Live Music + Gig Reviews

Latitude 2012: Day 3 @ Henham Park, Southwold

15 July 2012

If Sunday is traditionally a day of rest, this years Latitude attendees have taken this literally. By mid morning, an abundance of fold up chairs have packed the main stage, picnic blankets are unfurled and most people look settled in for the day.

This doesnt deter Rufus Wainwright, who has been given the coveted opening slot, which in the past has featured everyone from Thom Yorke to Tom Jones. Wainwright, resplendent in a red tunic, playfully teases the sleepy crowd, who seem content to let his ballads wash over them rather than participate. His energy, showmanship and sheer effort are commendable but he doesnt manage to get much more than a vigorous nod out of a mainly horizontal audience.

Slightly more energetic are those who have filled the poetry tent to listen to Mike Garry. The Manchester poet recites with a furious energy and streams of northern consciousness, mainly about his beloved home town. An inevitable comparison can be drawn with John Cooper Clarke, who is headlining the tent tonight, but Garry has his own style which goes down well with a culturally sound Latitude crowd.

Back to the Obelisk Arena where its Alabama Shakes turn to play to the seated. They are all soul today, front woman Brittany Howard stretching her voice to the limit over bluesy rock riffs. The sun is out and they match the lazy Sunday latitude vibe perfectly.

Simple Minds are on shortly, but there is time to sample Latitudes answer to Glastonburys Green Fields, the Faraway Forest, before Jim Kerr takes to the stage. Tucked away in the far corner of the site, it features an eclectic mix of medieval re-enactment groups, Occupy protesters, and a tea stall, a make-your-own-bunting area and a series of branches on which hang red baubles filled with festival goers’ messages of good will. Its a little kooky and sentimental, but then festivals bring that out in everyone. When Simple Minds take to the stage, some of the seated are standing and even dancing; an older crowd clearly enjoying the chance to reminisce through massive hits Dont You (Forget About Me) and Alive And Kicking. Kerr and co have aged well and, aside from the sweaty shirts and middle aged spread, their sound hasnt suffered as the years have passed.

There is just time to catch the tail end of Nathan Caton in the comedy tent, regaling a typically packed crowd with tales of his dysfunctional family. He makes way for Rich Hall, who is superbly cynical about, well, pretty much everything that has happened to him recently. He’s a good warm up for Jack Dee, who will later tell an even bigger crowd about his hatred of coffee chain cup personalisation, amongst other trademark grumpiness.

Back to the music though, as St Vincent are on in next in the Word Arena. A former member of festival favourites The Polyphonic Spree, Annie Clark is a guitar genius with a penchant for romantic and clever compositions. Her performance is full of bite and sends a jolt through the crowd. Afterwards there is just time to catch Natasha Khans Bat For Lashes sweeping the main stage with haunting and delicate anthems. Unfortunately for her the crowd has thinned as Latitude looks to refuel before tonights headline acts, and what remains have been lulled back into their camping seats.

They are up again though for Ben Howard. Despite having a relatively sparse back catalogue, Howard’s popularity amongst the younger festival goers here at Latitude cant be denied and, considering he is in uncharted territory with this size of gig, he puts on quite a show, growing in stature as the set goes on. Only Love remains a delicate pop song, nuanced by Howards impressive vocal tone and finger-picked guitar, while Keep Your Head Up bristles with his nervous energy. He might be a safe bet for the kind of crowd in Henham Park this weekend, but he delivers and stands out from many on the main stage today who have failed to stir them into life.

Latitude 2012 is concluded by none other than the modfather himself, Mr Paul Weller. Many of those gathered around the Obelisk Arena have waited all day for this. Weller, still sporting his trademark angular hairdo, treats them to a whole lot more than just choice cuts from The Jam/s catalogue. His set – as might be expected – features songs from across his solo career, from the tender You Do Something To Me to the rabble rousing Wake Up The Nation and Fast Car/Slow Traffic. The Changingman and Stanley Road go down well with the Latitude crowd, but its not really until he plays In the City that things hot up. The crowd here tonight is clearly looking back to their punk/mod youth and, as Weller closes the set with Town Called Malice, many are up and pogoing like its 1982.

Weller and his band return for one more, Eton Rifles, which predictably gets the best reaction of the night. Throughout his set, he is the consummate professional, but you cant help but feel for him and he pauses between fag breaks to look at a crowd which is polite but hardly throwing themselves into what will be their last act of the festival.

But that is both the beauty and the drawback of Latitude. It attracts the kind of festival goer that enjoys the nicer things in life and cant be faulted for its efforts to cater to their every musical, literature or comedic whim. But, as a result, it lacks the bite and genuine fever that makes festivals what they are; the collective atmosphere that should make a festival gig bigger and better than one in a normal venue. Yet clearly, and in its way uniquely, Latitude is far more than just a music festival.

  1. Latitude 2012:
    Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

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