We arrive early at the festival site and so decide to check out the BBC Introducing stage. Treated to some summery guitar based indie from the USA, we witness Family of the Year garner a sizeable crowd who are soon clapping along. With a full throttle performance that includes earnest vocals over a cascade of jangling guitars and melodic keys, the foot-tapping tunes and energetic performance ensure an engaging and exciting set. The beautiful ballad ‘Hero’ with its soaring vocals and building back beat is a sway along song and shows the band’s versatility in a contrasting clutch of tracks from bouncy upbeat numbers to gorgeous laid back layered compositions . The audience insists on one more song at the end and is rewarded with an anthemic upbeat melody and soulful vocals with a sunshine tinge that certainly leaves us smiling.
We then hot foot it over to the Radio One Stage for the sensational Spector. Having seen them twice this year already, I am firmly convinced of their brilliance prior to the performance and I am certainly not disappointed. The recently released album is a sparkling slice of indie Britpop and during a live show the songs sizzle with creatively composed wit, musicality and infectious catchy choruses that the crowd sing along with throughout the set. Front man Fred Macpherson takes a photograph of the crowd before launching into ‘Celestine’ which has the crowd chanting the lyrics back at the band. ‘Friday Night‘ keeps the crowd bouncing and clapping along with guitarist Burman, although I am sure that I am failing to keep the beat as I am somewhat mesmerised by Macpherson’s visual feast of a shirt as he dances frenziedly throughout the track. Not only do Spector have a collection of classics as a debut album, they also manage to be brilliantly bouncy and effervescently energetic live which makes them the top of our list for acts to see this year. Aural juggernaut ‘Twenty Nothing’ leaves the crowd breathless with its dance inducing music and a frantically fantastic performance by the band.
The gorgeous ‘Grey Shirt and Tie’ showcases Macpherson’s emotive vocals against a backdrop of beautiful balladry from the band. Crowd banter is an integral part of a Spector show, and as Macpherson asks about GCSE results I joyfully cheer along, justifiably proud of my top grades before realising that he is probably addressing the younger members of the audience as my exam success was now so long ago that I should be past celebrating really. ‘What You Wanted’ has the crowd chanting along to the vibrant track and jumping as visual punctuation during the repeated refrain as they become swept away with the live experience that is Spector. Macpherson captivates the audience with an impromptu Dave Grohl impression.
After gently teasing ‘Now is not the time for the Foo Fighters’, Macpherson divides the crowd into two and a ‘boom, boom, boom, let me hear you say Spector’ competition. It is fun, it is tongue in cheek and is very Spector. Following with ‘True Love (For Now)’, a timely reminder that Spector have a new album out and every track shines strongly enough to be included in a live set. Macpherson then ramps up the anticipation in an already enthralled crowd by stating that they’re about to perform the best rendition of this song ever and launch into ‘Chevy Thunder’, a whirlwind of a track that obliterates any doubts that might be remaining in the audience about Spector’s future main stage status. Bassist, Thomas Shickle is down on his knees, wielding his bass like a sword to slay any Spector doubters and after a slightly irrelevant and convoluted metaphor concerning Argos, Macpherson asks if the crowd can name a song they haven’t played yet. I scream ‘Fade Away’ as though my presence could even be detected amongst the forest of shouts for this excellent ending track and the crowd sway along to this epic anthem of a ballad. Spector…they came, they saw…they conquered Leeds Festival conclusively.
What band could possibly follow the entertaining, theatrical, high energy Spector? Thankfully the band that immediately comes to mind as a response to this tricky questions consists of the extremely dapper musicians who stride on to the stage next. A crashing piano ballad indicates the arrival of indie rock royalty and The Hives enter with panache like country gentlemen in top hat and tails as Pelle Almqvist yells ‘Come On’ whilst beckoning the crowd to participate in a frenzy of jumping, dancing and general merriment. Straight into ‘Main Offender‘, a track that sees a triumphant Pelle astride the drum kit, like a puppet master holding all of the strings as he bounces his hand up and down and the crowd jump to the beat. Continuing to enthral the audience,
Pelle struts across the stage suggestively as the band launch ‘Take Back The Toys’ ferociously onto an audience that definitely came here to party if the chaotic crush of joyfully jostling bodies is anything to go by. This reaches a further fever pitch as Pelle moves down to the crowd and those at the front strain to touch him. Having missed the sheer exuberance of The Hives in recent times, ‘Walk Idiot Walk’ recalls the infectious quality of their single releases and has the audience bouncing along boisterously to the beat with drumsticks being thrown into a crowd frantic to catch one. The dancing continues into ‘My Time Is Coming’ with the dance inducing track ensuring a high octane performance from the band. Pelle jumps down into the press pit and allows the crowd a close up before handing out a series of high fives during ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ with the whole tent on backing vocals.
