1997.08.16 – V97 Festival, Leeds, England

Date: 16th August 1997
Event: V97 Festival
Venue: Temple Newsam
City: Leeds
Country: England
Support: see timetable

1. Smack My Bitch Up
2. Voodoo People
3. Breathe
4. Poison
5. Funky Shit
6. Their Law
7. Firedrill
8. Serial Thrilla
9. Mindfields
10. Rock’n’roll
11. Firestarter
12. Gabba

Extra info:
Mainstage timetable:
13:40 – 14:10 No Way Sis
14:25 – 14:55 Apollo 440
15:10 – 15:40 Fluke
15:55 – 16:45 Echobelly
17:05 – 17:55 Placebo
18:15 – 19:15 Foo Fighters
19:45 – 21:00 Beck
21:30 – 23:00 The Prodigy

Review by mea95dad@sheffield.ac.uk:
It was a highly impressive bill of bands that came together in the grounds of Temple Newsom stately home on August 16th as one half of the V97 festival. Just as the heavy rain and mud ruined Glastonbury it was the blazing sunshine that helped set the mood and make this the pick of the summer’s festivals. Around 30000 people gathered to enjoy a day that brought many delights and few disappointments.
The groups were split, sometimes inexplicably, between the main stage – complemented by large TV screens to either side, keeping camera-men busy throughout the day; the NME stage and the Musik hi-energy dance tent. There was a slight disruption when Apollo 440 were held up on a motorway somewhere and forced to miss their stint on the main stage, but that did nothing to dampen the mood for most and simply allowed more time for a crowd to gather.
My friends and I spent most of the day wandering between the main and NME stages, with only a brief visit to the dance tent, where the muggy heat was stifling and things seemed to be running behind all day.
Activities on the main stage kicked off with Way Sis. We only assume that the small crowd were there due to curiosity like us, as there’s no reason to be a fan of this band. As imitations go they do look like Oasis, but then, impressions of the often static and expressionless Gallagher brothers and co. can’t be the hardest thing in the world. They sound a bit like Oasis, but are (even!) lower quality. As for the singing; if the real Noel didn’t ought to be let near a microphone then his counterpart takes the piss! All in all, pretty boring. They made everyone else look good though.
Fluke stepped into the sunshine early in place of the absent Apollo 440. From the outside they resemble a minor-league Prodigy – nameless faceless person/people hidden in the background looking after the tunes while a guy and a little flame-haired girl stomp around the front providing vocals. At least, he did. She seemed drowned out. It was only when she spoke between songs that we realised her mic was actually switched on. Between them they provided a classy, quick paced set of techno/dance tunes that made 40 minutes or so pass like 10 or 15. Their material wasn’t entirely unlike the Prodigy either, but Fluke’s formula is more blueprint techno, keeping well away from the rockier avenues, giving a less diverse or experimental sound. I must admit to being pleasantly surprised by people I’d only previously thought of as dodgy remix artists, though why they weren’t in the dance tent I can’t say. 10 out of 10 for bringing some life and interest back into proceedings.
There then seemed to be a lull in activities so we took the chance to wander, passing fifty million fast food joints, the Diesel skate ramp – a 6m half pipe and Fuel’s “muscle car sound system”, with a couple of DJ’s and skateboard and BMX (on a comeback!) shows, and “Dub Henge” – that’s VW Beatles, painted grey, welded together in the popular arrangement. We then passed by the NME stage, where the latest Welsh exports Stereophonics were doing their stuff. We didn’t stop long, but long enough to see they rock within their own capacity pretty well, but will never be the biggest band on the planet. They have a large enough collection of good, catchy tunes to put on a good show, and that’s what matters on the day!
We wanted to investigate the Dance tent but were kept from visiting by the ‘no bottles inside’ rule – bizarre since when we did manage to get inside later in the day he found it aggressively hot.
Back on the NME stage we caught a good portion of the Hurricane #1 set. They were easily the most impressive of the newer bands showcased today and proved they have a little magic between them, rather than just being Andy Bell’s new band (something still lacking in The Seahorses, for example). As the main songsmith his Ride history is a boost for them but Hurricane #1 are a purer rock’n’roll act than there has been for years. They provided a quality set of songs, which assume form most of their forthcoming album. Unsurprisingly it was the singles that stood out the most. As the riffs of “Just Another Illusion” rang out it was clear how confident Andy was with his new companions, and there could be no doubting his abilities as one of the best guitarists around at the moment. They closed the too-short set with the excellent “Step into my World” and it seemed that Hurricane #1 are surely destined for further greatness.
Following them onto the stage were Veruca Salt, perhaps the best example of US ‘girl power’. Quite an expectant crowd gathered in front of the stage and cheered and danced quite merrily for the first few songs. Veruca Salt perform good formula pop/rock songs of the sort that seem much more popular stateside than here. You may remember them bursting onto the scene a few years ago with the Breeders-esque “Seether”. The single was acclaimed by press and public alike but it seems that nothing they have released since has had half as good a reaction. Consequently it’s not long before the shouts become too much and one of the girls (Nina or Louise, one or the other) yells “you’ll get your Seether and plenty of it!”. They then launch into another anonymous song and we decide it’s time to move on…
