The awesome line-up and unique harbour setting in the beautiful city of Lisbon make NOS Alive one of the world's best inner city festivals
Cai Trefor
11:29 15th July 2017

Following an incredible festival celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2016, Nos Alive returned once again last week with a stunning array of brilliant acts. Together with sunshine, a unique harbour setting and the beautiful city of Lisbon a stones throw away - Nos Alive 2017 had all the makings of the perfect summer festival and holiday combined.

And that’s what made Phoenix’s mainstage show on Thursday evening that extra bit special. The jazzy shirt-donning saviours of synth might have given up on their elaborate mirrored wall and LED floor set-up (after technical hitches at Glastonbury two weeks ago), but instead had the elements of Nos Alive’s stunning beachside backdrop on their side. With the band’s desire to portray the simple pleasures and beauty of European culture on newest record Ti Amo - it was a match made in heaven.

“So don’t look at what you did, this melted Gelato” Thomas Mars sang on the album’s title track, which - like two crunchy ends of a multi-coloured ice-cream sandwich - opened and closed the dazzling, disco-fuelled set. True force of nature ‘Entertainment’ had the crowd chanting its frantic, stabbing synth hook, before the infectious indie bounce of ‘Listomania’ appeared.

As the sun began to set, Phoenix’s vivid and eye-popping visuals looked even more incredible - casting the band in kaleidoscopic silhouette, in front of screens of melting ice-cream drips and waterfalls.

It all seemed to get a bit much for Mars though, as he laid on the stage floor for a moment to recuperate during a heavier instrumental interlude. Disco nap completed, he was ready to go again. Set highlight ‘1901’ closed the set, before the reprise of ‘Ti Amo’ saw Mars do his thing and head deep into the huge crowd.

Appearing in their safe space under cover of darkness, The xx then took to the stage. Oliver Sim proclaimed his love for festivals - stating that they help you “leave anything that’s bothering you at home,” and that “you can be who the fuck you want to be, and be with whoever you want to be - just enjoy yourselves.”

It’s a sentiment that was reflected in Sim’s emotional performance of ‘A Violent Noise’, which saw him wrap his microphone around himself while he sang of going out to distract from his problems. “You’ve been staying out late, doing you’re best to escape - I hope you find what you’re looking for” Romy Madley Croft crooned back to Sim.

Transitioning into their newer dance-orientated sound, the band sampled Alice Deejay’s 90s euro-trance banger ‘Better Off Alone’, before a remixed version of ‘Shelter’, the celebratory ‘Loud Places’, and ‘On Hold’ brought the party to the main stage arena. It was this portion of the set that firmly banishes those misconceptions of The xx being an all-doom-and-gloom, fragile outfit.

“We love you Lisbon,” Madley Croft said, before telling the overjoyed audience to go out and “fall in love”. And it felt like everyone in the crowd had done just that. Quiet, romantic cut ’Angels’ closed the main set, which was dedicated to Madley Croft’s finance, who was celebrating her birthday in Portugal.

While The xx were spreading the love with the people of Lisbon, Ryan Adams took the opportunity to draw battle lines between himself and alt-J during his set over in the Heineken tent earlier that evening. The Leeds trio were performing at the same time as Adams across the site on the mainstage, when the singer-songwriter told the crowd: “If you ignore it, it will go away” - comparing the band to a mosquito bite. Ouch.

With the festival kicking-off around 5pm, sets ran late into the early hours. On the first night, Glass Animals took to the stage just before 3am - though with Lisbon a short distance away, punters had the option to head into town to explore city bars. Gigwise did exactly that, taking a cab from right outside and making the short journey to Park bar. The spot is hidden away at the top of a multi-story carpark, and boasts a rooftop garden drinking spot, which offers incredible views of the city and the enormous Salazar Bridge. Not a bad end to the day...

“Do you want more? Do you want it louder? Faster?” asked Jehnny Beth as Savages kicked-off our Friday night in style. Yeah, go on then. The intensity of Savages might not be for everyone on record, yet it was Beth’s bewitching stage presence that kept the whole tent engaged as she fired through the early evening set. After precariously walking barefoot along the stage barrier like a possessed gothic tightrope walker, Beth - in a kneeling position - was carried across the top of the crowd, before she joined her bandmates back on stage. ‘Don’t let the fuckers get you down,” Beth said firmly, before ending the set with a relentless version of ‘Fuckers’.

Later, we caught The Kills over on the mainstage. “What a wonderful sight!” axe man Jamie Hince said as he looked out towards the glistening ocean on his side of the stage.

The last time we caught the transatlantic duo was on a much smaller show at Liverpool Sound City, with an incredibly tiny crowd. At Nos Alive, they played one of their biggest ever festival shows - arriving on stage at 10pm as sub-headliners to the mighty Foo Fighters.

They’re a unique beast. A band that blurs the line between being cult heroes and rock ’n’ roll big dogs. They’re much more comfortable in those intimate sweat box shows, but can also - maybe thanks to Alison Mosshart’s association with the likes of Jack White and Hince’s former marriage to Kate Moss - be given these chances to shine on huge platforms and enter the mainstream. Now a four-piece on stage, they are more than capable at taking on those slots, given the opportunity.

With the stage screens turning black and white, VV and Hotel walked on stage to the filtered drum sample of electrifying set-opener ‘Heart Of A Dog’. The tense interplay of ‘URA Fever’ and ‘Kissy Kissy’ followed, before Mosshart’s stage-pacing was taken to the max during ‘Baby Says’ - making use of the huge space between herself and Hince. During ‘Monkey 23’ - with cigarette in hand - she marched out under the screens to wave at fans, before bowing down to her bandmate. The rumbling set closer ‘No Wow’ saw some vocal issues, leading Mosshart to stop singing and uncontrollably twist the mic around on its stand.

By the end of The Kills, the main stage area was filled to the brim with Foo Fighters fans - who awaited their mammoth two and a half hour hit-filled set, which ran until 2:30am.

On the final night, there was four bands on the mainstage (compared to Thursday and Friday’s five), and the main draw was of course the second Dave G of the weekend and his band Depeche Mode.

Once we had endured Imagine Dragons’ horrendous ‘Seven Nation Army’ cover and ridiculous drum solos, we were ready to see the weekend out with a wonderfully over the top, glam-synth Saturday night. It was exactly that. Dave Gahan’s hips don’t lie.

The singer constantly flounced across stage, arms outstretched miles from his sparkilng waistcoat, before he swapped it for a black and gold number half way through - because, Dave Gahan.

After The Beatles’ ‘Revolution’ played over the PA, the band aired ‘Going Backwards’; a sinister de-evolution track from their new record, which speaks of losing our souls to new technology. A cheery start, right?

Fan-favourites did come around though - with the likes of ‘Everything Counts’ and ‘Walking In My Shoes’ appearing at the tail end of the set. The epic ‘Enjoy The Silence’ saw Gahan strut with even more purpose, before the crowd chanted its majestic guitar line. The whole audience reached out and touched faith as ‘Personal Jesus’ was given an extra instrumental section - offering a powerful end to the set, and the weekend. Lisbon, you made us all believers.