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Splendour in the Grass Review - Sunday July 31st

By the start of Day 3, the overall festival exhaustion starts to set in – to the point where we take until early afternoon to recover from last night's shenanigans before trudging up the now-ubiquitous Amphi hill, cursing and coughing up dust on the way.


What did we expect from The Vaccines in a live setting? We expected dead-simple Brit-rock, and to be fair, that's precisely what the London four-piece specialise in – and what we ultimately got. All the singles from the band's wavemaking debut LP – Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra), Post Break Up Sex, If You Wanna, All In White – are churned out with bravado in front of a semi-engaged audience. Play a smaller stage next year, please!

Next, Sydney's Cloud Control play to a considerably larger gathering, raising cheers with Death Cloud and Gold Canary. An unexpected pleasant surprise arrives in the shape of a harmonious take on The La's There She Goes – infinitely better than Sixpence None The Richer's cloying cover.

Backed by a live band, Aussie hip hop royalty The Herd bring down the Mix Up tent in an assured fashion, Urthboy and Ozi Batla trading verses like expert wordsmiths they are. Predictably, the evergreen I Was Only 19 brings the house down.

The Vines have plenty of die-hards moshing up front like 2003 never went away, but today they sound... cohesive to the point of boredom. Old staples Highly Evolved, Get Free, Ride and a cover of OutKast's Ms Jackson are delivered without a hitch while we wonder what the normally-shambolic Craig Nicholls is on, so laidback and cheery he is.

As the evening chill sets in, Manchester's Elbow direct a gorgeous sonic spectacle at the rapidly-filling Amphitheatre. Burly, scruffy frontman Guy Garvey captivates with his dolorous tones and proves to be a capable singing teacher on the slide guitar-driven Grounds For Divorce – where he summons an eager crowd choir. From 2008's Seldom Seen Kid, The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver and set closer On A Day Like This ooze with distinct northern English drama, while Lippy Kids and Open Arms from this year's Build A Rocket Boys! are nothing but hymnal.

There's still enough time to catch the last half of dance-rockers Friendly Fires at the Mix Up – which we duly proceed to do. From the outset, it's impossible to stand still to the quintet's hectic, near-tribal percussion assaults and Talking Heads-recalling basslines. A slew of numbers from the new album Pala – particularly latest single Hawaiian Air (vocalist Ed Macfarlane's Hawaiian shirt making more sense now) – go down like bombs; the wildly-dancing crowd, however, appears to love older faves like the monumental boogaloo-fest Paris, Skeleton Boy and the exultant Kiss Of Life more.

Kaiser Chiefs's music may be more upbeat in nature than that of their cross-Pennine compatriots Elbow, yet the Leeds five-piece feel somewhat flat energy-wise – bar the stage-tracing Ricky Wilson, who is most likely trying to make up for the band's lack of spark. We return to the Amphi too late for fan-fave Ruby, but nod our heads to trademark stomper I Predict A Riot. Bafflingly, Wilson notches up a number of push-ups as Oh My God draws to a close – it's like he can't believe he's playing to a large gathering this far away from home.

The wait for 90s Britpop legends Pulp becomes nearly unbearable as laser-projected messages (including, lo and behold, a laser dolphin) start running across the stage-obscuring screen. When Do You Remember The First Time?'s synth intro gradually floats out of the speakers, the resultant crowd roar threatens to drown it out. Looking ever-stylish in a smart blazer, the perpetually-sardonic “thinking woman's sex symbol” Jarvis Cocker recites classic after classic – Mis-Shapes, Something Changed, Disco 2000, Sorted For E's & Wizz, I Spy, Babies, Underwear and the absolutely devastating This Is Hardcore – as we risk damaging our vocal chords by ecstatically shouting along. The set's only weak point, Sunrise from 2001's underwhelming We Love Life could have easily been replaced by anything else from Different Class or TIH. Nevertheless, the still-prescient anthem Common People – with special guest Daisy from Sydney's Bridezilla bowing the violin – is a fond, longing farewell from a much-loved collective.

Coldplay's first SITG appearance in eight years doesn't leave the fans – and indeed all of the near-capacity Amphitheatre – disappointed as Chris Martin and his cohorts come out in full force, lasers, smoke and fireworks all cranked up to 11. Opening with an uptempo Hurts Like Heaven, the modern-day U2 prompt the first of many huge singalongs with Yellow. Perhaps not willing to come off a “sensitive guy” anymore, the erstwhile Mr Gwyneth Paltrow annihilates his guitar during God Put A Smile On Your Face. The festival headliners' most grandiose moment, however, is the towering Clocks/Fix You (which includes a snippet of Rehab in tribute to Amy Winehouse)/Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall medley finale.

Biting on a delicious organic doughnut (how good are they?) and ow-ing at our thoroughly-punished backs, we cross the festival site one last time, get in the car and head back to Brisbane – back to the 'real world', our everyday lives, jobs and commitments. From the  music lover's point of view, our consensus is this year's freezing and dusty weekend  doesn't entirely match the grandeur of 2009 and 2010 events, but still delivers plenty of incredible performances and moments to savour. See you next year, Splendour!

Denis Semchenko - AAA Backstage

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