The 42 edition of one of the most well-known music festivals of Europe started with a political statement of organiser Jan Smeets as he said: “Fuck off with this government”. (the government is planning to raise the VAT on tickets from 6% to 19%...).

The Manic Street Preachers played very early (16:00 hours) on the first festival day and they put on an excellent show as they kicked off with the marvellous “Motorcycle Emptiness” The rest of the set list was an hour of Britpophits featuring a.o. “A Design For Life” and “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next”. James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire (the brain of the band) put on a show as if it was their first one although they already have existed for 25 years, so.. Next up was Lifehouse and their gig was rather colourless, tiresome and predictable and only their two “hits” Hanging By A Moment” and “Halfway Gone” resulted in some reaction from the rather sceptical crowd.

Guy Garvey of Elbow came on to the stage with a pink flamingo and the Manchester band played a rather daring set as most of the songs were rather calm, quiet and relaxed. “Lippy Kids” only features piano but still the 60,000 people were actually quiet and listened. For me this was all a bit too mellow and too tranquil, but some of my press colleagues said that Elbow was the best band of this first day… However my personal favourite of the day was Alter Bridge. Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy created an excellent combination of great guitar riffs, hooks, melodies and superb vocal lines. Alter Bridge treated the crowd to some old stuff too, like “Come To Life” and the best song of the set “Ties That Bind’. This was AB’s third performance at Pinkpop and it certainly was their best so far.

Day one ended with the head liner Coldplay; the most expensive band ever to perform on Pinkpop. Chris Martin and Co. entered the stage half an hour too late and their whole performance was really one big disappointment. It seemed as if the band was doing a routine day to day job without trying to make contact with the audience. The set mainly consisted of old stuff from the album “Parachutes” and the show abruptly ended with their latest single “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”. If I was Jan Smeets I would only pay them for the actual hour that they played instead of the 1,5 hour they would supposed to have played…

Sunday 12 June kicked off with Hurts, very stylish, almost original kitsch, followed by the return of the Hanson brothers which could best be described as Christian religious feelgood pop; but the audience in the tent, the converse stage, loved it!

Versaemerge was a surprise to me as their post hard core music hit the 3FM Stage with a blast and front woman Sierra Kusterbeck mocked the security. However after a while the music repeated itself and the people move on to the next band leaving Versaemerge in confusion…

Wolfmother is the absolute highlight of day 2 as these guys from down under play an amazing monster set which sets the crowd on fire right from the beginning. Andrew Stockdale really gets the people moving, clapping, jumping and singing along to his retro hard rock/metal as WM shows obvious characteristics of Led Zeppelin, Rush and even Jethro Tull.

“Woman” really kicks ass and “Joker And The Thief” is another crowd pleaser. We are even treated to a couple of passages of “Dear Prudence”(The Beatles) and “Riders On The Storm”(The Doors). Wolfmother has a great future ahead of them and I think they deserved a “higher”(read later) place on the main stage as they did a much better job as follow-up White Lies. Their music is rather dark and moody and brings back memories of Joy Division. Singer Harry McVeigh smiled throughout the entire set which ended with “Bigger Than Us”; not my favourite cup of musical tea, but the audience loved it.

Avenged Sevenfold from California however is my cup of tea; cool straightforward ‘heavy” rock with almost no compromises. The set is very convincing and the stage setting reminds me of good old Iron Maiden. The crazy wild mosh pit during “God Hates Us” was an indication of how well the band was seen and heard by the crowd.

Headliner of day 2 was Kings Of Leon and it was really bizarre to see the band members arrive separately in four black Mercedes S limos….But in contradiction to Coldplay, Kings of Leon got the crowd moving as their set list was filled with hits, although the songs hardly sounded differently from the album versions. “Use Somebody” ended the set list and it was shouted along from the beginning till the very end. As encore The Kings played “Sex On Fire” and this also was an excellent crowd pleaser. The Kings Of Leon did what they had to do, musically, but they should work on their attitude and interaction with the audience the next time.

The final day, which is the only and original Pinkpopday in fact, had its first good band in Two Door Cinema Club. The Northern-Irish trio did everything right as their songs are catchy, sincere and rather cheerful. Especially front man Alex Trimble is a true performer, musician and entertainer and I really enjoyed this band although it was still very early (14:00) in the afternoon. Another musical surprise is The Gaslight Anthem as these New Jersey punk rockers set the stage on fire with their all-American rock sound with obvious influences from Bruce Springsteen. The audience is “astonished” by the speech of front man Brian Fallon stating that the band loves muscle cars, ladies and Coca-Cola! In other words rock and roll at its best!

Volbeat plays the Pinkpop stage for the second time and after a Richard Wagner intro they rock like no band before. “Are you ready to get fucked up with Volbeat the next hour”, shouts Michael Poulsen and the crowd goes crazy with a mix of metal, rock and roll and rock and the best track of the set Sad Man’s Tongue (dedicated to Johnny Cash). Kaiserchiefs is next and this British party band seems already over their musical top as their music is the same old same old and we already heard it before far too many times.

Headliner of day three are the amazing Foo Fighters and they are the REAL head liner of this edition of Pinkpop 2011 as their set is loaded with energy from the first till the last song. Dave Grohl’s charisma and energy are endless and the 70,000 stare, listen, wonder and admire. The entire set list is loud, fast, rocky, energetic and even contains some hits. Material from their latest album “Wasting Light” can also be heard but the band leaves out songs from their amazing debut completely. This was without any doubt the best band of Pinkpop 2011 as The Foo Fighters proved that they belong to the top five live bands on this planet.

See you all next year?

Review by Martien Koolen
Photos by Joss Voncken

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