On Saturday, Latitude is bathed in the British summer standard of threatening clouds, and is somewhat sodden underfoot, but it’s remarkably easy to get around thanks to the site’s undulating design which prevents the sort of mini quagmires often seen at many of its rivals.
Early in the afternoon on the Lake Stage are Dingus Kahn, who seem to have named themselves after a slang term for being a bit of an idiot apt, considering their frantic pop metal and substantial energy first thing in the day. At one point they promise to morph into todays headliners Elbow, which couldnt be much further from their sound. But threats aside, they do a good job of waking up a festival crowd who are just getting their first caffeine/alcohol of the day.
Which makes Sam Aireys set on the same stage afterwards a bit flat, despite his undeniable talent. From Leeds via Anglesey, Airey is a young troubadour with a bit of a rasp to his voice and some clever songwriting to back it up. He pulls in a decent crowd, but one which isnt ready to engage yet, mores the pity.
It’s not a problem he shares with soulful folky songstress Lianne La Havas later in the packed Word Arena. Faced with a huge crowd, she is genuinely sincere in her appreciation for those that have taken the time to see her as she plays songs from just-released debut album Is Your Love Big Enough. Its clear from the evidence on show here that both her songs and personality could have easily filled the main stage, the perfect foil for a sunny (next year?) festival afternoon.
Things take a literary bent next as moving from the music stages, Pat Nevin, Rodge Glass and Alan Bissett are hosting a talk on How Football Obsesses And Structures Our Culture. This seems to involve Nevin and co, regaling a mainly male crowd with various fan incidents and the culture that surrounds football clubs and their ties to local areas. There is the usual banter, as well as some thought provoking discussion about how the modern game has evolved and the disconnect between home grown players, local clubs and local cultures. A local area, Dudley specifically, is the theme for Anthony Cartwrights latest novel How I Killed Margaret Thatcher, and he is up next to discuss it. Without ruining the novel, Thatcher remains alive and well at the end, but Cartwright offers an insightful depiction of industrial decline in the 1980s, midlands.
It’s a 1980s that Daryl Hall, of Hall & Oates, will remember well as his height of popularity. Hall these days looks a lot older, but he’s retained his flowing locks and strut. Hes also not lost the ability to play to the crowd, mixing up some of his solo material with ’80s hits Maneater and I Cant Go For That (No Can Do). There are a few ageing rockers on the Latitude bill this year, but for what Hall likes in vigour he makes up for with the polish years in the business provides.
Things then take a slightly surreal turn as, before American slowcore band Low take to the stage, Sadler’s Wells are putting on the Wah Wah Girls on the Waterfront. Belly dancing and Asian tunes ring across the lake to a crowd of mostly bewildered festival goers who keep close watch on the gyrating. Low play to a criminally quiet tent shortly afterwards, but are as impressive as ever, Alan Sparhawks vocals haunting the empty space in the roof of the tent and building each track into glorious crescendos of sound.
Tonights double header on the main stage consists of Laura Marling and Elbow. Judging by the inflated numbers as Marling begins her set (day tickets for today were the only ones that sold out in advance) they are what many here have pencilled in as the highlight of the weekend. Marling the live act is somewhat altered from the recorded version. With leather jacket and guitar, she nearly snarls some of the lyrics in a set plucks heavily from her last two records, adding a passion to her sublime voice. Blackberry Stone is delicate but well crafted with her string section, Rambling Man is rousing, while Alpha Shallows adds a haunting element to proceedings.
Which sets Latitude up nicely for the genius that is Guy Garvey and Elbow. As a headline band, they have the ability to both sound intimate and grandiose. The Birds begins in a low key fashion before exploding into life, Garvey cradling his pint up and down the specially constructed walkway that brings him close to the fans at the front of the stage. Whilst Garvey introduces Leaders Of The Free World as an old one, it certainly doesnt sound out of place, with its guitar riff driving one of Elbows more upbeat tracks. Likewise, Grounds For Divorce is big enough to fill any festival stage.
But Elbow are best when they are delicate, with Garvey given the chance to show off his impressive voice. Between swigs of Guinness and toasts to those back home, he ushers us through the sentimental Mirrorball and Build A Rocket Boys, both songs youd have to have a heart of stone not to well up for. And as the crowd whistles along with the latter you get the impression they have been won over, as if any needed convincing. Tonight Elbow finish with a rousing combo of Open Arms and On A Day Like This, the former prompting a mass singalong only for the latter to provide the highlight of Latitude Day 2. For the first time at this years festival, the crowd depart singing the chorus into the night, as a mini firework display closes the set. Its a fitting end to an impressive show and one that reaffirms Elbow as a phenomenal live act.