The visual antics continue as Pelle throws his microphone into the air and catches it with style before continuing with ‘Just A Minute’ and then a little call and response under flashing lights and Pelle swathed in a Swedish flag belonging to an audience member. We are then all encouraged to do jazz hands by the band, which we dutifully obey, although I’m not quite sure why because I blinked and The Hives’ set is so fast paced that if you do that you lose track of the action, followed by clapping along, which is more familiar ground as ‘Go Right Ahead’ sees Pelle lifted right into a very enthusiastic crowd by the security personnel. The constant attention to the fans is justly rewarded when Pelle shouts ‘Who do you love?’ and the audience insist ‘The Hives’. Pelle grins and nods then jumps straight into ‘Tick Tick Boom’ with a sensational scissor kick which encourages a crowd surfing frenzy. Stunningly, a freeze frame is held by the band for a minute or two and actually looks awesome before the band encourages the whole tent to sit down on the floor and then launch themselves into the air on cue. ‘Patrolling Days’ sees Pelle hitting himself on the head and performing in a paroxysm of passion before elegantly blowing kisses to the crazed crowd. The Hives harness the crowd into their rock and roll rollercoaster and leave the tent gasping for breath. When it comes to evidence for keeping music live, it doesn’t come much more convincing than this.
Graham Coxon keeps the pace set at frantic in the tent which has become something of a haven from the torrential weather. ‘Advice’ is a punky number that has the crowd moving and is followed by the popular ‘Spectacular’ with Coxon belting out the lyrics to the accompniment of a heavy indie guitar vibe and crashing drums. This causes an enthusiastic bounciness in the crowd which is unfortunate for me as the gentleman in front of me has chosen to wear a neon yellow mankini which doesn’t cover enough of his anatomy to allow that kind of jiggle without a large dose of indecency. ‘City Hall’ sees Coxon delivering ethereal vocals under a swathe of green lights with the epic guitar echoing through the tent and pulling in even more people from the sodden crowd. The frenetic paced melody and cascading repeated refrain after each shouted verse makes ‘Running for Your Life’ a popular choice with the crowd and is followed by the dance inducing ‘What’ll It Take?’ with its insistently strummed guitar and crashing conclusion. A brilliant slice of indie rock with a driving backbeat and passionately delivered vocals, ‘You and I’ has a sing a long ‘lalalala’ bit that is always popular with a festival crowd.
A country style guitar riff infuses ‘Girl Done Gone’ as its drawling lyrics and guitar shredding end. ‘Ooh Yeh Yeh‘ brings the set to a close with a guitar heavy ending and finally an end to the appalling weather.
A hugely enthusiastic crowd greet The Courteneers and really get moving and diving in the all encompassing mud when ‘Welcome to the Rave’ kicks in. The audience woo-hoos throughout the track and the guy in front of me turns and yells ‘they’re so epic’ in my face. The beautiful lamenting lyrics of ‘Please Don’t’ is dedicated to all the exs in the audience and then things get a little strange as a reference to tits seems to encourage many girls in the audience to bare theirs, which seems slightly unnecessary and rather foolish in weather that is so inclement. A ‘let’s hear it for the Northerners’ creates a cacophonous response and the upbeat atmosphere continues with the bouncy tune and rock and roll back beat of ‘Bide Your Time’ which sees the audience raising their arms in the air and singing along with the chorus. The driving, dance inducing rhythm of ‘Sycophant’ has the audience going wild under the flashing white strobe lights and Fray’s soulful earnest vocals echo through the packed tent.
Introducing ‘Take Over The World’ by encouraging the crowd to put their arms around the person next to them if they were in love or just to stare at them if not, this indie rock anthem with its music box keyboard and pounding drum beat is perfectly complemented by Fray’s excellent vocals. The circus tent is then turned in to an awesome indie disco with ‘You’re Not Nineteen Forever’ and then, after announcing a new album in the pipe line ‘What Took You So Long?’ rounded off an energetic and enthusiastically received set list.
