Live Music + Gig Reviews

Festival Review: Leeds 2009, Day 2

29 August 2009

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

It’s just possible that there were a fair few hangovers at Bramham Park as Saturday began. So the soothing sounds of Noah And The Whale on the main stage made for soothing listening.

The band’s recently released second album The First Days Of Spring details the disintegration of Charlie Fink’s relationship with Laura Marling. And you get the impression it’s still pretty raw for Fink, as he looked positively tortured during the title track, Our Window and Blue Skies. Still, it was perfect Saturday afternoon listening, even though there was no room for the band’s biggest hit Five Years Time.
The soothing sounds continued at the Festival Republic tent where The xx took to the stage. Clad all in black, the London four-piece gave slinky, stripped-down renditions of tracks from their superb debut album. There was even a rendition of Womack & Womack‘s Teardrops which they made their own. Even with the ferocious noise from Lethal Bizzle over in the NME tent, they gave a sublime performance.

Following ‘The Bizzle’, former Milliondead frontman Frank Turner kept the energy levels up with a rousing set. Even if his music isn’t your cup of tea, it’s rather inspiring to see thousands of people singing along in unison with every single one of Turner’s songs. It’s a mystery why he isn’t more famous, but he never fails to go down a treat at Leeds. This was a set that boded well for his new album, out later this month.

The atmosphere in the Festival Republic tent was something akin to a homecoming, as local Leeds band Grammatics were next up. Although they may not be that well known yet, West Yorkshire absolutely loved them and sang along to their sweeping, majestic songs. Lead singer Owen Brinley has a voice reminiscent of Jeff Buckley‘s, while Murderers already sounds like a hit in waiting. With a Bloc Party tour support slot coming up, don’t be too surprised to see them break through into mainstream success next year.

Although the many Grammatics fans departed the tent, there was still a healthy crowd for Broken Records. The Edinburgh seven-piece have made one of the best albums of the year, and live they’re a formidable proposition. Although the stage seems almost too small for them, they mix a healthy dollop of Celtic folk with some intense Arcade Fire-style rock. “Has anyone ever heard of us before?” enquired Jamie Sutherland at one point – the roar that followed after the brilliant If The News Makes You Sad means that a lot more people should hear of them soon enough.

Mystery surrounded The Hot Rats until they appeared on stage. For it was none other than Gaz and Danny Coombes from Supergrass, performing a slew of covers, including songs by The Doors, Beastie Boys, Roxy Music and The Beat. It sounds lightweight, but it was tremendous fun and the forthcoming, Nigel Godrich-produced album should be well worth a listen.

Then it was back to the main stage for one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Karen O looked resplendent in a multi-coloured, tassell heavy outfit, while Nick Zinner peeled off one superlative guitar solo after another. Heads Will Roll and Zero got the crowd jumping in unison, while a gorgeous acoustic version of Maps moved many a festival goer to tears. One of the highlights of the weekend for sure.

It seems like Bloc Party are now a permanent fixture at the Leeds Festival – and maybe it’s a case of familiarity breeding contempt. All the old favourites are present and correct – So Here We Are, Hunting For Witches, Positive Tension – but something felt a bit flat. Maybe Kele Okereke could feel it too (“I know you’re only here for Radiohead,” he muttered at one point) but only Helicopter really shook the crowd from their torper. Perhaps a break may be in order for next year.

For Radiohead’s much heralded festival appearance, the stage was festooned with giant cylinders, and instead of the conventional screen we were treated to split-screen footage showing different members of the band simultaneously. It was a typical Radiohead move, and their two-hour set was equally ambitious.

The first half was gloriously atmospheric, with songs such as Nude, Morning Bell and (Nice Dream) seemingly floating across the field while the cylinders lit up in all manner of different colours. They expertedly cranked things up, with Thom Yorke throwing himself around the stage. One of the weekend’s most enduring images came during You And Whose Army, in which Yorke stared into the camera, a close up of his eyeball being magnified onto the screen.

There was even the new, much heralded, track These Are My Twisted Words, before a fan-pleasing end section of Paranoid Android, Just and Everthing In Its Right Place. It was a performance that lived up to the anticipation – and even the absence of tracks like Creep and Karma Police (performed the following night at Reading) couldn’t dampen the atmosphere. Could the final day possibly top this?

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