Live Music + Gig Reviews

Latitude @ Henham Park, Suffolk: Day 3

20 July 2008


Early morning. Furry tongue. Latitude, you better have a damn good reason for getting us up at this godforsaken hour on the Sabbath day. Particularly given the night we’d just had.

And you did. Joanna Newsom’s midday turn on the main stagewas very special. An extraordinary Emile, a wondrous Peach, Plumb Pear, even the three newbiesplayed on the piano were all welcomed with hushed reverence and utter ecstasy.
It didn’t even matter that she just couldn’t remember the lyrics to Sawdust And Diamonds. SeriouslyJoanna, when we woke up on Sunday morning we couldn’t remember our friggin’ name, so ofcourse you can be forgiven for misplacing some of the words to a 20-minute fairytale,recounted while playing an instrument with more strings than a Tom Cruise pre-nup.

How do you follow a set like Joanna? Fields? Nah. Feeling the folk it was all about headingto the Uncut Arena for Sam Isaac. It’s happy-go-lucky, it’s anthemic, uplifting and justabout right for the early afternoon. Spellbinding, inspiring and otherwordly it wasn’t, but hey,there’s only one harpist in town today, right?

It was pretty hard to fathom why someone bothered to fly Satin Peaches from Detroit. Codindie in the mould of early Placebo duetting with The Feeling seems a hard sell, butsomeone somewhere is picking up the tab (which includes time with Oasis producer Dave Sardy).Those who recall drinking flat beer in empty student unions during a campus battle of the bandswould have identified immediately with this scene.

Thank the maker, then, for Jeremy Warmsley. Lose My Cool’s processed beats and strongmelodies evoke memories of the best of Weezer and The Shins and, on the strength ofthe new material displayed this afternoon, you get the impression things will start to happen prettysoon for Warmsley.

These New Puritans still aren’t tailoring their schtick for nobody. Bravely opening withNavigate Navigate, their avant-garde and less-than accessible soundtrack to a Hedi Slimane fashionshow, they performed adventurously, but their spiky dystopian constructions didn’t really fall oninterested ears.

Musically, the post-punkers were tight as ever, moving away a little from their guitar-ledalbum sound towards a harsher, more abrasive percussive and electronic dynamic, but frontman JackBarnett needs a few more hairs on his chest to carry off the Fall-esque declamations of the lyricsheet: he still comes across as a stroppy teenager, lacking the authority to win over a scepticaland sober early afternoon crowd.

Who probably should have gone to see Noah And The Whale instead. Their string section and hornsbrought to mind My Latest Novel and Arcade Fire fused with country and rockabilly, andwas just perfect for keeping the mood upbeat as the songs drifted around the warm afternoonair.

On a day dominated by black clad vampires from the east, Nada Surf brought a little west coastcheer to proceedings. Their set belied their 16 trouble-filled years in the business, poweringthrough the chugging rhythms of Happy Kid and Always Love with a joie-de-vivre which should have beensucked out of them years ago by record company mismanagement and unfairly poor sales.

Judging by the glazed look, sunburn skin pigmentation, vague mutterings about getting no sleep andhaving just had a fist fight with John Lydon, not to mention the at-odds set, Foals need aweek off.

This was not the lucid, free-flowing band we’ve come to know; this was five young men battering andshouting their way through their slot on the main stage. Red Socks Pugie is smashed out at 100 mph;Cassius lacks its normal punch; Balloons spews out awkwardly. To their credit, they manage to minglebetween their thrashing to flicky, intricate jams but throughout they look ready to collapse in aheap and probably do so once they depart.


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