We finally managed to gain access to the dance tent, and the wave of hot air waiting just inside made it feel just like a jungle. The music didn’t quite fit that description though because at that moment in time Lionrock, Justin Robertson’s outfit, were doing their thing. We were only half listening as we had really come in to see the Sneaker Pimps who were due on soon. It seems like things in the dance tent were running well behind as Lionrock’s furious mixture of heavy, funky moves and hip-hop breaks showed no signs of slowing to a halt. It seemed an interesting and catchy set, and though we couldn’t see what was going on on-stage from where we sat I wished I’d been there longer.
As their set finished and we realised we were in for a bit of a wait I wandered back outside for a while to catch a little of Geneva’s set. They continue to prove themselves, just as they did when first I saw them, to be a thoroughly good live act. Andrew Montgomery’s soaring vocals are equally as good live as on record and the sometimes glittering, sometimes rocking guitar lines seem to gather much more energy in front of a crowd. Unsurprisingly second single “Into the Blue” was the highlight, it being the sound of a band who can only get better.
Back in the dance tent the Sneaker Pimps seemed to be taking an age to appear and it was beginning to get tedious…Finally they sloped into view, but rather than getting in gear and putting their collective foot down the music seemed strangely and eerily lethargic, and failed to flow together as it does on record. We didn’t stop to listen for long as by this time things were really moving along elsewhere.
Over on the main stage the Foo Fighters were providing the day’s rockiest moments. They may only be 2 LP’s down the line, (which may be as far as some groups get, but few at this stage are more accomplished) but they already have a great variety of material from which to draw what should be a pretty good live show. For me, they certainly pick the right tunes but they lack a little entertainment value, except for the incident where Dave Grohl was chased across stage by ‘the biggest bee I ever saw’. Fortunately the songs on their own are good enough to prove the Foo Fighters worth. Saying that, it certainly was their earlier material that shone the most, “Alone + Easy Target” being the rough diamond in the first part of the set. There followed runs through newer songs, with “Monkey Wrench” (instantly recognised) being as disappointing live as it was a single. Latest release “Everlong” sounded better, through they cruised through it like an inconsequential Sunday drive. The Foo’s are justifiably one of the biggest rock acts, but it seems as though they’re a little too used to it. It’s as if they save their cares and biggest efforts for the studio. The one exception, inevitably, was the still fantastic piece of pop/rock “This is a Call”, one of those rare tunes that carries an almost tangible energy with it, perfectly placed to help bring a good but sometimes passionless set to a close.
On the NME stage recent reformers Echo and the Bunnymen continued their triumphant return. As one guy who walked past me as I stood and watched said; “…his band are a bit watery (or some such) but he’s got a cracking voice.” Perhaps a little harsh, but the music did seem a little subdued. Ian McCollough is the near perfect frontman though. True, he has, and always has had, one of the best voices around, but it’s also his seemingly effortless cool that makes up half his act. When I was a little kid I wanted to be Fonzie. Now I want to be Ian McCullough. Especially the hair.
On any other day Beck would undoubtabley be the out and out star. He certainly is an eccentric young chap, and a unique showman! Whether playing or preaching – a meandering monologue I remember very little of – he has such a character that leaves him no trouble in holding an audiences attention. He makes no mistakes with the set either, though as with all great artists, as far as songs go there are few for him to make. He opened with the catchy “Devil’s Haircut” and from there it was a smooth ride through his choicest material. There were a few heckles from the crowd at the front to begin with but he was quick to silence them and from there it seemed like everyone was a Beck fan. Pretty soon the latest single “Jack-Ass” started up and was warmly welcomed, previous release “Sissyneck” was equally well received, and the singalong “The New Pollution”. The grooviest moment of the night was the very triumphant rendition of “Loser”, the mood captured perfectly as the sun set and shadows grew longer.
The centrepiece of the show was a special (but apparently regular) version of “Where it’s At”, stretched out to what seemed like 10 or 15 minutes and interspersed with bits of banter, returning each time to the chorus of “two turntables and a microphone”. It was a credit too to his backing band, who were tight through the entire show and kept the whole thing moving marvellously. Beck even made an attempt to use a little audience participation for the final round of chorus’, and in time honoured fashion everyone completely missed his cue the first time around. With that the show drew to a close, – a disappointment in that the end seemed to come too early. We were left only with his DJ to spin and scratch away the last of the daylight, very dull in comparison to what had gone before.
