Line-up craft here has been perfectly thought-out and Perry Farrell's Kind Heaven Orchestra are on another level
Cai Trefor
15:15 12th July 2019

Thursday (11 July) at Mad Cool Festival 2019 sees sublime performances from Iggy Pop, Perry Farrell’s Kind Heaven Orchestra, and The Hives.

Arriving for the sunset slot on tonight’s most rock n’ roll stage – or Comunidad de Madrid Stage, more specifically – Iggy Pop leads a set packed with early Stooges as well as some of his most acclaimed solo songs. ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ opens the set with a bang. Slipping into his stage character, a typically topless Iggy has a maniacal look in his eye as if he’s truly intent on rocking the house and uses the breadth of the stage, the steps and the cluttered photo pit to stir the pot. 

The more energy he puts, the more worship is bestowed upon him and the band. Yet the sea of phones facing him is overwhelming and it inhibits people’s ability to dance.

Raw Power cut ‘Gimme Danger’, ‘The Passenger’, and ‘Lust For Life’ come then in quick succession and remind us that he’s one of the best back catalogues in rock n’ roll history and just being in the presence of the man, whose songs with the Stooges pre-empted garage punk, is a thrill. Plus, sooner or later the Instagram offensive calms down.

The middle of the set is used for a couple of languid, darkly psychedelic numbers, such as the new  ‘Repo Man’, and the horror imagery of 1977's ‘Mass Production’. Surging in tempo, the last three numbers include Bowie’s ‘Jean Genie’, ‘No Fun’ And ‘Sixteen’. Each as good as the last. And by this point Iggy is the king, and Madrid are his worshippers. Iggy Pop is chanted at him and he harnesses that energy and will take it and run with it for the next show.

The next set on the same stage is from Perry Farrell’s Kind Heaven Orchestra.

And, you know, rock n’ roll has been kind to Perry over the years. Instead of winding up on a nostalgia tour with Janes Addiction, he has acquired a beautiful band to craft an erotically charged, humanist, Trump-baiting (check ‘Pirate Punk Politician’) rollercoaster, Janes Addiction-covering thrill of a show. The massive sounding, tight band have indeed come from Los Angeles, California, and this is a band that harness that city’s history of extravagant and uncompromising level of stage craft and run with it.

Impressively, there’s a minimum of 10 performers on stage at any given time. There’s a string section, percussion, keys, backing dancers, flashy lead guitar, which pleases us Dave Navarro fans. There's the connection between a semi topless skinny Perry Farrell and his scantily-clad wife, dancer and co-vocalist Etty on stage, who kiss in the opening song and suggestively touch each other, and get a lot of attention. But they don’t milk any one element. Romance is interspersed with a show-stopping cross dressing male dancer, a track with visuals (all the visuals for every song are excellent) about praying to save the planet, and there’s a cover of Farrell’s other old band Porno For Pyros’ ‘Pets’ where the backing dancers start acting as cats – a playful touch to add to the zoophile animation on the screen.

With the majority of the crowd burly blokes, who remember Janes Addiction as teenagers in the late 80s, Farrell doesn’t ignore his audience and throws in some classic numbers, including ‘Jane Says’ (1987), and the cut to end - 'Mountain Song’ (1988) - sees Farrell take to the barrier for the last time (it's a set where he's come forward and interacted so well throughout) to raise the roof and it works as an ending to one of the most thrilling rock n' roll shows we've ever seen.

The last band to take to the Comunidad De Madrid stage are The Hives. Walking to the front of the stage we hear people talking about ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ and half expect it might fall flat when songs that aren’t massive singles are played. But 'Los Hives' don’t let the crowd fall silent. The frontman is out there intent to win Mad Cool. Helped by it being 1.30am, he manages to assume his famed role as spoof arrogant and is the puppeteer of us all as we are gripped by the raw garage rock sound. And legendary songs and new numbers alike garner a reaction.

Having seen them before three years ago in Kendal Calling, it wasn’t their best performance there but they give it everything tonight, and remind us why they’ve been referred to as the best live band in the world by some critics over the years. Though you might suspect they’d end on ‘…Told You So’, it’s ‘Tick Tick Boom' that’s the undeniable highlight of the set. Howlin Pelle, who's made excellent use of his bad Spanish all night, makes an extended version of it allowing time to make bizarre, superlative introductions to his white-clad band. This time in English, he's subverting the compere in showbiz and being better at it at the same time.

Pointing to his guitarist Vigilante, he gets his ‘are you ready to rumble'-esque voice on and says things like: “the best guitarist in the world and the guy who ended the First World War: Vigilante”. Or to his (new) bassist: “The best [only] addition to the band in 25 years…and he’s great in bed. Howlin Pelle doesn’t end with funny introductions but gets out in the the crowd and walks right back to the sound desk getting everyone to crouch down before running up over the fence and back on to the stage. This is immense confidence and bodes well for the Hives gigs to come.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Noel Gallagher, Bon Iver, and Vampire Weekend are among the big names.  And it's a festival site that has seen no congestion, rain, or big queues for the toilets making it an incredibly easy, enjoyable place to watch music. 

Mad Cool continues with Smashing Pumpkins on 12 June and The Cure headlining on Saturday 13 June. The Cure!

Photo: Press