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The Ten Best Concerts At San Miguel Primavera Sound

As the festival comes to the moment of reckoning, we select the most outstanding musical moments of the 2012 edition.

The time has come to take stock of San Miguel Primavera Sound and review this year’s best concerts, the ones that we will remember years from now with a mixture of excitement and nostalgia. It was hard to shorten the list, but here are ten of them.

The time has come to take stock of San Miguel Primavera Sound and put things in order. We’ll start by running through the best concerts at this year’s festival, the ones that we’ll remember in years to come with a mixture of excitement and nostalgia, as important moments in our lives –and in your lives too, we hope. It’s hard to shorten the list, but here are ten, arranged strictly in alphabetical order.

Atlas Sound

Atlas Sound didn’t perform at Primavera Sound in the same way as in Minneapolis, but the live show was full of surprises. The first came at the beginning. Simply dressed in a jacket and jeans, armed with a guitar and a harmonica, he delighted the audience with a classic of American music, “Your Cheating Heart”, originally by Hank Williams and covered by artists like Ray Charles and Elvis Presley. He then offered a long, captivating introduction that took the audience closer to the usual sound of his solo project. After awhile, he came out with “Te Amo”, which gave the audience goose bumps. He had everyone so involved in the experience that when he sang “I’ll pretend you are the only one” and pointed at the crowd with his finger, you thought he was singing just for you. His songs mutated on the stage. “Shelia” sounded less melodic and sweet - offering a rougher side - whilst the Atlanta musician worked “Modern Aquatic Nightsongs”, adding rises, drops, and stops and proffering desperate shouts. He kept up his prodigious use of guitar effects and ended several songs with loops hurled out at the audience with thundering power. As always, he was very friendly, with a few brilliant phrases (he interrupted “Walkabout” to call out like a little boy: “Look, a ship!” and he warned: “Guys, don’t take MDMA, you won’t be able to have kids”). Some things never change. Álvaro García Montoliu

Beach House

It was one of the most anxiously-awaited moments of the festival and it lived up to the predictions. Not even the desertion of the behemoth Mini stage (it obviously wasn’t the most ideal setting, but it was also evident that any other stage, apart from the San Miguel, would have been too small for them) could hinder what was one of the undeniable emotional peaks of this year’s festival. As usual, Beach House’s staging was truly austere: Alex Scally seated with a guitar, a drum, and Victoria Legrand and her wild hair in the centre. Surrounding them, a minimalist but effective light show worked to help create the bewitching atmosphere that they use so well. “Wild” was the start of a set-list that mainly revolved around the recent “Bloom” and “Teen Dream”. The second was “Norway”; by which point they already had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands. There were plenty of partly-closed eyes and circular dances showing delight. Throughout the concert, they sounded crystal-clear, with a bigger sound than ever, and a stellar Legrand once again showed that she has one of the most evocative voices of contemporary pop. They performed “The Hours”, “New Year”, “10 Mile Stereo”, “Myth”... and the dream held all the way through. And so on, until they finished with an incomparable “ Irene”. It proved, in case there was any doubt, that the throne of contemporary dream-pop will be occupied for some time to come. Franc Sayol

Big Star’s Third

It promised to be historic, and was it ever. Not only was it a unique occasion to be able to enjoy Big Star’s iconic and ever-pertinent “Third/Sister Lovers”, but also to be able to see such fantastic performers all on the same stage. They included the spiritual leader of Wilco, Jeff Tweedy (the first ovation of the evening, when he opened fire with “Kizza Me”), Mike Mills from R.E.M.(who didn’t let go of his guitar even while singing the great “Jesus Christ”), Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan (on “O Dana”) and the exemplary nerd, Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip (who, in addition to playing the tambourine during the first songs of this heartfelt homage, also took us to heaven singing “Nightime”). If we were going to choose two moments for posterity, I would keep the richly-deserved ovation given to Django Haskins after nailing “Holocaust” and the “Thank You Friends” that they all sang together as if it were “We Are The World”, while we ran down the flash batteries on our cameras. The smiles on all of our faces as we left the Auditori spoke louder than words. Better than historic. Sergio del Amo

Chromatics

Walking around the public area of the Pitchfork stage, I ran smack into a bloke wearing the jacket that Ryan Gosling wears in “Drive”. It made you want to kill him. But that image perfectly defined the tremendous expectation created by the Chromatics performance, a direct reflection of the still unstoppable “Drive” effect: filled to the brim and the audience absolutely enthralled by the sound of their new songs. Three things about the gig: first, it’s hard to sound better on this stage; second, their music is more effusive and packs more of a punch live, as if their songs had taken clenbuterol and EPO to make them more dynamic and lively; and lastly, what an overflow of personality! They made Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”, and Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My”, more their own than ever, defending their night-walking disco-pop with the conviction of a big group. What a triumph! David Broc

Hype Williams

Those who had already seen them last year at Sónar knew that Hype Williams’ live shows are closer to rituals that put one into a trance, than to a typical musical performance. In comparison with that performance, however, they sounded much more consistent this time (within their implicit dispersion, of course). Hidden behind an intense light show dominated by a flood of epileptic flashes, Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland starred in one of the most strangely disturbing moments of the festival. They started out with Rastafarian proclamations, and what followed was a trippy bacchanalia that defies any attempt to categorise them. They went from uncontrolled noise to lullabies, and from crepuscular ambient to opiate pop, by way of sick dub. All of it was woven together with resounding bass, disjointed rhythms and deformed vocal digressions. The result was that without knowing very well what was going on, the audience wound up entranced and completely spellbound. Franc Sayol

