Phoenix Festival Stratford-upon-Avon

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Blistering heat. Expensive lager. Drivers inching their cars up dirt tracks toward men with walkie-talkies who will tell them that they're at the wrong entrance. Ah, the festival experience! At the Phoenix Festival, held near Stratford-upon-Avon last weekend, you sometimes felt that it couldn't have got worse if Margherite Pracatan had been wheeled on as a special guest. And then she was. She tickled her keyboard and rolled her "r"s. She opened with "I Will Survive". You didn't think you would.

The previous night, it had been up to Neil Young and Crazy Horse to give us something to remember about the Phoenix other than the smell of the toilets. And they managed it, largely by doing what the world at large is strongly urged to do, and giving the songs from their witless new album Broken Arrow a wide berth.

Friday was singalongaNeil night, a greatest hits selection which proved that familiarity need not be synonymous with predictability. Young tore at the songs like he was ripping the head off a wildebeest with his bare hands; his playing was savage and relentless, and you found his absorption infectious (when he got caught up in "Like a Hurricane", he had the blissfully distant look of a man who should be eating pureed food with plastic cutlery in a day-room somewhere).

He had his flashes of introspection, too, or in current parlance, his unplugged moments, when he took a breather, took up an acoustic guitar for "The Needle and the Damage Done", and took your breath away. You're still inclined to question the validity of any guitar solo which lasts longer than a trip to the beer tent and back. But Young lit up the sky, and the weekend, with something curiously absent from most of the festival's other acts: passion. And he didn't need to launch fireworks into the Stratford sky to do it.

Bjork did. In contrast to her shows earlier in the year, she was brittle and aloof, treating her material with a cold impatience. You know she can summon the gusto when she wants to - think of her fighting fit last year at the Reading Festival. Perhaps she's grown tired of touring these songs now - though the fragility of a lovely accordion-led "Anchor Song" remained intact, you searched hard for a sliver of spirit in the muddled, noncommittal renditions of "Human Behaviour" and "Hyper-ballad". Still, the Roman candles made everyone go "ooh" and "aah", even if the songs didn't.

But never mind the Bjork - here's the Sex Pistols. "Don't be frightened," leered Johnny Rotten in a voice that would give Charles Manson nightmares, "It's your Grandad Rotten." Later, from beneath a crown of violently parted pink and yellow hair, he sneered pitifully at us: "And the crowd went mild! So this is the new generation, is it? Ha. Ha. Ha." The band closed the festival with a winning mix of arrogant professionalism, wilful provocation, arson threats and moonies, and Pistolled all over every other band on the bill.

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