Live Reviews

Leeds Festival @ Branham Park, Leeds: Day 3

30 August 2009


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

The final day of the Leeds Festival had arrived. After watching an entertaining debate in the Alternative Tent featuring Reverend And The Makers’ Jon McClure in full-on rant mode, it was over to the Festival Republic tent for yet another Queens Of The Stone Age spin-off band, Sweethead.

The creation of QOTSA guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, Sweethead play grinding rock. The glamourous blonde presence of lead singer Serrina Sims takes them to a whole new level though, as she prowls the stage dressed all in white, blowing kisses to the audience – it’s fair to say that more than a few indie boys were gazing up at the stage looking rather googly-eyed.
Amazing Baby‘s album was released earlier this year with a fair degree of hype, but the overall result was a tad mediocre. Live though, they’re a whole other prospect – the Brooklyn four-piece really beefed up their sound and tracks like Headdress, Bayonets and the closing, astounding The Narwhal rocked up a storm.

The last time this reviewer saw Victoria Hesketh at the Leeds Festival, she was playing to literally a handful of people on the Unsigned stage with her band Dead Disco. Three years later, as Little Boots, she’s one of the biggest pop stars in the country, and the NME tent was packed to the rafters for her return.

She may not be the most obvious ‘festival-friendly’ act, but she played one of the best-received sets of the weekend. With her trusty Tenori-On she sparkled through hits like New In Town and Remedy and had the crowd in the palm of her hand. The most touching moment was reserved for Stuck On Repeat though, when she asked the audience to sing Happy Birthday to her amusingly inebriated brother, before her entire family invaded the stage. One of the happiest sets of the festival.

At the opposite end of the spectrum to Little Boots’ sparkly pop was The Horrors‘ dark rock – and considering that Primary Colours is one of the albums of the year, their set was incredibly disappointing. Sounding lethargic and looking bored, only Who Can Say came close to recreating the thrill of the Geoff Barrow-helmed studio masterpiece, even if a version of Joy Division‘s No Love Lost made for a cracking opener.

XL labelmate Jack Peate provided the NME Tent with a much needed adrenaline shot next. His latest album Everything Is New is a reinvention of sorts, but he was savvy enough to keep the crowd-pleasing tracks from his first album, thus ensuring mass dances and singalongs to Second Minute Or Hour and Torn On The Platform. Yet it was the newer material that really sparkled, featuring Peate diving into the audience during an ecstatic Let’s All Die, resulting in losing a rather natty white shoe. “Who took my shoe? I’ll come back in there and find you” he joked, before finishing the rest of the set barefoot.

While Florence And The Machine were drawing the NME Tent’s biggest crowd of the weekend, we braved the rain to venture across to the Festival Republic tent to catch The Big Pink. The London duo (augmented to a four-piece for their live show) have created one of the finest albums of the year in A Brief History Of Love, and although still finding their feet live, they did more than enough to demonstrate why there’s such a fuss around them. Crystal Visions and Velvet were beautiful, while Dominoes is already an anthem, going by the reaction of the crowd. Watch them go stellar.

Friendly Fires are already pretty stellar of course, and they drew a huge crowd, happy to dance in the puddles to the St Albans trio’s cowbell-heavy synth-pop. It didn’t seem to matter that every single song sounded exactly the same, or that In The Hospital blatantly rips off Talking Heads‘ Crosseyed And Painless; the crowd were quite happy to lose themselves for half an hour. Which, in the end, is what a decent festival set is all about. A bit of originality would go down well next time, although Ed Macfarlane’s hips deserve an award all of their own.

Jamie T may have been away for a couple of years, but he still attracts a huge army of followers. After a restrained acoustic performance of St Christopher, it was mayhem all the way, with raucous renditions of Salvador, Ike & Tina and upcoming single Chaka Demus. While the biggest cheer of the set was reserved for Sheila (particularly the screaming refrain of “Lahhndan!”), the highlight was the exhilarating rush of Sticks And Stones, one of the best singles of the year.

While the masses poured out of the tent to swoon at Kings Of Leon over on the main stage, it was left to the faithful to witness the return of seminal rockers Faith No More. After an absence of 11 years, this was only the band’s second UK festival appearance of the year, and although the tent was only about two-thirds full, an almighty roar still greeted Mike Patton and company when they walked on to the stage.

After a languid rendition of the Midnight Cowboy theme, the five-piece launched into a brutal From Out Of Nowhere and, for the next 90 minutes, chaos reigned. It was a superb set, with classics like Epic and Midlife Crisis dusted down and sounding better than ever. For some reason, they even broke into the EastEnders theme tune twice, and Patton caused security guards minor palpitations by wading into the crowd a few times. After so long away, there was a danger that Faith No More may have lost their fire – not a bit of it.

It was a fine way to round off the weekend. The Leeds Festival may have its flaws – a preponderance of beered-up lads looking for a fight for one – but it will remain one of the major staples of festival life for many years to come.


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