Live Music Reviews

Festival Review: Leeds 2005

26 August 2005


musicOMH sent not one but two reviewers off to Bramham Park, Leeds for the Carling Weekender 2005.

Ah, Leeds. The very mention of it brings to mind visions of, well, flat caps, Yorkshire tea and The Kaiser Chiefs to be perfectly honest, but also half of the final summer festival, the Carling Weekender. And it didn’t rain. Much.

!Forward, Russia!‘s tragically early morning slot meant that Friday began with the disappointment of missing one of the most exciting new bands in the country, but the general word around the campfire is they were brilliant. Which was no consolation. And, on a personal note, I really want one of their T-shirts.

Fortunately, the hour was still early enough to pile into the NME tent (and not for the last time this weekend) like contortionist, agoraphobic battery hens to see the first of many bands whose recent success had made their billing a bit of a mockery, Maxïmo Park. And they were great. No, they were ok. No, they were good. Which is kind of how it went watching the quirky pop quintet. Everything seemed to go a little cool about half way through the set, but it wasn’t entirely clear why. They managed to pick up the energy levels during the last couple of songs though, and a glorious Kiss You Better ended things on a high note, as a tent full of fans showed their appreciation.

And then, sadly for The Duke Spirit, found something better to do. The Duke boys (and girl) sounded fine, debuting new material which continued the same vein of dark, woozy rock that has served them well, and Lelia Moss is still a fantastically charismatic lead singer, but in the face of such waves of indifference they were swimming against the tide.

A tide which seemed to have brought a great many people to Komakino. Who were fantastic. Last single Say Something Else has a chorus hookier than New Order‘s bassist in a production of Peter Pan, and is one of several punky gems littering their set and burning with intent. The intensity and directness of the rhythm section also started to make the Interpol comparisons look a bit more sensible, plus lead singer Ryan had managed to acquire himself a !Forward, Russia! T-shirt. Bastard. Anyway, big things beckon. Huge things beckon.

Marilyn Manson beckoned. The man least likely to be called Brian Warner is on (possibly) his last few live appearances of his career and demonstrated exactly what you can achieve if you endeavour to put on a show. A marvelously creepy entrance, striding out from the dry ice that enveloped the stage swinging a chandelier and reciting portions from Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory was then followed by more costume changes than at a Britney Spears gig, a light show which during The Dope Show repeatedly displayed the word “DRUGS!” (although it occasionally did look like the slightly less controversial “RUGS”), a keyboardist playing his instrument whilst it was hanging from a gallows and a general lesson in kinky-military chic for beginners. It was ridiculously entertaining. The music? Who cares, look! Look! Now he’s on frickin’ stilts!

No such sartorial antics on the NME stage, where two of the success stories of the year offered a slightly less denim’n’leather-clad alternative to Iron Maiden. The Futureheads were up first and were as zippy, fun and as crowd-friendly as usual, but new material is needed. Also, rather oddly, completion of their now omnipresent cover of Hounds Of Love seemed to be the signal for a mass exodus from inside the tent. Guess that all the kids are now seeking from a gig these days is a little bit of Kate Bush.

So would Bloc Party hit us with their version of Wuthering Heights. Uh, no. And a rapturous reception and a personal-space violating crush of people couldn’t really disguise the fact that they still lack something live. The songs are still epic; tight and impassioned versions of Like Eating Glass, Pioneers and Helicopter demonstrated that, and ubiquitous new song Two More Years portends a bright future, but here they were, at times, just a little boring.

And thus endeth the first day of Leeds. Who knew what tomorrow would bring? Well the Pixies, hopefully…

We arrived just in time to see The Rakes conclude their set at the NME/Radio 1 tent – a huge crowd rather made a mockery of their somewhat lowly status on the bill. Kele and Russell from Bloc Party made a special appearance, which whipped the audience into something of a frenzy.

