Friday 28 August 2009

Leeds Festival

As we park up the dulcet tones of Alan Donohoe of the Rakes can be heard somewhere in the distance. It's a long walk to the stages but when we arrive at the NME stage, we are quickly reinvigorated by a lively performance from Metric. Emily Haines struts her stuff, cutting a glittering figure, all blonde hair and blinding light being reflected back off her sparkly dress. I’ve been a so-so fan for a while, now I’ve just got down off the fence. Rather good.

We have to leave before the end of their set to catch some of Enter Shikari. So we battle our way down to the front of the main stage where the teens are assembling in readiness. They’re certainly popular with that generation but I still fail to see the attraction. Their experimentalism, to me, comes across as just too shambolic. They seem to write three quite good tunes but then they chuck them in a blender together, which then produces the final product. Henceforth you listen to them and think, this a good bit before it gets lost amidst something strange and not so satisfying. I also find the find the vocals of front man Roughton Reynolds a bit too much and I actually prefer it when the bass player takes over with his more subtle voice.

We stay down the front for the Courteeners, who are much more my thing. ‘Cavorting’ tumbles forth and Liam Fray announces that the ‘Leeds Festival starts now.’ Perhaps a bit too sure of himself that one and perhaps feeling a little bit nesh as well, dressed as he is in a big overcoat. He’s also dishing out the advice ‘if your ex-girlfriend is here don't speak to her all weekend’, cue 'Please Don't'. A couple of new songs calm the crowd a little but it soon back to the crowd pleasers such as a storming 'Not Nineteen Forever'.

I'm tempted to stay for Ian Brown, who I hear is very good live, but we need to circulate a bit. We catch the end of the set from Hockey on the Festival Republic stage, who impress us enough to consider checking them out again when they come to Nottingham next month. In between bands we slip across to the Alternative stage where there's an awful warm up comedian, who is filling in between acts. Thankfully he gives way to the slightly better Stuckey and Murray, who give us a rendition of their very alternate version of 'My Favourite Things'. They’re ok but we prefer to get back to the proper musicians and we return to the Festival Republic stage to catch some of Go:Audio. Whose synth driven pop sound isn’t too bad either.

Despite catching those two, I’ve not really caught half the fringe bands I would like to have seen but we have to head back to the main stage to catch Maximo Park. We've seen them several times so we could have skipped them but festivals seems to be the place that they often slip in a rendition of ‘Acrobat’ and we couldn’t let that happen and miss it.

Opener is ‘Graffiti’ as usual, ‘Apply Some Pressure’ comes mid-set and they even bring on a brass band for three of their songs. Paul Smith explaining that they’re ‘a quintessentially British band’ and that he thought the brass section would be the ‘sort of thing the people of Yorkshire would appreciate’. Although I’m sure he’ll be saying something similar in Reading.

We also learnt that ‘In Another World’ is about a night club on a boat in Newcastle and the inspiration for 'A Cloud Of Mystery' came whilst he was playing five-a-side football. Cheers for that insight Paul. Then near the end, yes we get ‘Acrobat’, with added brass section and it’s wonderful, practically worth the admission fee on its own.

We loiter down the front when they finish to catch the Prodigy. I'm not at all sure about this. Although I have to admit they pulled the biggest and most fervent crowd of the day. They chuck in most of their big tracks early on which leaves me wondering what they've got left to entertain us with. Half an hour in, we get a big bored, over raved, crushed and a bit sick of them going all out for the award for the most prodigious use of the F-word at a festival. The much tattooed pair of Keith Flint and Maxim Reality kept asking 'Where the F we were?', as if their sat-nav’s were on the blink. So we took the hint and F-ed off back up the hill to see what was happening elsewhere.

The answer to what's on elsewhere, was not at lot really. We end up at the NME stage where I had hoped to catch the end of White Lies but we missed them and ended up watching Glasvegas for the umpteenth time. As I've whinged before, once a fave of mine, they are a band desperately in need of some new material, as for that matter are White Lies. Well Glasvegas didn't give us any but they were an entertaining fill in before I head back down to catch the Arctic Monkeys.

If the Courteeners confused the crowd with two new songs, the Arctic Monkeys well and truly trumped that with seven songs from their new album 'Humbug' and also threw in a cover of Nick Cave’s 'Red Right Hand' for good measure. I’m not sure being asked to headline a festival and then using that as a platform to promote your new record, rather than play old favourites is really going to make you that popular. Particularly when your new album is less than a week old and even your die hard fans are going to be struggling to know it off pat.

I wasn’t wrong, there were quite a few grumbles as not everyone appreciated all the new material or the new direction the band have taken and they lost a lot of the casual fans pretty early. The new direction included Alex Turner reinventing himself with his own dark look, all long hair, leather and shades. I think he was trying to come over all Johnny Ramone but to be honest Alex, it didn't work mate.

Of the new stuff, current single 'Crying Lightning' went down a storm and I felt totally out of place for not knowing the words. In fact I was quite impressed how many people did know the words to the new album tracks.

Overall I was actually impressed; it’s the first time I’ve seen them live and I’ll be looking forward to the UK tour and certainly getting ‘Humbug’. They recovered admirably from a technical hitch in the middle of 'Brianstorm' and it wasn’t as if it was all new material. As I left to catch some of the Gossip and they played 'Do Me A Favour', I reckoned that was six tracks from ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’, then as I reached the top of the hill they were into 'Flourescent Adolescent' and apparently ‘505’ came as an encore so that’s eight plus around four from the first album, including a cracking 'Still Take You Home', so a good mix really in what was a long set.

The biggest reaction was predictably for 'When The Sun Goes Down', one Turner admitted they hadn't played for a while, they didn’t need to this time either as everyone sung it for them.

The Gossip were running late and I had expected to only to see the last track or so but I actually see them come stage. You couldn't miss Beth Ditto of course but with her flourescent hair she seemed to be making sure. Unfortunately she then chose to hide in the ‘pit’ with the security guards for the duration of the first song causing anyone but the front row to watch her antics on the screens. Their set was far from being one of the highlights of the day, so we only stay for a few tracks before making an early start on the huge hike back to the car.

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