25th to 27th August 2023
W-Festival 2023 Day 2 with Time Bandits, Nik Kershaw, Traitrs, Earth Wind & Fire Experience by Al McKay, Soror Dolorosa, Wet Wet Wet, NNHMN, Nena, Cold Cave, The Human League
Do you remember that I said in the first part of the review that because of the tent part of the flair of the festival was gone? Today, I was very happy about the tent and I guess many of the gests were as well since during the day we had some heavy rain showers. And now, there were many possibilities to find shelter from the rain… the Main Stage tent, Batcave, merch tent… good to have them all. The second festival day offered some very cool bands and most of the attendees were looking forward to NENA and THE HUMAN LEAGUE. The tent during their shows was so full that no more people were let in.
W-Festival Saturday started with Dutch Band TIME BANDITS, already conquering a place in the pop world in the 1980s. In 1981, the TIME BANDITS scored a big dance hit with ‘Live it up’, which even reached number one on the US Dance Charts. Characteristic of the TIME BANDITS is their professional sound of funk, disco, soul and rock and the unmistakable voice and guitar sound of Alides Hidding. Currently, Alides Hidding works as a songwriter for Dutch and Belgian artists. The opening show at the festival presented lots of their hits, starting with their first success, ‘Live it up’. Setlist: Live It Up / Wildfire / Listen to the Man With the Golden Voice / Dangerous / Dancing on a String / Papa was a rolling stone / I'm Specialized in You / I’m Only Shooting Love / Endless Road.
Next exciting artist was also on the Main Stage, NIK KERSHAW. After lots of demos and rejections, KERSHAW released ‘I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down’ in September 1983 for the first time and reached the dizzy heights of No.47, followed in January 1984 by ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’ which languished gracefully at No.4 in the UK charts for five weeks and was to break KERSHAW worldwide. The album was released in March and achieved platinum sales in many territories. Of course, both hits found their way into the W-Fest setlist along with ‘The Riddle’, another major hit. The tent was packed - anyone wanted to see NIK KERSHAW and besides, heavy rain came down outside. I liked the show, very professional and sympathetic. Setlist: Come On Down / Wide Boy / Dancing Girls / The Riddle / When a Heart Beats / Only You (Yazoo cover) / Don Quixote / Wouldn’t It Be Good / The One and Only (Chesney Hawkes cover) / I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me (including band introductions).
The Batcave was then opened by TRAITRS, a duo from Canada formed in late 2015 in Toronto which I really like. Mirroring the dreariness of modern life with their melancholic melodies and horror-inspired lyrics and imagery, the Cold Wave duo has cemented itself as one of the fastest rising stars in Goth and Post Punk today. Before they played their first ever live show, TRAITRS released their debut LP ‘Rites and Ritual’ in April 2016. The duo quickly garnered attention with their critically acclaimed 2018 follow up ‘Butcher’s coming off the strength of songs like ‘Thin Flesh’, ‘The Lovely Wounded’ and ‘The Suffering of Spiders’. TRAITRS were the perfect Batcave opener and people loved it. There was so much energy on stage. I like the way they move… it is not just a steady performance how it is so common when you only have keyboard and a singer on stage… even Sean behind the keys is extensively moving, not to speak about Shawn when he moves over the whole stage with his guitar. Great show and I am happy to see them again in a few days. Setlist: Oh Ballerina / Mouth Poisons / Still From Her Sores / Magdalene / The Suffering of Spiders / Ghost and the Storm / The Lovely Wounded / Prostitution / Pale / Skinning / Thin Flesh / Youth Cults / The Way Through a Bird’s Love.
