Panorama festival review Sia, Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem sizzle

Headliners Arcade Fire turn their set into a long-form Bowie tribute, Kendrick Lamar throws a politically-charged party and Sia reinvents the rock gig at New Yorks newest festival


The eclectic curation of the inaugural Panorama Music Festival is on full display on Friday as concertgoers do their best to beat the heat on one of the hottest days of the summer.

An early highlight is offered by Toronto indie-rock heroes Broken Social Scene. Effectively on the shelf for six years since touring on 2010s excellent Forgiveness Rock Record Kevin Shieldss sprawling collective show no sign of atrophy during a 10-song set that draws from the bands entire catalog. The very pregnant Amy Milan of fellow Canadian band Stars lends vocals on 7/4 (Shoreline), Texico Bitches and crowd favorite Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl where she is joined by Ariel Engle to bring the gig to a rousing climax.

Rousing sets by festival-circuit regulars FKA twigs and Alabama Shakes keep things rolling, while Schoolboy Q draws an overflow crowd to the sidestage for a set that relies heavily on his just-released Blank Face LP, while saving a place for old favorites Man of the Year and Collard Greens.



figcaption class=”caption” caption–img caption caption–img” itemprop=”description”> Regine Chassagne and Win Butler of Arcade Fire: a long-form Bowie tribute. Photograph: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Its been three years since Arcade Fires sprawling Reflektor, prompting many to believe Fridays headlining set could include an offering of new material. That wasnt to be. Yet the Montreal rockers offered up a crowd-pleasing two-hour stream of greatest hits drawn from their four-album body of work.

The gig when it wasnt peppered with Win Butlers political commentary (Donald Trump will never be fucking president) served as a long-form tribute to David Bowie, one of the bands early champions who featured as a guest vocalist on Reflektors eponymous lead single. It fucking hurts every day that hes not here, Butler lamented between songs as Bowies image stared down from the screens flanking the stage. The tribute continued well after they were joined by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for traditional set closer Wake Up; afterward both acts processed into the crowd behind the soundboard for singalongs of Rebel Rebel, Suffragette City and Heroes.


Dev Hyness third life as Blood Orange after his previous incarnations as a member of the nu-ravers Test Icicles and solo as folk pop Lightspeed Champion looks like his most natural fit. In a backless white vest and G Unit-inscribed shorts hes supported by a band including a heavily used sax player and two backing singers. On a scorching hot afternoon in New York it feels like the perfect setting for his brand of 80s-influenced pop.

Hynes says his latest album Freetown Sound is like a mixtape: a selection for the headphones. And his set has the same slightly scattered feel, like when he admits to not including his most well-known song Youre Not Good Enough on the setlist. But regardless of the on-the-fly approach that track and others from his latest LP, such as Augustine, are delivered with a confidence and professionalism that make the set feel more like an intimate gig between friends rather than one for thousands. Finishing with Freetown Sound closer Better Numb, which he plays solo, its a stripped-down moment that exposes the fact that Hyness songwriting is the real star of the show.

Devont Dev Hynes: his songwriting is the star of the show. Photograph: Joe Papeo/Rex/Shutterstock
On the Pavilion stage theres no place for such subtlety with
Flosstradamus. The duos made-for-festivals EDM-meets-rap sees them move through tracks like a Soundcloud user with ADHD, snapping 30-second segments of songs into each other backed with visuals that could come straight from GTA V. After a vocal warning announcing a BOOTY ALERT! blares out from the stage the duo then tell us that music can bring everyone together in this time of uncertainty in the world, and apparently Americas problems might all be solved by mixing Three Little Birds by Bob Marley into Fatman Scoop, DMX and then of all things the Macarena. Its the festivals biggest flirtation with EDM and next to the likes of Horse Meat Disco and DJ Harvey in the Parlour it shows two very different sides of dance music, which dont necessarily sit comfortably with each other.

J2K of Flosstradamus flies the flag for EDM. Photograph: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Back on the main stage the National roll out their take on stadium indie with a set which slow-burns its way into life rather than starting with a bang. Making their way through I Need My Girl and Squalor Victoria, it isnt until Sea of Love that things really begin to pique the interest of the crowd. Thats capitalised on when Matt Berninger decides to climb into the crowd and stage a mass singalong.