After completing our tour of the site, we headed back to the NME/Radio 1 tent to catch Sons And Daughters. Their dark, intense neo-folk shouldn’t be suited to playing at 2pm in the afternoon, but it all made a rather glorious sort of sense. Adele Bethal is the undoubted star of the band, writhing around stage looking slightly mad, and acting as a perfect counterpoint to Scott Patterson’s deep vocals. Taste The Last Girl and Johnny Cash were both highlights, and you had the impression that a few new Sons And Daughters fans had been gained over the course of their 40 minute set.

Over to the main stage, where No-FX were peddling their brand of comedy skate-punk. Never having been over enamoured with the likes of Blink 182, Sum 41 and Good Charlotte, they didn’t leave any particular impression on this reviewer, although the sound system did let the band down somewhat. It has to be said though, any band who can write a song about George W Bush entitled Idiot Son Of An Asshole is alright by me.

The festival’s first true big name followed No-FX in the shape of Iggy And The Stooges. At the age of 57, Iggy still has bundles of energy and ran round the stage like a man possessed (The Stooges themselves were rather more sedate, with guitarist Ron Asheton looking like he was about to keel over at any moment). As this was a pure Stooges set, anyone looking for The Passenger or Lust For Life was disappointed, although 24 carat classics like I Wanna Be Your Dog and No Fun were dusted down.

The only problem is that age is starting to show on Iggy now, and he’s beginning to resemble the kind of slightly disturbed old gentlemen you see wandering round shopping centres, clutching a can of Special Brew and swearing at passer-bys. The man’s a legend and he can do whatever he wants, but there was a definite feeling that the sun is beginning to set on this stage of Iggy’s career.

After Iggy’s set, it was time to wander back to the NME/Radio 1 stage, where LCD Soundsystem were about to perform. After a rather bizarre interlude in which the entire band stood on stage while Donna Summer’s I Feel Love was played on the PA, the lights dimmed and we were away.

James Murphy, bashing two tambourines, was an odd figure on stage, constantly introducing a figure to his right called Phil (“it’s very important that you remember Phil”) and performing a strange, jerky dance. Yet there’s no denying the man’s charisma and when it all clicks into place, as on Daft Punk Are Playing In My House or the closing Losing My Edge, then LCD Soundsystem sound like the best party in town.

The NME/Radio 1 tent was packed to bursting point for the Futureheads‘ performance, so in need of some fresh air I wandered over to the Carling Stage to watch the former Mouldy Peaches‘ frontman Adam Green. Having been somewhat disappointed with Green’s most recent album Gemstones, I wasn’t expecting much, but he thankfully proved me wrong.

The tent was full of loyal fans who knew every word of Green’s quirky alt-folk, and the atmosphere for the whole set was great. Green’s comedy dancing only added to the fun, whether he was walking like an Egyptian, pretending to swim or dragging two girls onstage to perform bunny hops with him. His acoustic cover of The Libertines‘ What A Waster was magnificent but the highlight had to be Jessica, the bile-filled ode to the Dukes Of Hazzard star Ms Simpson.

While Iron Maiden were transporting air guitarists to heaven on the main stage and Bloc Party were cramming all-comers into the NME/Radio 1 tent, it was time for ’80s nostalgia aplenty in the Carling Tent. Echo & The Bunnymen look no different now as they did in their heyday – Ian McCulloch still remaining the one man in the world who can look cool wearing shades indoors.

“How did Liverpool get on? Did we win?” he asked, referring to tonight’s European Super Cup match, before running through a superb set of classics, such as Lips Like Sugar and Bring On The Dancing Horses. The latter day gem that is Nothing Lasts Forever was also played, with McCulloch even throwing in a cover version of Walk On The Wild Side in the middle of the song.

It didn’t even sound remotely dated, even after 20 years – current bands like The Departure can be easily traced back to this type of sound. After The Killing Moon and The Cutter reduced everyone in the tent to a gibbering sense of bliss, it was, far too quickly, the end of the first day of the Leeds Festival.

John Murphy


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