested there was life for the low-rent Tom Jones.

He made a better impression than Joss Stone, the teenage Devonian, who was overcome by the reception from a Sunday audience heavy on girls. But to their delight her voice filled the parkland bowl.

Even Natasha Bedingfield survived without being bottled. At V, the mainstream was truly in the ascendant.

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