REVIEW / CONCERT
Music & Arts Festival (Day 2)
Fort Canning Green & Gate/Sunday
British shoegaze pioneers Ride and Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice might not have the zeitgeist- embracing fervour of the newer and more cutting-edge acts at the first Neon Lights festival.
But like on the first day of the festival on Saturday, where disco veterans Chic brought the house down with a sizzling headlining set, these two seasoned acts held their own on the second and final day.
The six stages featured genre- defying acts such as American electronic duo Ratatat and singer- songwriter Julia Holter, but Ride and Rice pulled in some of the largest crowds at the biggest stage.
Never mind that Ride had no new material. The Oxford quartet,which reunited last year, were content to play songs from their first two albums dating back to the 1990s, Nowhere and Going Blank Again.
From jangly, sprightly gems such as Twisterella to the distorted guitar swathes of songs such as Leave Them All Behind, Ride's brand of psychedelic and dancey noise-rock still sounds as fresh and relevant as when they were first released more than two decades ago.
And while the genre they excelled in, shoegaze, took its moniker from immobile performers who would rather look at their own feet than face the audience, Ride's stage presence was anything but rigid.
Main singer and guitarist Mark Gardener, dressed simply in a black T-shirt, dark jeans and black leather dress shoes, had a confident presence. Several times, he would adopt the classic rocker pose - legs apart with guitars swung high - and during his more animated moments, it was a wonder that his trademark hat stayed on his head.
Guitarist and singer Andy Bell, sporting a redneck look complete with trucker cap and scruffy facial hair, harmonised well with Gar- derner in vocals and guitar tones.
Ride's dense, wall-of-sound aural aesthetic was a stark contrast to Rice's one-man show earlier.
On a stage set-up that was stripped down and raw, and with just an acoustic guitar as accompaniment, all focus was on Rice's potent voice.
His live renditions of signature tunes dating back to the early 2000s, namely The Blower's Daughter and Cannonball, were poignant and impassioned.
Rice the entertainer was very much on display, especially during closing song Cheers Darlin'. Pulling up a male and female fan from the audience, he seated them at a table on stage. As he sang, he poured them glasses of wine and joined the couple in downing the booze, much to the delight of fans.
Like the first day, there were plenty of non-music activities happening at the same time as the music acts. There were barbers, street artists, neon-painted dancers and poetry slams.
The elements were also kind to the 10,000 people who turned up on both days of the inaugural festival. Threatening dark clouds did not result in rain and the only thing fans had to put up with was the humidity.
On paper, the curation might seem a little unfocused, but the varied selection - from American singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata to alt-rock elders Mercury Rev to home-grown rapper Mean and local DJ KoFlow - was a great way for fans to sample genres and styles that they might not be used to.
The organisers plan to stage the festival again next year.