All the highlights from Victoria Park...

There is fantasy football, and this is the music equivalent of it; a fantasy festival line-up in London. In this respect, Saturday’s All Points East is about as good as it gets.

The Strokes’ last visit to London was to Hyde Park in 2015, and the thrilling prospect of seeing them again, as a headline act, is irresistible and not to be missed. The combination of decent temperatures and dry conditions suggests that everything indeed points east. It looks set to become the perfect day out.

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With an early afternoon set on the West Stage, the fate of Melbourne’s rising singer songwriter Angie McMahon’s can go either way. And she is the first person to admit that when she explains she thought that there would be “no more than” seven people in the audience. Her spirits are clearly lifted when faced with a sizeable crowd.

She is clearly interesting, there is stage presence and she is a ‘one to watch’. Casual, in white jeans, a tee and converse trainers, her conversational style, the way she engages with the crowd makes her likeable. There is a quiet, controlled intensity in her songs, with little embedded explosions, and at times, her deeper vocal range lets a high vocal range shine through.

Her song ‘Soon’ is fulfilling as is ‘Pasta’, its alteration in pace sets off a rising climax and she ends things with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Silver Springs’.

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Next up, on the same stage, is the dreamy, poetic psych band Temples. Having more or less kept themselves to themselves for the past year, they have been completing their third album, and a decision to surprise and shake up their set adds an air of unpredictability.

Convention would have dictated starting with ‘Sun Structures’ but instead ‘A Question Isn’t Answered’ followed by the upbeat ‘Certainty’ open the gig. Keeping a sense of flow and vibrancy, they continue with the bouncy glam rock vibe of ‘Keep In the Dark’ and ‘Oh the Saviour’ before wrapping up with ‘Shelter Song’ and ‘Mesmerise’. Although this is not Temples’ best show, it is still above good, and the prospect of more captivating ones is one of enthralment.

On the East Stage, Johnny Marr makes a good day even better as he launches into ‘The Tracers’ quickly followed by The Smiths’ ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again', a mood-changing manoeuvre that proves more than enough to excite and get the crowd fired up, paving way for the recent single release ‘Armatopia’.

The uplifting beats of Electronic’s ‘Get the Message’ and The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now’ follow suit, “This is a song released on Factory Records”, declares a nostalgic Marr before throwing himself into a revised version of the iconic ‘Getting Away With It.

“Calm down you indie heads”, he instructs, after teasing the crowd with the opening riff of ‘This Charming Man’, a trick like no other, it stimulates chanting and jumping. This is followed by the catchy, anthemic ‘Easy Money’ and an intimate, emotional delivery of ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out’, a song that continues to bring people together.

The show demonstrates the scale of Marr’s collaborations, his universal appeal, his still growing, continued relevance and much earned legendary status.

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A tough act to follow, perhaps, but if anyone has the potential to match, or go beyond, it is Jack White and Brendan Benson’s co-fronted group The Raconteurs. What they deliver is rock and roll of the raw, concentrated, undiluted kind.

With songs taken from the band’s two albums ‘Consolers Of The Lonely’ and ‘Broken By Soldiers’, a raw, forceful and dramatic performance unfolds. Highlights are many and they include ‘Hands’, ‘Sunday Driver’ and the awesome ‘Steady As She Goes’, the set is a useful reminder of what good, analogue rock can sound like.

The genre still means something to a lot of people, there is a place for it, and The Raconteurs is the optimal place to either begin, or keep up, such lessons.

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Much has already been said on social media about the sound problems surrounding The Strokes’ set. But all this negativity is destructive and it does nothing but ignore its excellence. Almost twenty years on, they continue to be the product of our own hype, mythologisation and nostalgia.

Few situations spring to mind where it would seem appropriate to boo, but it sounds as if it comes from a significant part of the crowd, from some of their own fans. But based on the slight variation in sound and volume, any technical issues seem to be addressed during the set.

It literally is hard to explain what is prompting so many fans to behave that way, and it is worth remembering why the UK’s love affair with The Strokes began in the first place. The band tick just about every box you could possibly desire from a rock band, and they seemed to be doing extremely well without playing the game much. They just did their own thing.

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Tonight is the ultimate, fan-pleasing set and incorporates hits from the first three albums, having the best songs with the most chantable hooks, riffs and guitar solos, obviously helps. Dressed in a black silk shirt and necklaces, to see that Julian Casablancas hasn’t changed much is a relief, still his own deadpan, mumbling self, an attitude so ingrained and forever preserved, he doesn’t try too hard and his voice sounds good.

Opening with ‘Heart In A Cage’ and ‘You Only Live Once’, followed by ‘Ize Of the World’ and the brooding, electrifying frenzy of ‘The Modern Age’ make for a promising start, and the full momentum is carried into the second part, which mirrors the first in pace and energy. But things build and intensify with ’12:51’, ‘Soma’ and ‘Someday’, and encore favourites ‘Juicebox’ and ‘Last Night’.

Is This It? It is, for now, at least. If today proves anything, it is that fantasy music festivals sometimes become reality. They are worth repeating, especially if repetition means defaulting at higher decibels.

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Words: Susan Hansen
Photography: Rachel Lipsitz

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