You must spare a thought for the unfortunate Gene, who were given the job of headlining the NME stage at the same time as the stunning Prodigy show took the main stage by storm. Judging by the huge crowd that gathered for their set there must have been precious few ‘true’ fans choosing to watch Mr Rossiter and co.
It’s been known for a long time that the Prodigy are the most vigorous and electrifying live act around today, but even by their standards tonight’s show was an absolute blinder. They are surely the act the main stage was built for; the twin TV screens combining with a great light show and the well known feverish on-stage antics to throw out the usual huge chunk of techno/rock noise that always seems to saturate the audience. The effect was immediate as the first riffs of “Smack My Bitch Up” shot out of the speakers. It may be a controversial line but he thousands of punters didn’t seem to mind as the yelled along with it. The greatest thing was the sheer volume of the effect. Instead of the usual pocket of fans going mental in front of the stage the feeling this time spread out, making people about 100 yards back from the stage move and dance along, whether they knew it or not. An incredible experience, and strangely tranquil, in spite of the volume. Keith and Maxim were giving it the usual manic display while blondie Liam went quietly bonkers inside his 3 or 4 walls of technology.
Soon the opening chords of Voodoo People were ground out and the place was again in full swing. Although they concentrated mostly on the new LP tonight it was good to hear a couple of older tunes. The absence of favourites such as “One Love” and “Break and Enter” was a little disappointing but the exhilarating performance of the songs they did choose to play more than made up for it.
It was “Breathe” that produced the over ecstatic reaction from the crowd. Upon hearing the first sequence a great mass of people made a surge for the stage and a number of people suffered in the crush created at the barriers. It is a credit to the event security and to the Prodigy themselves that the music was brought to a halt so quickly. The MC was soon on stage with a mic to explain the situation and to ask the crowd to move back. Everyone was very co-operative and after a few minutes the problem was cleared. It seemed that no-one had been badly hurt and “Breathe” began again to a reaction almost equal to the first. There seemed to be a new determination in Maxim and he even declared that tonight’s show would be better than the next days ‘hometown’ gig in Essex. This seemed more and more likely as the gig progressed.
The songs were flowing together now through the well known Maxim vocal “Funky Sh*t” and the more lightweight “Mindfields”. The guitar driven rant of “Firestarter” provoked another good reaction, with Keith almost spitting the words out onto the stage. A throbbing “Poison” gave a final highlight before they left the stage.
They soon returned for a single song encore, starting up the first distinctive bars of “No Good (start the dance)” before switching to the thundering stomp of the L7 cover “Fuel My Fire”. It was the perfect close, and perhaps the best song of the night.
The Bluetones were lucky to be performing the day’s closing slot on the back of such a great Prodigy gig. The crowd moved almost en-masse over the hill to the NME stage to catch their show. The ‘Tones themselves proved they have regained their style and swagger in a terrific return to form. Mixed in with the old favourites was a good measure of new material, but unfortunately my memory for song titles was a little shot after such a long day. I can tell you this; the new songs may explore new and different ideas but the mood of the Bluetones’ expression remains the same. Blue pop is back!
Mark Morriss just radiates confidence and Adam, Scott and Eds seem to hardly put a foot wrong anymore (assuming they did make mistakes, once upon a time). All the oldies were present. “Slight Return” was as superb as ever and even the slightly inferior “Cut Some Rug” caught up the spirit and lifted everyone further. The Morriss humour is intact too. “This is something we just knocked up on acoustics in the dressing room before coming out. I hope you like it.” he says before they launch into a triumphant “Bluetonic”. They even manage to slow the pace without spoiling the flow with a lovely rendition of the delicate “Putting Out Fires”.
Later he confirmed something we have long suspected. “We made a slight mistake, in that this maybe should have been our last single…” he declared, before gathering himself and taking it back. Too late. Adam starts up the monumental “The Simple Things” (b-side to the lightweight “Marblehead Johnson”) and it just seems so blatantly obvious that it’s true. Duly satisfied, we headed for home.


Entrance pass:


V97 The Prodigy booklet:


Photos from the show:

Backstage photos:

1 comment to 1997.08.16 – V97 Festival, Leeds, England

  • Andy

    I was one of those people that got crushed in the surge. 16 years old and absolutely terrified! I don’t remember much after being pulled out of there, but I do remember the lads dedicating “Breathe” to us lot that got trampled!

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