Precipitation forebodingly reared a dripping head on Saturday morning over Southwold. Everything was damp, and nobody looked happy. Huddled individuals scuttled for shelter, and many found it at the comedy tent where Never Mind The Buzzcocks were staging a show. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough room inside the tent and most were resigned to standing, soaked, watching what turned out to be an attempt at comedy. Without the buffer of an editing suite, the panel show was reduced to a series of embarrassingly bad quips, and ham-fisted moments of “huge set-piece comedy”. Robin Ince, Doc Brown and Jon Richardson were all strong acts, but barely worth mentioning at any length.
The Walkmen were the first of an excellent run of bands at The Word Arena. They put on a typically good show, Hamilton Leithauser showing his considerable ability and clout as a front man. The band sounded great, their powerful music filling the tent, and each song was played to perfection. As expected, The Rat was a particular highlight and demonstrated the considerable abilities the group posses. British Sea Power are famed for their explosive live performance, in which the band can make normally timid songs feel aggressive and exciting. The group were sadly not at their best, but they still managed to be very enjoyable. Opener Who’s In Control felt even louder and faster than it did on record, and got things off to a good start. However they never really hit the same level again. While never bad, the band didn’t quite perform with the high energy they are known for. The finale, during which guitars were wantonly thrown into the air, was a spectacle, but it felt slightly tacked on out of some strange sense of duty the band now feel.
Bellowhead followed, and were an interesting sight. If there is a band that sums up the ethos of Latitude perfectly, it’s Bellowhead. While the band are great fun to watch, filled with energy and a jovial enthusiasm, it could be said that they are little more than a novelty act. It’s not really about the music, but instead about the idea of it. It’s difficult to imagine any of the people who enjoyed the show so much, actually going home and listening to Bellowhead though. I Am Kloot gave a highly competent performance, but felt very flat and a bit uninteresting after the chaos they’d followed.
It seemed that nobody expected Echo And The Bunnymen to be any good. The band have had a hideously bad reputation for their live performance, and have become known for turning up late and out of their minds. Yet here they were decent, playing through their debut album Crocodiles in its entirety and then going on to play some old favourites, the group showed they still very much have it in them. They occasionally sounded a bit rough, with the odd mistake being made but they more than made up for it with the sheer force and energy of their performance.
Suddenly all of the older people who had come to watch Echo And The Bunnymen disappeared, and a swathe of young people surged to the front of the tent. The younglings were there to see Foals, whose recent album Total Life Forever had finally seen a conformation of the promise the band showed back in their debut days. The audience was seriously hyped, bouncing up and down and jostling to get to the front. At that point even a group of attractive young men standing on stage with a metronome playing at various speeds would have got them going, so it’s not surprising that when Foals finally did arrive they went a bit over-board. Somebody fell over, and had to be removed from the audience as nobody was stopping to help them. This led to the band stopping playing and pleading for some calm. When they finally got going it was evident how good a band Foals have become.
All the new material sounded brilliant; highlights like Miami and Spanish Sahara showed the range and ability of the group. However, it did not look as if the group were really enjoying themselves. Yannis was unsmiling and slightly dead behind the eyes; he acted as if all of the jumping about and gallivanting in the photo pit was his duty, and not what he actually wanted to be doing. A minor point, but it gave the otherwise very good performance a slight twinge of professionalism in place of youthful excitement.