Back to the big tent now with the EARTH WIND & FIRE EXPERIENCE BY AL MCKAY. Now, there were a lot of musicians on the stage, easily over ten. Veteran, Grammy Award winning and multi-platinum recording artist Al McKay has a long history of creating songs that feel good to the body and soul. The former EARTH, WIND & FIRE guitarist teamed with group founder Maurice White to pen the band’s seminal hits ‘September’ and ‘Sing A Song’ and honed his chops playing with Ike & Tina Turner and Sammy Davis Jr. The tour set pays homage to EARTH, WIND & FIRE. When the band went on an extended hiatus in the 1980s, McKay created Al McKay Allstars and reunited many original EARTH, WIND & FIRE band members. The musicians spready a good mood with their funky Soul Music. Since it was not my cup of tea (no one can like it all), I decided to watch the next show in the Batcave tent. Setlist: Serpentine Fire / Pride / Got to Get You Into My Life (The Beatles cover) / Can’t Let Go / Saturday Nite / Shining Star / In the Stone / Fantasy / Jupiter / Getaway / Magic Mind / Let Your Feelings Show / September / Boogie Wonderland / Let’s Groove.
SOROS DOLOROSA following not at the Batcave live stage was quite new to me. Even though the Post Punk / Cold Wave band from France is running the European underground scene since 2007 I had never seen them live before. Mostly influenced by the absolute feeling to create cathartic and abrasive songs, they released one EP and three albums so far. Now, they mark the beginning of a new chapter in the band’s lifeline, in composing a NEW album and producing a new EP in re-recording six tracks of the previous releases with a brand new chain of sound and a revised line-up. Goth and New Wave at its finest was awaiting the Batcave audience now with a singer painted his face in a pale white and partly overacting a bit - very fitting to the whole setting of the band and music. Setlist: Intro / A Dead Yesterday / Tear It Up (from the upcoming new album) / Silversquare / Everyway / Autumn Wounds / Obsidian Museum (from the upcoming new album) / Hurlevent / Beau Suicide / Trembling Androgyneous.
A band I was very excited about followed now on the Main Stage - Scottish WET WET WET. Lots of their songs became major hits and they are famous for movie soundtracks as well. WET WET WET are undeniably a musical phenomenon having made an immense impact with their music over the last four decades and becoming one of the most successful bands in British Pop history. Their 27 Top 40 hit singles include three number 1’s, with ‘Love Is All Around’ spending fifteen weeks at the top, a record for any UK artist that still stands. WET WET WET has built a reputation as one of the best live acts ever produced by the UK. The band have played to more than four million people in dozens of countries around the world setting ticket sales records along the way including a sold out ten show run at Glasgow’s SEC. In late 2018 the band announced that Kevin Simm (winner of ‘The Voice UK’) had joined as the band’s lead vocalist. Whilst in “lockdown” during 2020/21 WET WET WET wrote and recorded a brand-new album called ‘The Journey’, their seventh LP. I really loved their show. You could really sing along to almost every song. New singer Kevin was vocally on top and left a very good impression. Well done! Setlist: Sweet Little Mystery / Temptation / Somewhere Somehow / Angel Eyes / Sweet Surrender/ With a Little Help From My Friends (The Beatles cover) / Wishing I Was Lucky / Goodnight Girl / Don’t Want to Forgive Me Now / Lip Service / Love Is All Around (The Troggs cover).
A band I sadly missed lately at Amphi Festival was entering the Batcave now - NNHMN (speak non-human) from Berlin. There were some technical issues at the beginning but once they were solved, a very energetic show was up to start. NNHMN is a dark electronic music duo, creating moody and provocative music infected with rich and electrifying synth lines, throbbing rhythmic grooves, and ghostly seductive vocals. Lee Margot and Michal Laudarg have embarked on a sonic journey onto the thresholds of New Brutalist Theatre and experimental electronic music with a foundation in Techno culture. The beats were pushing and you simply could not hold back and you had to move. Singer Lee has a special aura infecting the crowd immediately. One of my highlights in the Batcave tent today!
