The Arctic Monkeys was curtailed by the fact that everyone else had come to a similar decision, leaving the tent so full the crowd outside was stood ten deep. Were they worth it? Answers on a postcard. Leaving our simian sighting urge unfufilled, the short hop towards the NME stage was completed in time to see sometime Hollywood ‘superstar’ Juliette Lewis ending her and The Licks show with a spot of crowd surfing. Dressed in a skin-tight red jumpsuit it was, I’m told, a move that was immensely well received by those possessing a Y-chromosome and standing in the first few rows.
For the first time this weekend, the unwelcome spectre of two great bands being on at exactly the same time reared its ugly visage. So Yeti or The Kills. Yeti? Kills? The Kills slightly earlier starting time meant they won out. With VV prowling about the stage like an insane Polar bear rescued from an Eastern Bloc zoo and Hotel unleashing metallic hell with his guitar, they are staggeringly compelling live. To such an extent, that when the drum machine had a fit VV entertained us by well, breathing into her mic. And it says a great deal about the hold they had that thousands of people just stared straight back in deathly silence, absolutely transfixed. Slightly more animated, and dare I say, even slightly happier than usual we got a “Fuck Reading, Leeds is where it’s at”, and even the hint of a smile as they left.
No hints of smiles after Arcade Fire. Massive face splitting, teeth bearing, joyous grins instead. The many membered, dapper Canadians were sublime and, as is usual at their live performances, seemed to be enjoying it as much as the crowd. Their enjoyment was infectious, and a heroic Wake Up and an unexpected performance of Headlights Look Like Diamonds were two of the high points in a grandiose, orchestral set. They even managed to run ten-minutes into the Babyshambles‘ freak show, and I doubt many would have complained had it been more.
The final brace of bands were the two closing the main stage, The Foo Fighters and those sons of a preacher man, Kings Of Leon. Although, shamefully, having missed the first fifteen minutes we decided to use their set as an opportunity to eat, drink and have a little sit down. But I will mention that the drummer should grow his beard again and that Caleb should never, ever tie his hair back like that again.
Last on, David Grohl and his Foo Fighters brought Leeds to a close. And while Grohl’s tendency to scream “COME ON!!!” before every single chorus quickly became annoying, it was the solitary part of the performance that rankled. Yeah, Dave Grohl nicest man in rock, blah, blah, blah, but even when screaming bloody murder you look and go, “Aww. Bless…” And we even got to see Grohl back where he started, sat behind a set of drums, even if the dumb surf rock of the song performed (Cold Day In The Sun from In Your Honour) is barely worth a mention in the context of the Foo’s back catalogue.
True, we hardly walked away muttering “I can’t believe I’ve seen the fuckin’ Foo Fighters”, but their amiable nature and enduring class of tracks like Monkey Wrench and This Is A Call et al meant that it was a fittingly happy ending to this tale. And it still hadn’t rained. Much.
The trouble with festivals is that they go far too quickly. The final day of the Leeds version of the Carling Weekender had arrived, and while it was surely too much to hope for anything to match the previous night’s performance from the Pixies, there was another staggeringly good day’s line up ahead of us.
Sadly, the Editors‘ stupidly early position on the bill meant that their performance was missed, and we arrived at the NME/Radio 1 tent just in time to see local boys The Cribs make their return to West Yorkshire. Despite being namechecked in almost every Kaiser Chiefs interview, they haven’t achieved the same success level as their friends, but it’s difficult to see why not.
For live, the Cribs are terrific – punchy guitar rock which, especially in the case of Martell and We Can No Longer Cheat You, is infectiously catchy. It’s good, old-fashioned rock’n'roll to jump around to, which The Cribs do marvellously well.
