Live Music + Gig Reviews

Latitude @ Henham Park, Suffolk: Day 2

18 July 2008

After the previous night’s exertions re-scoring David Lynch’s Eraserhead, Guillemotswere back to what they do best – making eccentric but cuddly pop music – in the Uncut Arena.

Drawingan enormous crowd, the bouncy Fyfe Dangerfield should have been in his element, but much of the setseemed underwhelming and a little tired.

Perhaps they’d thrown all of their energies into bombasticopener Get Over It, but even the usually spellbinding Made Up Lovesong 43 failed to sparkle.
Elbow added a large dollop of emotional fragility to a festival already gearing up for anight of weeping over Icelandic slow-mo rock.

After the beautifully haunting electronica of Starlings, the group played an uneven mix of oldslowies and newbies. Grounds For Divorce and Leaders of the Free World were as coruscating as ever,but Puncture Repair, ironically, fell flat and the extended version of Newborn – so marvellous attheir Meltdown Festival appearance – floated into the sky without leaving muchimpression. Still, Elbow’s bar is set so high now that their appearance would still a highlight formany.

From unpretentious to, pretentious? Moi-s Volta? Nothing, not even electric shock therapy, canprepare the unsuspecting observer for this. Cedric Bixler – now more hairdo thanman – leaped, somersaulted, and kung-fu kicked his way through a staggeringly intense hour long set.

Opening with a twenty five minute rendition of Christ knows what – it sounded like a bomb going offin a glass factory – Mars Volta consolidated their reputation as the maddest, fiercest live band onthe planet. Cedric climbed the sides of the stage and berated the crow surfers, though there werenone in reality. They slipped between genres at least five times per song. The calmest, mostsensible bit of the gig was the drum solo. Breathtaking stuff.

There was something depressingly formulaic about Metronomy as they headlined the Sunrise Arena:their matching black tops with saucers which light up in the middle, their side partings, theirchoreographed dance routines and their vocal harmonies.

Those who buy into it this evening are the legion of rave kids packing out a tent which isbleeped, blurped and pulsed with the mid-volume urgency of a toddler poking at a Korg rigged throughan iPod travel speaker. Compared to the tarmac chewing ferocity of Crystal Castles, it falls particularly flat.

The debate over headliners Sigur Rós had raged at the festival through Friday and Saturday,and continued even into extended discussions in the comedy and literature tents the next day. Wastheir set one of transcending splendour – one reaching highs that no member of the crowd, even thosetaking copious hallucinogens, had ever experienced? Or was it boring, slow moving music for polarbears, sung in elvish by a man with half a bird sticking out of his collar?

Or maybe it was just astonishing. A packed crowd witnessed something that willbe talked about in hushed tones at festivals for years to come. Gorgeous, glacial, euphoric… thehyperbolic list goes on. Sigur Rós threw everything at this performance, and every bitstuck. Marching bands dressed in white. Glitter cannons. Giant glowing orbs. Icelandic between songbanter. And the noise – a blitzkrieg of beauty washing over the audience in waves, from the openingSvefn-G-Englar’s echoing whale noises through to Hoppipolla soaring violins, this was a concert thatused the audience’s heartstrings as bungee ropes. At the centre was the angelus-voiced JnsiBirgisson, giving a masterclass in how to headline a festival, even without a single singalongchorus.

Certainly one of the most exclusive gigs of the weekend, as huge queues snaked round the Music and Filmtent, was legendary punk band Buzzcocks playing a face-melting gig at 2am as part of MarkLamarr’s presentation of an evening with ‘God’s Jukebox’.

Pete Shelley’s punk rockers turned in a set so boyishly enthusiastic that you’d have sworn theyshould be playing the new bands tent. It’s a mark of how every song is so embedded in theconsciousness of the crowd that every song is greeted with the same rapture as Ever Fallen In Love?.No mistake, this is a perfect gee up for a night dancing in the trees. Right -minimalist techno, anyone? To the woods!


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