Live Music + Gig Reviews

Festival Review: Leeds 2009, Day 1

28 August 2009

Leeds Festival 2009: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

Ah Branham Park, Leeds. Home of mud, bewildered teenagers who have just had their first taste of beer and/or drugs, and flags. Lots of flags.

Except this year, there were to be no flags, on the express orders of Festival Republic grand fromage Melvin Benn.

Citing commercial exploitation and restricted stage views, there were to be no flags at all during this year’s Leeds Festival. Nor crowd-surfing, although that rule proved particularly difficult to enforce.
Still, a Leeds Festival crowd isn’t going to let a little thing like no flags spoil their festival experience, and Branham Park seemed even more packed to the rafters this year. With five different stages, there was never any chance of anyone being bored.

Our first journey of the day was over to the NME/Radio 1 tent to see Metric. Lead singer Emily Haines looked spectacular in a silvery dress, and tracks like Dead Disco and Monster Hospital were powered through magnificently. Next up was Patrick Wolf, but in the absence of any onstage hissy fits, his slightly overwrought chamber pop left this reviewer rather cold.

Marina And The Diamonds provided the first genuinely exciting moment in the Festival Republic tent. Bouncing onto stage in a “I heart Marina & The Diamonds” t-shirt (“sorry about this, I know it looks a bit sad, but I thought I’d be the only one here” she rather charmingly apologised), she introduced a reasonably full tent to her quirky yet affecting pop. Seventeen and Obsessions were duly sung along to by the faithful at the front, while I Am Not A Robot is quickly becoming one of the most addictive songs of the year. 2010’s next big star, we’d wager.

The eagle-eyed on site had noticed that there was a huge gap between Patrick Wolf’s set and You At Me At Six over at the NME tent. There were also rumours that Josh Homme had been spotted on the site. And so it was that, at approximately 4:30pm, the NME tent erupted when Homme walked on stage, accompanied by none other than Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones.

As one would expect of a supergroup consisting of members of Queens Of The Stone Age, Foo Fighters and Led Zeppelin, Them Crooked Vultures rock. Loud. Tracks like Elephant and Daffodils showcased Grohl’s exemplary drumming and Homme and Jones meshed perfectly. Imagine QOTSA’s grinding rock with some Led Zep flourishes and you’re almost there. Besides, the look of utter delight on people’s faces at being treated to such a surprise was a joy to behold.

After that blistering performance, it was time to get some air. Ian Brown over on the main stage provided the perfect comedown. He may not be able to sing for toffee, but he more than made up for this in sheer stage presence alone. A well paced set of solo songs were very well-received, but it was the appearance of Fools Gold that produced one of the biggest cheers of the weekend.

With the onset of early evening it was time for traditional indie fare, with Maximo Park putting in a typically energetic performance on the main stage, and both White Lies and Glasvegas packing the NME tent. Yet it was over on the main stage where excitement was buzzing, in anticipation of the return of The Prodigy.

And what a return it was. Liam, Keith and Maxim may be well into their 40s now, but their energy levels were awe inspiring. A superb set list leant heavily on hits such as Voodoo People, Smack My Bitch Up and Firestarter, yet newer material like Invaders Must Die and Take Me To The Hospital blended in seamlessly. With Maxim constantly geeing the crowd up with cries of “where’s my Leeds warriors at?”, not one of the several thousand people packed into the field stayed still. It was, simply, a blisteringly good set.

After The Prodigy, there was a danger that Arctic Monkeys‘ headlining show could have been an anti-climax. And so it proved, sadly. A leather-clad and shades wearing Alex Turner beginning with a bunch of new songs and a Nick Cave cover was a brave move, but it seemed to leave the crowd somewhat bemused. Still, once the familiar pounding introduction to Brianstorm kicked in, all was forgiven. Still Take You Home and especially When The Sun Goes Down provided some great singalong moments, while I Bet You Good Look On The Dancefloor inspired predictable mayhem.

Yet the crowd didn’t seem overly taken with the amount of new material (understandable, considering the album had only been on sale four days previously), and as the last strains of 505 floated into the air, there were more than a few grumbles from festival-goers streaming off the site that maybe The Prodigy should have headlined instead. Still, it was only the first day. Plenty more treats still lay ahead.

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