“Music will shine again in Madrid” – this has been the promise and mantra of Mad Cool Festival 2022, returning to the Spanish capital after two years sorely missed due to * you know what *.
Day one of the sold-out extravaganza fulfilled that promise, with upstarts and legends welcoming us back with sets to remember. Here’s what we enjoyed the most on our first day back
Words by: Hannah Mylrea, Andrew Trendell, Kyann-Sian Williams, Sophie Williams
OVERDOING IT WITH YUNGBLUD
As well as that sweltering Spanish summer early evening heat, the air is thick with the fizzy intensity reserved for a superstar. As Yungblud works Mad Cool’s Main Stage, prowling, writhing, and delivering cartoonishly high kicks as he moves down the catwalk, his performance begins to vibrate on an obsessive, euphoric plane – with a pogoing sea of fans already at fever pitch as lunging opener ‘ Strawberry Lipstick ‘bursts into life.
“Are you all ready for a fucking rock’n’roll show?”, Screams the artist born Dominic Harrison. He receives a crowd-wide roar in return, as hungry metalheads – many waiting for Metallica’s headline performance – lap up this pyro pantomime. ‘The Funeral’ swells with bombast, and Harrison adds a gritty distortion to his vocals by growling during ‘superdeadfriends’. Sometimes it feels excessive, but whether it’s the brilliant musicianship or audience participation, Harrison’s sensory assault never lets up. He might overdo it, but he does it so well. SW
RUNNING UP THAT HILL WITH PLACEBO
“What’s the difference anyway, when all the people do all day is stare into a phone?”Sings Placebo’s Brian Molko on their 2013 single‘ Too Many Friends ’, seeming prescient of both the technosocial decade that would follow and the scene before them at Mad Cool tonight as hundreds show their enjoyment by filming the show. That same modern-sceptic spirit is what drives much of their effervescent and experimental 2022 comeback record ‘Never Let Me Go’, with the album’s chrome goth aesthetic shaping the rest of tonight’s setlist.
There’s no ‘Nancy Boy’, but love is reserved for fan favorite bangers’ Bionic ‘,’ Slave To The Wage ‘,’ The Bitter End ‘and’ Infra-Red ‘and their simmering electro-rock noir closing cover of Kate Bush’s’ Running Up That Hill ‘. It’s a tribute they’ve been playing for over 15 years but of course lands with all the more weight after Stranger Things recently got all the kids into it. Once again, Placebo did it first. AT
SPORTS TEAM CAPTURE THE SUMMER
The fired-up indie Cambridge University alum continue their assault on summer 2022. In a secluded tent tucked away from the big crowds at the main stages, the Vista Mahou stage plays host to Sports Team’s cocksure recklessness. Frontman Alex Rice twirls his mic stand and jumps into the crowd, with adoring festival-goers draped around him, soaking up the love.
One such fan is Yungblud, who watches from the crowd before Alex thanks him for coming and congratulates the Donny punk for his “great set”. A timely political nod arises just before ‘Here’s The Thing’ when Rice delivers a quick quip about BoJo’s ongoing mess back home: “I don’t know about politics here in Madrid, but in the UK—” before being cut off by thunderous drums and wailing guitars. No one says it like Sports Team. KSW
FAMILY MATTERS WITH METALLICA
“Metallica is very grateful to be here,” humbly beams frontman James Hetfield in his trademark gruff tones. “Is the Metallica family here tonight?” The response suggests that this one helluva reunion. From the dyed-in-the-wool old guard to the ‘Tallica virgins, the band offers up a very warm “welcome to the Metallica family”.
Sweet, ain’t it? While you might think of metal as a cold and aggressive space, a Metallica show can only be described as a love-in and a celebration. From the outings of early favorites ‘Whiplash’ and ‘Seek And Destroy’ to the utterly iconic ‘Enter Sandman’, ‘Wherever I May Roam’ and ‘Nothing Else Matters’, the band exudes an energy and familiarity that’s overwhelmingly inclusive. These are the songs that shaped the genre, and they are The Beatles of hard rock.
The final of many fireworks erupt as the band stand on stage taking bows well into the rumbling of Twenty One Pilots’ nearby set. “Metallica loves you,” Hetfield tells the hollering masses of Madrid, all one big, happy family now. AT
RUNNING AWAY WITH CARLY RAE JEPSEN
“Do you want to run away with me?” Carly Rae Jepsen asks the crowd at the Region Of Madrid stage. The answer is unequivocally yes. For just under an hour the cult pop hero whisks Mad Cool away to the slickest synth-pop club in town, her outfit glittering like a disco ball as she plays a stacked set of earworms from her extensive back catalog. The warming dancefloor vibes of recent records ‘Dedicated’ and ‘Emotion’ make up much of the set, while the lilting and folky new single ‘Western Wind’ is a welcome addition to her show. Yet it’s the memory of thousands of summered-up revellers losing their shit to ‘Call Me Maybe’ that will endure. This truly is the sweetest of escapes. HM
FEVER 333 TURNING UP THE FIRE
Turning up 15 minutes late to your set isn’t always well-received but, at Mad Cool, the crowd whistle and wail for in-demand hardcore pioneers Fever 333 to make their appearance on The Loop’s stage. Their political stance of “We’re here to remind the people of their power; the people’s power ”is plastered all over the screens with montages of protests and riots from recent scenes in the US. The fire and destruction in the background work perfectly with the volatile headbanger soundtrack they provide. If you’re not feeling it and losing your mind, you’re not doing it right. KSW
GETTING ALL HORRORSHOW WITH CHVRCHES
“I planned this amazing spectacle, but now I can’t see,” laughs Lauren Mayberry, as a gentle wind causes layers of fake blood to spread across the face and arms of the CHVRCHES singer. Still, it’s quite a spectacle: as the band launches into ‘Final Girl’ – with Mayberry’s SFX make-up a nod to the song’s horror movie trope-referencing title – deep red lights flood the stage, amplifying intricate ripples of synth with a touch of menace.
Whether it’s the spiky pop stylings of the Scottish trio’s earlier hits – 2015’s ‘Bury It’ is studded with outstanding percussive moments – or the goth-rock belters that defined their latest album, last year’s ‘Screen Violence’, CHVRCHES have the kind of back catalog that could inject any festival audience with a shot of euphoria. ‘Violent Delights’ and ‘Recover’ are polished, but it’s closer to ‘Clearest Blue’ that reduces the crowd to a giddy mess of hugs; still mesmerized by the song’s triumphant final chorus after all these years. SW
A LESSON IN HEADLINING FROM TWENTY ONE PILOTS
Closing the show are alt-rock giants Twenty One Pilots. Last week the band spoke to NME At Open’er Festival, discussing the responsibility of putting on a killer closing show when topping festival bills and their Mad Cool performance demonstrates this attitude. It’s full of theatrics and acrobatics, in a set that is peppered with pyro and blasts of steam, with both vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun spending quite a bit of time jumping into the crowd and Dun’s signature move of playing a drumkit held aloft by fans.
The vibrant visuals and the bells and whistles are just window-dressing for the band themselves, who play like it’s their last show. From the bombastic pomp of ‘Saturday’ to an impassioned rendition of ‘Car Radio’ – and even a well-chosen Elton John cover – it’s a ferocious exhibition of a band at the top of their game. HM
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