12 Aug 2016

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Sziget Festival
Concert by UNKLE
LocationBudapest, Hungary


Review by Ana Yorke from Pop Matters[1]

If the Editors were brilliant and powerful, UNKLE's headlining performance reached a whole new plateau of melodic heaviness. James Lavelle has never been a man known for subtlety and the fact that his collaborative project hasn't had an album in six years does nothing to disturb the seismic power of the 11 tunes the live band performed. “Eye for an Eye” immediately sees to it that the crowd is mesmerized, while “Hold My Hand” provides the dry vocals over a tectonic backdrop of synths and guitars meshed with aplomb. While “Restless” remains one of Lavelle's most admired tunes, the impeccably funky and subversively pop tune is somewhat marred by a delicate live soprano – with all due respect, it is next to impossible to replace Josh Homme on a song greatly dependent upon Josh Homme's flippant, unhinged vocals.

The catharsis is reached early on with “Burn My Shadow”, an orogenic compression of a million sounds into a single, thunderous eruption of controlled noise. The already cataclysmic visuals give way to intense red light, which briefly obscures everyone on the stage. In that moment, it appeared as though the audience was burning, too. Lavelle doesn't let up until the very end, and the crowd is treated to such hits as “Lonely Soul”, “Reign”, and “Heaven”. The 70-minute long set may appear on paper as brief, but UNKLE's intensity would be too much to bear if sustained for much longer than that. At the end of the show, the back screen lights up with the words “THERE WILL BE NO MIRACLES HERE” on it. Fair enough. Let's all exhale into the breezy Hungarian night and get some rest before the Sziget morning yoga class at 9 am.

Review from Pocket Diary Budapest[2]

All I can remember about the previous time I saw UNKLE on the island is that I was very tired and I liked it. Well, not being tired, but the concert itself. Speaking of being tired- it is pretty much self-understood that as you age, you are supposed to become worse at festivaling and will slowly but certainly turn if not into a Kafkian beetle who doesn’t quite understand why it ended up in this hell of fire and dust, but at least a morose individual complaining about back pain and the quality of rosé.

In my experience, however, as Sziget edition followed Sziget edition, I started to recall ever fewer concerts where I was devastatingly tired and I put this down to have becoming, well, wiser: cans of beer are now regularly followed by water, I do rest during the day as well, and I’d rather eat a decent meal at a decent hour rather than wait for that absolute festival hunger to kick in and then stifle it with the first greasy sandwich that comes my way- those sandwiches were somehow invariably the worst meal anywhere on the island and I always regretted them dearly.

This process can of course also be called becoming boring, though for me it would have been great to be boring at twenty, because I always preferred enjoying a concert to passing out in the party tent- as a matter of fact, I only discovered the very existence of such party tents after several years of szigeting, and visited them more out of anthropological curiosity than anything else.

Given that UNKLE hail back to that golden age of trip hop of the nineties, it was then quite understandable that those in attendance in A38 were often of that wiser sort, happy to submerge themselves in the soundtrack of so many past festival summers. As a matter of fact, UNKLE could be called the soundtrack band by definition- although their album output might seem scarce for such a long career, the songs they did make ended up being used in films, TV programmes and even commercials at an astounding rate. People completely unaware of UNKLE’s existence will nevertheless instantly recognize a good many of their songs, perhaps from an episode of CSI, or Top Gear or a BMW advert.

Some might say that this discredits their endeavours, but I actually quite like the idea of UNKLE being catchy in a subversive way- just as I liked their pretty smug delivery during the concert, for they are the type of band who sounds good even when, or especially if, not trying too hard. This was the main complaint I heard voiced against them by those who had finished blasting the rosé: that the show seemed to be played too clinically. The sound was great, the visuals were great, there was banter too, but it seemed a bit too clockwork. So it might have been, but then again much of UNKLE’s music sounds like cruising through life being superlative (hence the tantalizing efficiency as soundtrack material), and you can’t be superlative if it looks like you’re trying too hard.

Set List

  1. Eye for an Eye
  2. Play Video
  3. Hold My Hand
  4. Play Video
  5. Restless
  6. Play Video
  7. Burn My Shadow
  8. Play Video
  9. Lonely Soul
  10. Play Video
  11. With You In My Head
  12. Play Video
  13. Be There
  14. Play Video
  15. Reign
  16. Play Video
  17. Heaven
  18. Play Video
  19. In a State
  20. Play Video
  21. The Answer


External Links

Video Recording of entire set on YouTube

Event on Setlist.fm

Photos from Event

Photos and Review from Event