Live Report: Mad Cool 2022

Spanish event returns to full strength...

Madrid’s Mad Cool festival returned earlier this month for five days of music and more as a sweltering city became host to some of the world’s most respected and adored artists. The headline offerings put other festivals to shame as Metallica, The Killers, Florence + the Machine and Muse took to the top spots each evening. The well-designed festival has a compact site, less than a couple of kilometres in length and a carefully curated schedule that means clashes are near non-existent and the offerings are top level across pop, rock, alternative, dance and more. 

Brandon Flowers swaggers through a set of sparkling indie pop excellence, starting strong with ‘The Man’ and ‘Spaceman’ as the adoring crowds screamed back lyrics to these anthemic numbers. The charismatic frontman seems overjoyed to be back in front of a Spanish audience as he drops gigantic hits such as ‘Human’ and ‘Somebody Told Me’ before bringing a crowd of thousands together in a spectacular sing-along to ‘Mr. Brightside’. 

Live Report: Mad Cool 2022

On Saturday evening Florence Welch put in another epic performance that exemplifies why more major festivals should be elevating incredible women to the top spots. Dressed in an elegant red gown, she arrives under moonlight for a rapturous performance of new album bangers ‘My Love’, ‘King’, ‘Dream Girl Evil’ whilst treating the adoring masses to the wealthy back catalogue of festival ready anthems. She skips, leaps and bounds with the elegance of a renaissance painting brought to life whilst channelling female rock greats Patti Smith and Kate Bush for one of the weekend’s most intense, electrifying and celebratory sets

Elsewhere across the site, female artists showed up and served at a predominantly and historically guitar leaning festival. Wednesday saw Carly Rae Jepsen return to stage after a short break with a top-loaded set of pop excellence, the ‘Emotion’ album sounding as fresh and fun as when it released. The crowd at the Region of Madrid stage scream back the lyrics to every single song in this high-power set, the grateful pop star breathlessly observing the fever in a sublime gold glittered body suit, her blonde hair shining as brightly as her sparkling brand of pop. 

Tove Lo has kept bookings minimal this summer, so a 2am appearance on the third stage drew a gigantic crowd to hear her distinct and characteristic brand of dark pop. New cuts ‘True Romance’ and set closer ‘No One Dies From Live’ are sensational and the Swedish singer/songwriter treats fans to a live preview of the hotly anticipated new single ‘2 Die 4’. A flawless back catalogue keeps the late crowd captivated and huge tracks such as ‘Talking Body’ and ‘Cool Girl’ create absolute hysteria amongst the overjoyed audience. 

The final pop girl to commend is another of Sweden’s finest exports, Zara Larsson. Appearing on-stage with a six strong dance troupe, she apologises for not having a band which did not detract from the sensational performance she delivers. The choreo was tighter than Charli XCX’s hair snatch, Zara racing through an exemplary setlist of pop excellence with mighty mega-hits ‘Ain’t My Fault’ and ‘Ruin My Life’ whilst also including delectable newer cuts ‘Poster Girl’ and ‘Look What You’ve Done’. Visibly moved by the reaction from her feverish followers, she turns up the fun factor with an incredible ABBA cover before a trio of chart toppers closes off one of the most joyous, uninhibited shows of the weekend. 

Although pop reigned over this weekend, Mad Cool’s magnificent long-term love affair with guitar bands remained strong. Foals continue their incredible rise to the top of line-ups, closing out Saturday’s second stage with a supercharged set of exceptional indie as the Spanish crowds thrashed beneath Yannis. He showcases the reason this Oxford outfit only get stronger with each passing album. The War On Drugs played an expansive, overwhelming set on the main stage as sun set whilst London Grammar created equal emotional devastation with their affecting brand of indie, powered by Hannah’s haunting vocal. 

Live Report: Mad Cool 2022

Once again women to the front, Phoebe Bridgers plays through a spellbinding set of heart-breaking indie rock finishing with the emotional devastation of ‘I Know The End’. HAIM play an expectedly summery set drenched in evening sun as they demonstrate their expertise with guitar. Spanish newcomer Irenegarry also packs out a tent for a spirited, strong set of jangly indie-pop, which goes down a complete treat with the crowd.  

Another triumph of the weekend were Aussie rock outfit Gang of Youths, who endearingly told the gathered masses that the last time they played the festival hadn’t opened and the crowd comprised of only their wives. This time thousands flocked to hear coming-of-age anthems under the cooling Madrid sunshine, before frontman David Le’aupepe leaps into the arms of the audience to embrace the crowds below. 

The collective feeling that we – finally – have come through a pandemic and a two year of hiatus of live music resulted in a palpable electricity that ran through Mad Cool’s gorgeous festival site this year. The unashamed way that revellers allowed their emotions to pour out to the sensational selection of acts playing across the site was admirable, and at times notably moving. The jubilant collection of euphoria, tears and ecstatic dancing made the edition one of the finest festivals in memory and sets up this special Spanish event to come back in 2023 bigger and better than ever before. 

Words: Sean Ward

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