NOS Alive, review: Depeche Mode, The Weeknd, Savages, Warpaint and Glass Animals among many highlights of this outstanding European festival

Unbelievable lineup keeps revellers up until the early hours of the morning

Roisin O'Connor
Music Correspondent
Tuesday 11 July 2017 16:41
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Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode performs at NOS Alive festival
Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode performs at NOS Alive festival

As much as I love UK festivals, I’ve found myself - in the last couple of years - being more and more drawn to those elsewhere in Europe.

Perhaps it’s also down to the opportunity to explore somewhere new, but it is, for the most part, due to how festivals in countries such as Germany, Norway, Spain, and Portugal are curating absolutely solid lineups that showcase the incredible, diverse talent of today’s music scene.

NOS Alive in Lisbon is one such festival - set in a jewel of a city at the Passeio Maritimo de Alges - a working dock next to the beach - where the late starting time (things don’t really get going until 5pm) gives guests plenty of time to explore their surroundings.

One of the first acts to perform are the oft-maligned Royal Blood, who play a blistering set that even they didn’t seem to expect; the energy in the Heineken tent is tangible and frontman Mike Kerr is visibly moved as he surveys the crowd going bonkers from the front row to the very back. The riffs pack even more of a punch, if that were possible, and the crowd spills out of the tent - one young fan who can’t be much older than 10 or 11 is spotted clutching to a concrete pillar, head-banging like his life depends on it.

First headliner The Weeknd arrives onto a stage that pours smoke like a spaceship out of some obscure 80s film (Flash Gordon comes to mind), bringing his unique brand of dark, thrilling R&B.

Recently The Weeknd admitted he “never liked performing outdoors” but now “it’s the best feeling” - he seems to revel in the atmosphere a festival crowd brings, and those generic platitudes about how great a crowd this is at Lisbon becomes, 20 minutes later, something entirely more sincere as it becomes evident that their energy is not going to wane anytime soon.

(Arlindo Carmacho

Thursday night’s setlist is flawless - where he aired out some of his lesser know tracks during his Starboy: Legend of the Fall tour - in Lisbon the audience are treated to a number of the highlights from his latest album Starboy: “Party Monster”, “Six Feet Under”, “Reminder”, “Sidewalks”, and Daft Punk collab “I Feel It Coming”. “House of Balloons” off 2012’s Trilogy, his Fifty Shades of Grey track “Earned It” and, of couse, “I Can’t Feel My Face”.

Closing the first night are Glass Animals, performing material from their sublime album How To Be A Human Being with the determination of a band who want to keep the party going, despite their 3am slot. As a band their live show has improved in leaps and bounds (frontman Dave Bayley does a lot of those on the night) and the sheer brilliance - the genius intricacy - on tracks like “Life Itself” and “Pork Soda” really comes through.

Glass Animals onstage at NOS Alive

On Friday there’s a sense that everyone is already slightly broken from the night before, but everyone trudges resolutely across the green turf (a blissful, if not bizarre, change from muddy fields) to watch Savages’ Jehnny Beth prowl the stage in six-inch red spiked heels on “Husbands”, which she sings directly into a fan’s face in the front row.

(Hugo Macedo

Then to Warpaint, for an enthralling set, and The Kills on the main stage ahead of the long-awaited, two and a half hour marathon that is Foo Fighters’ headline show.

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl performs at NOS Alive

For the final night, everything feels geared towards Depeche Mode’s closing headline show, with their live performances of recent months receiving rave reviews. But before that there are still stellar shows by Fleet Foxes, Spoon and the wonderfully raucous Benjamin Booker. When it does come round to Depeche Mode the atmosphere has reached fever-pitch, as fans scream with every twist of Dave Gahan’s hips.

Backed by an impressive light display the frontman seems to be on top form - bellowing out tracks off their 14th album Spirit with fiery sincerity - hypnotically, undeniably sexy as he struts around the stage during the instrumentation on the close of “Personal Jesus”. It’s a breathtaking way to close a festival.

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