Kendrick Lamars set starts with visuals of the fallout of basketball star Ron Artests fight with Ben Wallace in 2004 interspersed with Oprah Winfrey. Crackling static and voiceovers eventually give way to untitled 07 2014, which starts a set that hardly pauses for breath. The visual backing is a tour of Americas most wanted: from Nancy and Ronald Reagan, and Michael Jordan beating four Utah Jazz players to make an impossible lay-up to ODB mouthing off into the camera and Monica Lewinsky talking to reporters. All of this is backed by Lamars band who knocked off live versions of Backseat Freestyle, m.A.A.d city and Swimming Pools (Drank), giving them new urgency.

When rappers perform completely solo, it doesnt always work. As Drakes turn at Governors Ball last year or Kanye at Glastonbury proved, the stage can be a lonely, unforgiving space. But Lamars live show is just as single-minded and inventive as his studio work, and he even includes versions of his TDE running mate Schoolboy Qs tracks Collard Greens (in its second airing of the weekend) and That Part. It might sound high-minded and self-indulgent, but Lamars stage banter (pointing out longtime fans in the front rows, being self-deprecating) disarms any sense of pretentiousness and gives the gig a party feel and a sense of humour like when he plays Bitch Dont Kill My Vibe over visuals of Bill OReilly going ballistic on Inside Edition.


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Kendrick Lamar: a set with a new urgency. Photograph: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

On Sunday, after Kurt Viles late afternoon set of folk-tinged indie rock finishes with him playing Stand Inside solo, Rfs Du Sol brings tropical house to the Pavilion stage. The Australian trio take Calvin Harriss pre-Vegas approach to pop (dance beats, simple melody, rinse and repeat) and made it work for them. When they announce they are going to take the crowd on a nine-minute journey, it doesnt bode well but the result Innerbloom works.

Run the Jewelss festival schtick is tried and tested. Theyve become the hip-hop act of choice for bookers who want a group who can fill a stage and consistently deliver. Killer Mike and El-Ps banter consists of apologising for baring their legs and Killer Mike christening an unfortunate crowd member White Mike because of his similarly ample frame. But it isnt just mild bullying and body image jokes, the music is still the main draw. Firing through tracks like Blockbuster and Lie, Cheat, Steal, which sound great on record but turn passive crowds into mosh pits at live events the appeal is clear.

El-P and Killer Mike of Run the Jewels: consistently deliver. Photograph: J Kempin/Getty Images

Sias live show has to be one of the most interesting of 2016. Standing at the side of stage with little or no lighting, shes accompanied by prerecorded visuals featuring the likes of Tig Notaro, Ben Mendelsohn, Kirsten Wiig and Paul Dano, and on-stage stand-ins who mimic the on-screen action. Its part melodrama, part pop show and part contemporary dance recital with Sias performance being more or less exclusively focused on her vocal.

There are cheers for each cameo and a narrative that closely follows the themes she deals in: rejection, conflict, love and rebirth. For those looking for crowd interaction and easy instruction this wont work at all, but if you want to see a festival performance thats genuinely trying to shift what we expect from live performance this is as intriguing as it gets in 2016. Diamonds, which she wrote for Rihanna, stands out as does Move Your Body and latest single Cheap Thrills. But with the visuals its the slower numbers that really benefit.

James Murphy and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem include an Alan Vega tribute. Photograph: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

A tight product out of the box when they emerged from a five-year hiatus at Webster Hall on Easter Sunday, LCD Soundsystem are no less polished for Sunday nights headline set after a diet of festival gigs including Coachella, Bonnaroo and Glastonbury. As they launched into crowd favorite Us v Them beneath a disco ball that set the crowd aglow, the oppressive humidity evoked the sweltering DIY venues in Brooklyn where James Murphy and friends cut their teeth all those years ago, becoming at least for a time the effective soundtrack of post-gentrified Brooklyn in the mid-00s.

This is no doubt a home fixture for Murphys motley dance-punk collective, whose apotheosis 2007s towering Sound of Silver accounts for the bulk of the high points in Sundays setlist. They rattle through album-perfect versions of I Can Change, Get Innocuous! and You Wanted a Hit before matters take a more improvisational turn: a rendition of Someone Great that careens off the rails into a portion of 45:33, the long-form Nike-commissioned composition that inspired it.

A new wrinkle is offered with a Giorgio Moroder-flecked cover of Alan Vegas Bye Bye Bayou, a tribute to the Suicide vocalist and NYC mainstay who died last week. That gives way to the cathartic All My Friends, which sends the cool kids dancing into the night.

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