Sunday, September 4, 2011

Live Review: Leeds Festival 2011, Part 2 Of 3

One of Leeds festival's biggest traditions is the presence of a Main Stage 'rock day,' and this year that label clearly fell on the Saturday. This tends to be my favourite leg of the three-day event, but this time the schedule seemed fairly weak. My Chemical Romance were underwhelming headliners, and were mostly joined on the bill by over-the-hill punk bands and metalcore scenesters, though in fairness Rise Against and Deftones were notable exceptions. Thankfully, the lineup on the NME/Radio 1 Stage looked far healthier, with some of the best emerging names in indie stuffing a bill which was unfortunately topped by the most unworthy of headliners in Beady Eye. Saturday also saw the punk-orientated Lock-Up Stage transformed into the Dance Stage, the schedule on which held no appeal to me whatsoever, but luckily this was cancelled out by the Festival Republic tent, which had another strong-looking day in prospect.

SATURDAY (27/08/2011)

Day two also proved far more forgiving on the weather front, but that didn't stop fans from once again packing the NME/Radio 1 tent to capacity. First up on that stage were Pulled Apart By Horses, for whom this festival appearance also represented a homecoming show. This was the third time that I've seen them live, and each time has been better than the last. The Yorkshire quartet bridge the gap between hardcore and good old fashioned rock 'n' roll, and if you're still looking for a reason to like them they also have a song called 'I Punched A Lion In The Throat.' They played that as the closer, and it capped off a very solid performance which went down a storm with the audience, many of whom will have followed these local heroes from the start.

Following them were Frankie & The Heartstrings, the Sunderland indie-pop band whose debut album, Hunger is surely one of this year's most underrated releases. They sound fantastic live too, and even managed to fit in two new songs which gained just as positive a reaction. Although the band as a whole is instrumentally sound, everything they're about is encapsulated in frontman Frankie Francis, an eccentric and engaging performer who gave his all. True his prancing around the stage can make him look like a bit of a prat, but it's this charisma which hoists his band beyond the hordes of similar acts around and makes them a thrilling live proposition.

After that excellent start, there were a few hours which housed no particularly essential bands, so we decided to kill the time by brousing around. On the Main Stage, we caught the majority of New Found Glory's set, and although I'm hardly a fan they did manage to put on a fun show, although their cover of The Ramones 'Blitzkrieg Bop' hardly equated to a highlight. Later, we went to the NME/Radio 1 Stage which was occupied by Mona, who clearly wrote the majority of their debut album to bait huge audiences like this. Unfortunately, the vast majority of their songs simply aren't any good, so it came as little surprise to see their set fall flat. We also popped our heads into the Festival Republic tent to watch The Computers. Sadly, the fact that crowd members dressed as Darth Vader and Yoda having a lightsaber battle attracted more attention than the band on stage summarises their set better than any kind of lengthy description. Irish rockers The Minutes were far more interesting over on the tiny BBC Introducing Stage, with their well-tuned racket meriting a far higher slot on the bill than either the two bands previously mentioned.

Having concluded that rather mixed forrege, we headed back to watch New Zealanders The Naked And Famous strut their stuff on the NME/Radio 1 Stage. Although they've had plenty of hype over the past 12 months or so, they're a band I'd liken to fellow synth-pop act MGMT, in that they have three great songs, but no one really seems to care about the rest. Those three highlights - especially 'Young Blood' - were excellent, though they need more songs of that callibre before they become a truly unmissable in the live arena. Rise Against were next up on the Main Stage, and as you'd expect they delivered an hard-hitting, if slightly one-dimensional set which generally went down well. It was, however, disappointing to hear Tim McIlrath seemingly condone the UK riots in one of his typically outspoken political rants.

Nevertheless, his band set things up nicely for the mighty Deftones, who were one of my most eagerly anticipated acts of the entire weekend. Unfortunately they proved to be by far the biggest letdown. The wankers I was stood beside who insisted on chanting Chino's name for the entire 45 minutes didn't help, but the sound was muddy at best, and the band seemed devoid of their usual explosiveness. The setlist was hardly ideal either, but that was one of the more minor issues with one of the festival's most unlikely flops.

After that we were torn between heading to the NME/Radio 1 tent to catch this year's hype kings The Vaccines or staying where for pop-punk legends The Offspring. The waves of people heading to see the newcomers persuaded us to stay put, since we'd probably have been left outside the tent with the size of the crowd they drew. Dexter, Noodles and co. proved a capable substitute, though, delivering a functional greatest hits set which stirred the previously tepid crowd into life. Performance-wise they weren't the best band of the day, and they're far too old to still be spiking up their hair, but The Offspring have one of the genre's strongest back catalogues to fall back on, and that alone makes them worth seeing.

After soldiering through the sea of people leaving after The Vaccines, we managed to squeeze into the NME/Radio 1 tent on time for indie-folk band Noah & The Whale. Charlie Fink's men are pretty devisive, but I've always had a soft spot for them since their breakthrough summer hit '5 Years Time' first graced my ears a few years ago. Excellent new album Last Night On Earth provided the bulk of the day's set, and the fact that these new songs went down even better than the established favourites speakes volumes about how well they translated on stage. Fink himself may not be the most animated leader, but his songs clearly hit a spot with plenty of people, and that was displayed by the voulume of the singalongs to songs like 'Life Is Life' and 'L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.'

Given that their recent second album fell short of both critical and commercial expectations, it came as a little bit of a surprise that gloomy London trio White Lies were positioned so far up the bill on the same stage. The band cast aside such misgivings, though, by delivering a fantastic performance, which easily bettered the previous two times I'd seen them. Their polished bass-driven songs sounded great on such a big stage, and were vastly improved by the addition of 9,000 voices bellowing along to every word. Early single 'Death' remains their best song by a distance, but in this environment 'To Lose My Life' and even recent cut 'Bigger Than Us' gave it a run for it's money with regards to being the highlight.

Instead of standing amongst pre-pubescent emo girls or lad-rock loving meatheads, we decided to head towards the Festival Republic Stage to watch The Horrors' headlining performance. The Camden quartet's rapid rise to prominence was confirmed by the enormous crowd that greeted them - although the sub par headliners on the other stages would also have been a contributing factor. Nevertheless, the cartoonish shoegazers delivered a loud, scuzzy and thoroughly enjoyable set which leaned heavily on excellent recent LP Skying. They had a power cut to contend with midway through lead-single 'Still Life,' but managed to battle through it to finish the show on a tremendous high. They may have topped the bill, but the ecstatic crowd reaction left you with a sense that their days of playing tents this small are all but up, and deservedly so.

The Horrors ended Saturday on a high, which was fitting since it had delivered another excellent 12 hours of live music. Maybe it wasn't quite as good as Friday had been, but the fact that Sunday had such a strong line up suggested that the best may yet be to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment