All Photographs by Ruben Viegas
Sunday at Optimus Alive brought the promise of Radiohead and a line up that felt curated rather than thrown together for the first time this weekend. Both the main stage and the second area were mostly filled by British acts although California’s Warpaint were my first stop. Their short set was full of fan favourites with ‘Undertow’ and ‘Shadows’ drawing particularly jubilant reactions from the large crowd. Their skills as musicians, the joy they get in playing live and their closeness as a group translates into a wonderful energy on stage. They are at their very best when extending their songs into tribal-tinged progressive jams so it was a shame they were only able to do this once on their closing track.
The Maccabees were next up and the crowd was now packed tight even several metres outside the stage’s space. The band have grown hugely in presence and skill over the years and are a rousing and assured force on stage. The set was peppered with songs from all three releases with ‘No Kind Words’ and ‘Can You Give It’ sounding truly anthemic. There was a sweet festival moment midway as the mostly Portugese crowd sang Happy Birthday to bassist Rupert Jarvis.
Walking back towards the main stage area a palpable tension was rising as the main musical event of the weekend, and for many the main one of their musical lives approached. Caribou were the perfect act to gently build suspense. The delicate, funky tracks from Swim were particularly delicious in the dying sunshine.
Very soon the entire festival crowd was assembled and the atmosphere electric. What was to follow did not at all disappoint. Radiohead’s set began with ‘Bloom’ and already it felt sublime. The blistering ’15 Step’ followed before the rest of the set which was comprised of almost all tracks from King Of Limbs with a couple of additions from In Rainbows. It was the most magnificent show I have experienced and the end came all too soon even with an epic encore that included ‘Paranoid Android’. The band sounded faultless throughout.
Even though I was briefly tempted to leave straight afterwards and stay in the Radiohead bubble, the rest of the night’s line up was more than appealing enough to keep me on site. Sadly SBTRKT who had been denied a soundcheck to not encroach on the headliner’s show, weren’t on stage for long and all I caught was the end of ‘Red Light’ before they were forced to halt as their drum kit was falling apart.
The Kills who have bloomed to be able to comfortably entertain an arena size audience were on next. Older hits such as ‘Last Day of Magic’ went over brilliantly. Alison Mosshart was as captivating as ever prowling over the entire stage space as Thom Yorke watched from the side of the stage.
The last band of the night, Metronomy, were slightly daunted by the size of the crowd prior to playing but this wasn’t at all apparent in their set and the roaring applause after each number showed that they had won thousands of new fans as well as delighting previous converts. The inclusion of older material brought a clubbier feel which was perfect for a set that ended after 4am. All too soon the site was flooded with light as Optimus Alive shut down abruptly.
Looking back over the entire weekend, Optimus Alive was a huge, basic and rather corporate affair with little additional soul to be drawn from the event itself however slickly produced, but it was filled with a music hungry home crowd who got really involved in most performances and therefore created a festival feel within the stage areas themselves.
Optimus Alive also clearly has the cash to bring in major headliners and a very decent line up of smaller acts, even if they are programmed a little bizarrely at times. The festival was wholly coloured by Radiohead’s magnificent show for me, but that would have been enough reason for me to go in the first place. If you’re looking for a festival to chill out at and find non-musical entertainment at times this might not be the one for you, but it is also very important to note that it’s held in the very vibrant city of Lisbon with the music beginning late enough to take advantage of the welcome sunshine during the day.