With music that sounds like the theme tune to a dark, disjointed fairy tale, the legends that are The Cure take to the stage as white strobe lights strafe the crowd. They open, fittingly enough, with ‘Open’ and no-one wants to go to bed tonight as we are witnessing masters of song writing weaving a magical web of songs that penetrate the frosty air. The sound of a fairy wand and a melody that one would identify as The Cure in a heartbeat indicate that this peerless band are going to perform ‘High’ and Smith’s heartfelt vocals surround the field with a soulful symphony. Cascading chords as the the stage lights twist through a plethora of colours indicate ‘The End Of The World’ and is followed by one of my favourite The Cure tracks ‘Lovesong’ which has the crowd swaying and singing along. Mist shrouds the field and the stage seems to have a mystical, other worldly feel and the band perform ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ followed by ‘Push.’
A huge outbreak of dancing occurs at the start of ‘In Between Days’ and the audience is soon singing along to ‘Just Like Heaven.’ Being here reminds you how extensive a back catalogue The Cure have to select their set list from and these classic tunes resonate across the field. Smith’s guitar jangles through ‘Pictures Of You’ as his ethereal vocal evokes a love lost and is followed by the distinctive synth opening of ‘Lullaby’ with Smith summoning a dark fantasy and unleashing it on the mesmerised crowd. With driving drums and racing riffs ‘The Caterpillar’ has the crowd on backing vocals and a stupendous stuttering vocal. The strobes return for ‘The Walk’as the audience jump around and smile at one another in the knowledge that they are witnessing a very special gig. ‘Friday I’m In Love’ causes a predictable party in the soggy field and people are rocking in their wellies. A tremendous tapestry of a tune is the perfect fabric for Smith’s superb vocals that thread through the melody in ‘Doing The Unstuck’ and then ”Trust’ receives an enthusiastic crowd reaction.
The melancholic beauty of the lovely synth sigh of ‘From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea’ and the tragedy tinged tune of ‘Play For Today’ with Smith’s pathos laden vocals swirl around the spectators and indicate The Cure’s ability to construct compositions of gentle gorgeousness. ‘A Forest’ causes more dancing in defiance of the rain and is followed by ‘Bananafishbones’, a heavier track that has people moshing mildly to the melody. Driving drums and a strong keyboard melody punctuate ‘Primary’ and then the sound of a celestial tale from the Brothers Grimm penetrates the crowd in the form of ‘Want.’ ‘The Hungry Ghost’ sees Smith swathed in blue lights as his spooky vocal melds with the synths and creates a beautifully haunting harmony. The upbeat rocking rhythm of ‘Wrong Number’ encourages more festival fans dancing to Smith’s soaring vocal and shows off some fantastic fretwork.
A darkly discordant tune then echoes through the frosty air and the crowd is treated to ‘One Hundred Years’ and then ‘End’ which we suspect probably isn’t due to the anticipation for a couple more classic Cure tracks but is a real megalith of a melody. Returning triumphantly to the stage after cheers and cries for more, The Cure perform ‘Dressing Up’ with its soaring vocals and then a double whammy of fantastic nostalgia with the brilliant ‘The Lovecats’ and ‘Close To Me’ which cause an ecstatic reaction from the crowd. Synths then spear the air as the crowd sways to ‘Just One Kiss’ and then a smiling Smith performing the luscious ‘Let’s Go To Bed.’ An upbeat, dance inducing rhythm is the back beat of ‘Why Can’t I Be You?’ and you have to wonder if a festival can get any better than this. Well, it turns out that it can actually because The Cure could play ‘Boys Don’t Cry.’ Of course they do and the crowd sing and dance along with Smith, ending this triumphant performance with this Lyric Lounge favourite and making us proud to have been a part of it.
100 words on Leeds Festival
Energetic crowds that come to party. Best back stage area of the festival season. Legendary bands and up and coming artists on offer across the weekend. Classic comedy for those who like to chuckle. Entertainment post gig for those who think sleeping is for wimps. Funky fairground for more frenzied fun. Terrific tradition – Lyric Lounge have attended almost every year. Eclectic collection of artists to suit varied tastes. Headline sets that are long enough to ensure that you hear all of your favourite tracks. Great bands in tents if weather is inclement. Top tunes and fun frolics for all.