John Talabot

Giving your first live performance at Primavera Sound at three o’clock in the morning, on the Ray Ban stage, to a full house can’t be easy. But that’s exactly what John Talabot did yesterday. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, the Barcelona performer gave a live show that was very “live”. That is to say, not much laptop, but plenty of analogue machinery and a strong organic element; most of the percussion was live, melodies were played straight, and the vocal section played a surprisingly central role. The result was a performance that came closer to the pop format than expected (stops between songs included) and which, precisely because of this, seduced an audience as varied as that reached by the magnificent fIN. Various highlights of the album were played, such as “Depak Ine”, “Oro Y Sangre”, “When The Past Was Present” and “So Will Be Now”. Furthermore, “Lover's Tradition” was reclaimed for the dancing pleasure of those present, and there were even two previously-unreleased compositions. All of this before ending with a “Destiny” that sounded even more colossal than it does on the album. We needn’t say that the test was passed with flying colours. Jordi Berrocal

Refused

After the good taste left in one’s mouth by Mudhoney, an immense human tongue with the sweat still fresh on it was unfurled in the amphitheatre of the Ray Ban stage. Now it was time for Refused and their reunion after 15 years out of business. Although we don’t know the real reasons behind this reunion of the Swedish hardcore legends, it was enough to see Dennis Lyxzén’s face onstage to know that it was a great idea. Excited by - and grateful for - the congregation of people who were paying attention to them, Refused showed that Barcelona has been (and continues to be) one of the European cradles of hardcore, in terms of both fans and bands. It also demonstrated two things: the first is that in spite of not having stepped onstage in the last fifteen years, there isn’t a single member of the band who is rusty - with the drummer being especially worthy of mention. And secondly, the incendiary discourse and choleric mannerisms of their albums are even more valid these days than they were then. Mónica Franco

The Cure

The last (and also first) time that I saw The Cure (at the FIB in 2005), I was surprised by the solidity of a band that has been onstage for more than 30 years. Seven more years have gone by, and they have shown that they are still on top form. But what few could expect was a concert lasting three hours without a single moment of weakness – yet that’s just what they gave yesterday. The reincorporation of Roger O'Donell (and therefore, the return of keyboards to their live show) is great news any way that you look at it. With him, the songs gain depth and they can allow themselves those extended sets like last night’s, in which practically none of the hits were missing, from “Pictures Of You” to “In Between Days” and “Just Like Heaven” to “Friday I'm In Love” (which, as Robert Smith said, “always sounds better on Fridays”), culminating in “Boys Don't Cry”. There was also space to reclaim less well-known cuts, to the delight of the fans. Everything sounded impeccable, with the rhythmic bass woven by Jason Cooper and an incomparable Simon Gallup standing out. Over this, a Robert Smith in top form demonstrated that at the age of 53, he still has all of the charisma of an odd kid with a romantic heart and a privileged vocal ability. It was one of the most crowded concerts at Primavera Sound, and one of the few where the description “historic” isn’t an overstatement. In summary: priceless. Franc Sayol

The Rapture

LCD Soundsystem having disbanded, The Rapture is now the big band at DFA Records. For this reason - and because their last album, In The Grace Of Your Love, shows them to be in a condition comparable to when they began a decade ago - the show at San Miguel was essential for those souls who wanted to listen to one of the most elegant crossovers existing right now between electronic and rock. There was something for everyone: numbers with a funk genome like “In The Grace Of Your Love” (led by a splendid bass); rowdy dance-punk hits like that generational anthem that is “House Of Jealous Lovers” and “Echoes”, rejuvenated thanks to “Misfits”. There were well-controlled epic moments ( “Sail Away”); and a double ration of synthesizers in “Miss You” to create an electronic framework that ended up unleashing the piano-house frenzy, sax included (yesterday was its night), of “How Deep Is Your Love?”. It had everyone jumping around as if there were no tomorrow. Álvaro García Montoliu

The xx

Although their idiosyncrasy as a band will always get opposing responses, no one can deny that The xx are very brave. And, let’s come out and say it, they are terribly good. Unlike their performance in 2010, this time they had to face an “open” stage like the Mini. This is something that, on paper, should work against music as contained as theirs. But it still worked. They opened the concert with an overwhelming new composition (which bigger fans had already heard on YouTube) and from the first few notes, you could see the fruits of the last two years onstage. Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft’s voices have gained confidence and depth (especially his, hers has always been amazing), their duets together sound more solid, and Jamie xx has played a bigger role as the level of equipment has increased. Their early songs (from “Islands” to “Shelter”, from “Basic Space” to “Heart Skipped A Beat”) sounded like the modern classics that they are, while the new songs seemed to embrace a more expansive sound that draws on danceable rhythms. They even dared to do an instrumental version of “I'll Take Care Of You”. This is the confidence of knowing that they are a point of reference for contemporary pop. Franc Sayol

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