NENA on the Main Stage following now was eagerly awaited by many fans. There was i.e. one guy in the front row who has seen nearly 200 NENA concerts so far. Incredible! With her band, the German singer already rocked the W-Fest two years ago. By now, NENA’s ‘99 Luftballons’ has been flying around the world for 40 years. And since its release in 1983, the song has not lost a moment of its truthfulness and topicality. The current “Wir Gehören Zusammen Open Air Tour” leads the artist through Germany, Austria, Denmark, Belgium, the Czech Republic, England and the Netherlands. With 25 million records sold worldwide, NENA is one of the most successful German artists of all time. And: You must see NENA live! Her energetic stage presence is just as unmistakable and captivating as her voice. Right from the start, she had the whole tent in her hands. With her music, NENA shaped several generations of music fans, and to this day she stands for an attitude to life that is somehow and somewhere at home in everyone. NENA remains one of the most authentic singers of our time and a great piece of pop culture made in Germany. People sang along every song, of course especially the big hits like ‘Nur geträumt’.
You might have heard that she is difficult, but her show at W-Fest was phenomenal and she was very likeable. She even made some pics with some of my press colleagues after the show. Setlist: Genau jetzt / Nur geträumt / Kreis / Lied Nummer Eins / Willst du mit mir gehen / Karawane / Noch einmal / Zaubertrick / Leuchtturm / Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones cover) / 99 Luftballons (with outro ‘Hey Jude’ - The Beatles snippet) / Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann.
American Band COLD CAVE followed an the Batcave. The solo project of musician Wesley Eisold is described as a “collage of Darkwave, Noise, and Synth Pop”. I’ve seen them a few times by now as support of DEPECHE MODE and at the WGT, but now it was time for some smaller surrounding finally experiencing the real charm of the band. There is a certain affinity with early 1980s Post Punk and early Synth Pop, in particular JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER. Cold Cave was founded in 2007 representing Eisold's first venture into instrumentation. He was born with only one hand which led him to electronic music. The band’s biggest success so far was surely the support at DEPECHE MODE’s “Memento Mori” Tour with several European Shows. The W-Fest show was quite thrilling, cool, cold, wavey… and fitted perfectly. I liked it much more than the shows on the big stages.
Not finally THE HUMAN LEAGUE, not only headliner but also highlight of the day for many attendees. The British New Wave / Synth band dominated the charts and radio waves in the 1980s. Their dark, punk electronic music of the time still sounds as fresh and contemporary today. The album ‘Dare’ has lost none of its influence since its release on 16 October 1981. ‘Dare’ featured no less than four hit singles, including ‘Don’t You Want Me’ which of course belonged to tonight’s setlist. A song the band simply cannot skip. THE HUMAN LEAGUE helped define the sound and look of the 80s, it was the beginning of electronic music and club culture as we know it today. To this day, the band is still one of the most influential on a new generation of artists. Founder Philip Oakey took the band to great commercial success after first taking on two female singers: Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley. The sound of these three voices together is distinctive and unique to THE HUMAN LEAGUE; they also still sing together in the band. And all three together still harmonize perfectly on stage, supported by three more musicians and an overall “white” setting on stage and of the instruments. During the course of the show, the three main artists changed clothes several times. Their concert was supported by exciting animations on a big LED screen in the back.
Singing and dancing, that was the task of the audience now and anyone in the packed tend did. THE HUMAN LEAGUE surely deserved the headliner position. My highlight once again was ‘Being Boiled’ played as one of the encores. Great end of the day! Setlist: The Sound of the Crowd / Mirror Man / Heart Like a Wheel / The Things That Dreams Are Made Of / Open Your Heart / Seconds / The Lebanon / One Man in My Heart / Human / Behind the Mask (Yellow Magic Orchestra cover) / Love Action (I Believe in Love) / Tell Me When / (Keep Feeling) Fascination / Don’t You Want Me / Encore: Being Boiled / Together in Electric Dreams (Philip Oakey & Giorgio Moroder cover).
After the concert, there were two after-show parties tonight. The Main Stage presented the “Living on Video” after party where the best music videos of the 80s mixed together on the big screen! A feast for the eyes and ears! In the Batcave tent, it was once again time for the best of New Wave and Goth.
All pictures by Dani Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)