Live At Leeds Review
Live At Leeds, now in its 7th year, has fast become a real highlight in the gig calendar and always makes a most suitable way to see in the bank holiday weekend. It can be tricky to get the industry and the acts up North for these types of events, especially with The Great Escape just around the corner and not to mention the fact that this year saw the all-dayer go head to head with Liverpool Sound City, nevertheless Live At Leeds always manages to pull it off. Grander than ever, this year saw 120 acts on the bill with heavyweights including AlunaGeorge, Darwin Deez, Everything Everything, Laura Mvula, Peace, Savages, The Staves and The Walkmen amongst the headliners. Refreshingly the line-up is also made up of some of the brightest most appealing new acts, allowing for neoteric discoveries a plenty.
There’s a tendency, when there’s so many acts playing across a variety of venues, to try and cram everyone in which as we all know is impossible and can take the fun out of proceedings. This year we decided to do things differently, leisurely strolling from venue to venue and rather than sticking to the acts we were familiar with (bar a couple of discernible choices) we decided to give some of the abundant fresh talent on the bill a whirl and low and behold we found ourselves some new firm favourites.
The intimate and affable Nation of Shopkeepers was where we chose to kick things off in the company of the coquettishly beautiful Nadine Carina. With something of a colourful heritage; she’s half Italian, half Croatian, born in Switzerland and based in Liverpool, the curious songwriter was a hearty way to start the day. Granted, I wasn’t sure to begin with; it felt a bit like we were intruding on a recording session rather than a performance, but as soon as I allowed myself to step outside of my comfort zone a little I was enthralled. Her experimental mix of guitar, MIDI, keyboards, assorted percussion instruments and copious use of the loop pedal soon weaved its way into our core and had us a little entranced. Her arcane, raw, somewhat animalistic vocals adding great vehemence and allowing each track to build and build to a natural flourish. Her choice of owl socks also a massive hit.
North East boys Little Comets are always a delight to see live and we couldn’t pass up the chance given we were passing The Academy just as they were hitting the stage. Despite a few technical issues they soared causing the day’s first real tumult of excitement. Their uniform jerky, snappy riffs were a given as were Robert Coles flouncy and arrant vocals. Oscillating between their two albums ‘In Search Of Elusive’ and ‘Life Is Everywhere’, crowd favourites ‘Joanna’ and ‘Worry’ shone with reinvigorated force, their certain blend of Afro-beat lending itself immaculately to a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Having fallen hard for their enigmatic ