“THESE are my people” yelled punk hero John Lydon. And he was right – along with band PiL, the Sex Pistols legend had the Split Festival in the palm of his hand.
There was much anticipation about the band’s appearance as the Saturday night headliners at the fourth annual music extravaganza at Ashbrooke Sports Ground and they didn’t disappoint.
After arriving on stage to thunderous applause, they kicked off their set with the 1983 top five hit This in Not a Love Song and it gave the audience a great indication that John still has a belting set of pipes, even after a few decades of no doubt putting them under strain.
Musically, PiL are more sophisticated than the basic and brash soundings of The Sex Pistols, but they will never be able to shake off the music comparisons because John is so distinctive in his performance and vocal style.
The penultimate song was Rise, and one that I had been thoroughly looking forward to.
Taken from the 1986 album, titled Album, it is a lot more melodic and accessible than other songs that were on the bill that night and the song had the crowd merrily singing “anger is an energy” as the tune faded out.
Interspersed between the songs, John proved that 40 years on and probably many doubters later, his politics have not changed, as he challenged the audience to why they voted for the current Parliament in some less than family-friendly vocabulary.
There’s no doubting John’s magnetism and charisma as a front man and your eyes can’t help but be drawn to him on stage, despite the talents of his band.
PiL were preceded by Pulled Apart by Horses.
“Do you like it loud?” the compere on the main stage bellowed.
“No”, was my initial response, but 10 minutes into Pulled Apart by Horses’ performance and my mind was slowly being changed.
The alternative musos got the main stage tent geared up for a night of interesting live music on Saturday.
The Leeds four-piece reminded me of some of the bands I listened to as a teenager, perhaps not a great indication that alternative rock has moved on much in the last 10 years.
But I enjoyed the lead singer Tom Hudson’s nasally and sometimes screeching, in-the-best-possible-way, vocals and loose-limbed, wild haired boys thrashing it out on guitar certainly appealed to my inner 16-year-old.
V.E.N.O.M and Wolf Hand, from their 2012 album Tough Love, were stand out songs for me and went down well with the crowd, amongst whom there seemed to be some hardcore fans trying to get a mini mosh pit started at the front.
Quick, complex guitar riffs courtesy of lead guitarist James Brown and some brilliant pounding drum beats had heads nodding and by the end of their set, most of the crowd moving.
The boys were quite cheeky and indulged the audience in some anti-Newcastle banter as well as a few casual drug references which induced loud cheers from the front of the stage.
They were a bold choice to have so high on the bill in the main stage, for although they may be a pretty well-known band, their music certainly isn’t going to appeal to a lot of people.
Though Saturday’s acts were no obvious choice for Split, they were a great way of challenging people’s regular music intake.
l For more reviews and highlights, see Thursday’s Guide.
Festival is a hit with the audience
GIG-GOERS we spoke to said Split was a weekend full of top entertainment.
Richard Lewis and partner Debbie Cunnigham, both 37, from Moorside attended both days of the event.
Mum-of-two Debbie said: “Field Music were absolutely brilliant, it’s so inspirational to see local talent like that on stage.
“It’s a brilliant event for the city. We brought the kids along on Saturday, and there was such a chilled, laid back feel. It’s great that it’s a family event too. The only disappointment is that Folks didn’t play and we had been looking forward to seeing them.”
Rich said: “We really enjoyed Natasha Haws and The Lake Poets, we’ve followed them for ages on Twitter but hadn’t had the chance to see them live before.”
Laura Turvey, 30, from Fulwell has attended Split for the past four years and said it was a great way to uncover new acts.
“I’ve never seen This Ain’t Vegas before but I really enjoyed their set and will be looking their music up. Field Music were also amazing, I saw them a few years ago but they seemed totally different this time round.”
Freelance journalist Andy Dawson, 40, from Barnes brought daughter Mia Ross, eight, along to enjoy the festivities.
“It’s been great to come to a festival that you can go home after at the end of the night as opposed to pitching up a tent. I never thought I’d ever see John Lydon play in Sunderland but he was much better than I thought he’d be.”
Kerry Leng, mum to Eva, five and Anya, two, was one of those to travel from around the region to Split.
The 34-year-old, from Wardley, Gateshead, said: “This is the first time I’ve been to Split but it’s been a great weekend. I particularly enjoyed the Unthanks. It’s been a nice event for the kids too, it’s a relaxed environment for them.”
ORGANISERS of Sunderland’s biggest home-grown music event said they were delighted with this year’s outcome.
The Futureheads, who played their first ever gig at Ashbrooke Sports Grounds, are at the forefront of booking acts and staging the event.
Bassist Jaff said: “We’ve played many festivals and we know what it’s like to turn up and feel like you don’t know anyone. A little bit of hospitality goes a long way and we try to make bands and the punters feel welcome.
“This isn’t a corporate event, there are no sponsors, it’s just a great way to see acts you know and some you may never have seen before.”
Highlights for guitarist Ross included fellow Sunderland band Field Music who have been nominated in this year’s Mercury Music Prize.
“They said on stage it was the best gig they had played in Sunderland and their set certainly had a homecoming feel to it,” he explained.
“Split is our baby and it’s hard to pick a highlight but we never thought we’d see John Lydon on stage here. Six hours before we finalised booking them, we still didn’t think it was going to happen.”
He added: “This year has gone really well. We have a huge wish list of people we’d like to play. On Tuesday we’ll be sitting down and going through how this year went before we start planning 2013.
“This is only our fourth year and we want to try and add something extra every year.”