As do Nine Black Alps, the young four piece from Manchester who follow them. The last time I saw them it was at a half-full daytime freebie gig in Sheffield – a complete contrast to this performance which attracted a crowd of slam dancers and crowd surfers. Songs like Shot Down and Not Everyone sounded like terrific, and Unsatisfied is a truly mighty anthem. Thus concludes the first ever Nine Black Alps review not to mention Nirvana. Oh bugger.
There’s usually one band who play the festivals at exactly the right time, and this year Arctic Monkeys were that band. A massive crowd had gathered outside the Carling Tent – so massive in fact that it was impossible to see anything, so we retreated back to the NME/Radio 1 stage to see a real live Hollywood superstar in action.
Dressed in her trademark red catsuit and a fetching pair of Viking horns, Juliette Lewis looked every inch the punk goddess. Taking control of the crowd from the off (“you’re in my world now motherf*ckers!”), Juliette And The Licks played their raw punk/new wave and the crowd lapped up every strut, pout and gyration.
By the time of the finale where Lewis threw herself into the crowd to perform some crowd surfing, the energy and enjoyment of the band was palpable. Certainly not the vanity project of a spoiled Hollywood starlet then. (MG)
While the Pixies proved last night that some band reformations are a good thing, Dinosaur Jr did the exact opposite on the Main Stage on Sunday. One of the legends of the grunge scene, they sadly looked bored and disinterested today – the tension between J Mascis and Lou Barlow is obvious, but it doesn’t result in the creativity of old. it was a blessed relief when Freak Scene rolled by and they packed up.
Following Mascis and Barlow on the main stage were survivors of Madchester, The Charlatans. Having gone through cancer, jail sentences and death, Tim Burgess and friends deserve some credit just for still being together, but they also have the songs. Old tracks like Weirdo sit perfectly next to new material such as Up At The Lake and they even dedicate a grunged up version of My Beautiful Friend to Dave Grohl – a crowd-pleasing set from one of the most consistent acts around today.
One of the big success stories of the last 12 months were next up. Razorlight have managed to distinguish themselves from all the other post-Libertines guitar acts by writing some fantastic songs. Golden Touch, Rip It Up and Somewhere Else were all greeted with mass singalongs, and Johnny Borrell proved himself to be a true star – if the reaction of the girls in front of me when he took his shirt off were anything to go by, he’s also a bit of a sex symbol.
The decision to go and see Babyshambles was a last minute one. I’ve grown increasingly tired and cynical of Pete Doherty’s antics in recent months, and while admiring his undeniable talent, felt that he’s slipping into that gang of people who are ‘famous for being famous’.
After a delay of 15 minutes and increasingly loud chants of “No one likes a crackhead” from the audience, it seemed as if my worst fears had been confirmed. Yet, just as you’ve written Doherty off as a no-good waster, he goes and pulls a performance like this out of the bag. For Babyshambles were quite magnificent tonight.
Although he looked and sounded rather the worse the wear, Doherty still oozed charisma, and led his band through a great set – F*ck Forever, so listless and anaemic on record, sounded like the anthem it should be live, Killamangiro provoked mass hysteria in the tent (with the entire crowd joining in with the ‘woah-ho’), while in Albion the band possess at least one stone cold classic. The most surprising performance of the weekend belonged to them.
Finally, a big brickbat to whoever scheduled Foo Fighters, The Tears and The Go! Team all at the same time. After catching 10 minutes of the Foos and their pretty green lasers illuminating the night sky, we made our way back to the NME/Radio 1 tent to see Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler conclude the weekend festivities.
The novelty of seeing Brett’n'Bernie onstage together again still hasn’t diminished, and they sound better than ever. Various highlights from Here Comes The Tears were aired, together with some new songs – by the sound of these, the next album will be even better than the first.
Brett, despite wearing shades inside and looking desperately thin, still has tonnes of star quality and Bernard is one of this country’s best guitarists – a fact reinforced during Brave New Century. Not even a cry of “play some Elastica” from a wag in the crowd could disturb their good mood.
And that was that for another successful weekend at Leeds. Roll on 2006…