06.16.2007 - 2007-06-16 MANCHESTER, TN: Bonnaroo Festival / The Police, Ween, Flaming Lips Star At Bonnaroo...
The Police, Ween, Flaming Lips Star At Bonnaroo...
The Police's first festival appearance since reuniting last month and performances by Ween and the Flaming Lips highlighted the Saturday (June 16) bill at the Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tenn. The Police stormed through 18 songs from throughout their catalog of hits, a number of which featured different tempos and arrangements compared to their studio predecessors.
The set was largely similar to the one the group has been playing lately at North American arenas, although 'Spirits in the Material World' and 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' did not appear. The group was at its best on the more up-tempo material, particularly 'Synchronicity II,' a long jam on 'When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around' and 'Can't Stand Losing You,' which included elements of the instrumental 'Reggatta de Blanc.'
Several songs were transformed or extended; 'The Bed's Too Big Without You' demonstrated the trio's instrumental chops but also its handle on atmospherics when it simmered to a hushed breakdown. 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic' took on a more reggae feel minus the synths and piano of its studio version and a stripped-down 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' featured a variety of percussion from drummer Stewart Copeland.
In the late afternoon at the This Tent, Ween slayed a packed audience with a 24-song set of at times overpoweringly psychedelic, uniquely strange rock'n'roll. Beyond fan favorites such as 'Voodoo Lady,' 'Baby Bitch,' 'Bananas and Blow' and 'Ocean Man,' the group also played two new songs expected to appear on a new album in September: a mellow, dark number about a dinner party and a bizarre instrumental with a fake ending that sounded like a vintage game show theme.
The Flaming Lips brought their full theatrical arsenal to a post-midnight set at the Which Stage, including frontman Wayne Coyne sealed inside a giant bubble and repeated explosions of confetti. Coyne was refreshingly sincere when telling the audience how much they mean to the band, but also took the U.S. to task for perpetuating the Iraq War prior to 'Waitin' for a Superman.' Right when the Police finished, the Lips attempted to begin their performance nearly a full hour early with a cover of Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs,' but were made to stop playing until their posted time.
The early portion of Saturday also featured noteworthy sets from Gogol Bordello, whose colorful members played a crazed mix of gypsy music and rock best heard on tracks like 'Stop Wearing Purple' and 'Think Locally F*ck Globally.' Minneapolis' the Hold Steady rocked up cuts like 'Party Pit' and 'Hot Soft Light,' while frontman Craig Finn bashed the New York Yankees in an attempted show of crowd unity that didn't involve politics.
Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice played his afternoon set on the Which Stage in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, but what he lacked in weather-appropriate attire, he more than made up for with a host of cutting essays on love and relationships ('Me, My Yoke and I,' 'Rootless Tree,' 'Dogs').
Post-Police, the evening rolled into the wee hours with Galactic (a set featuring rappers like the Coup's Boots Riley and Lateef the Truth Speaker, who appear on the band's upcoming album), superstar DJs Sasha & Digweed and Girl Talk, who delivered an irresistible dance party in the Other Tent.
As usual, the stage was flooded with dancers from the audience while mainman Gregg Gillis mashed up all manner of Billboard pop and rap hits with each other as well as vintage rock tracks. Among the most crowd-pleasing combos were Tag Team's 'Whoomp! There It Is' and Big Country's 'In a Big Country,' Kelis' 'Milkshake' with Guns N' Roses' cover of Nazareth's 'Hair of the Dog,' Daft Punk's 'Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger' and the Cranberries' 'Dreams' and a finale of Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Juicy' with Elton John's 'Tiny Dancer.'
Keeping with the festival's collaborative spirit, Ziggy Marley guested during Ben Harper's mainstage set and Gov't Mule welcomed John Paul Jones, Bob Weir and Luther Dickinson during its post-midnight gig in the This Tent.
At least one band didn't make it to its scheduled Bonnaroo performance: Fiction Plane, fronted by Sting's son Joe Sumner, was stranded in Houston following a gig in Las Vegas and had to scrap its planned set just before the Police in the Blue Room.
Bonnaroo wraps tonight with performances by Wilco, the White Stripes, Ornette Coleman and Widespread Panic.
© Billboard by Jonathan Cohen