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Big Day Out, Gold Coast Review

Jan 22, 2014  ·  5 min read

Happy to bring together the excitable Hives, spellbinding Arcade Fire and relaxed Pearl Jam veterans, BDO has come of age


Big Day Out has aged. But whether it was going stale or ageing gracefully has been unclear to fans. The festival has battled within an increasingly dense market of festivals around Australia that jostle and nip at each others heels as they compete for headline acts. And following the plan in 2007 to ban Australian flags at the festival it was clear there was an identity crisis – would shirtless men with Southern Cross tattoos own the festival?

Thankfully, the festival opening this year at the Gold Coast is a clear indication it has refined with age and is on track. A great line-up of international acts and a more mellow crowd than in previous years seems to have brought the festival back closer to its point of origin. The move to the new venue, Metricon stadium, created some much needed space for fans and gave plenty of room to relax and sit in the shade. Flag-toting hulks were few and far between, but there was still plenty of fun to be had. Possibly one of the most committed ever games of imaginary cricket (where there is no real ball) went on for close to an hour with dozens of people joining in.

The Hives battled the scorching heat in their mid-afternoon performance. Playing the afternoon slots at Big Day Out, when the sun is still beating down and the crowds are thin, is not an easy sell. But front man Pelle Alqvist quickly whipped up the crowd from their afternoon malaise.

The energy of the set was unmatched during the night, and Alqvist seemed more like an excitable teenager than a 35-year-old Swedish rocker. He moves around so much on the stage that a man dressed like a ninja needs to follow him around to make sure he has enough cord. By the end of the performance he had the crowd totally focused – a fact which he makes known in a bizarre call and response game that ends with him asking everyone to sit down during the finale of Tick Tick Boom.


Beady Eye played a nostalgic set, with covers of Oasis classics like Morning Glory pleasing the crowd. A cover of the Rolling Stones’s Gimme Shelter was a nice finish but front man Liam Gallagher was unengaging. Standing with his hands behind his back, in a muscle shirt and sunglasses, he looked more like a slightly surly bouncer on door duty.

As the sun began to set, Arcade Fire took the stage for only their second Big Day Out, having played once before in 2008. That gig left a lot to be desired, and showed the group still had some kinks to iron out for playing big festival events. Not so this year. The performance was one to remember, and featured a great assortment of hits ranging from Neighbourhood 1 to Reflektor. One of their particular gifts is quick changes in emotional tempo – songs from Funeral, written after the death of some of the bands’ family members, were followed up by more upbeat hits from Neon Bible and Reflektor. It was a spellbinding set and showed just how far the band’s live performances have come.

Blur was the elephant in the room. Or not in the room as it was, following their unexpected cancellation in November. The Hives’ Alqvist shouted out midway through their set “We are Blur and we will now play one of our biggest hits, Song 2.” Arcade Fire actually walked out on stage with Song 2 playing, to the momentary confusion of many fans. But while they may have been missed there were very few rumbles. Fans were content with the replacement acts and the wide range of alternative shows available to them.

Towards the end of the night, festival goers were presented with very different choices between Snoop Dogg and Pearl Jam. The artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg (now Snoop Lion) was touted to play a reggae set but it was more of a nod to Snoop’s earlier rap career. The set started with a teaser from California Love, which set the show up for a series of older back catalogue hits like Drop it Like it’s Hot.

Pearl Jam’s epic two hour closing was a very personal performance. Eddie Vedder took the time to get to know the crowd, and while the show was strong it also felt extremely relaxed. The stadium packed out to see the veteran rockers, who played a set spanning most albums from their career. Champion surfers Mick Fanning and Mark Occhilupo were even in attendance and were invited on stage to join Vedder for a swig of red. While Big Day Outs in past years have ended with tense or even broody shows, the camaraderie of Pearl Jam’s set rounded off the night in a way that nicely hit home the point that Big Day out is back on track.


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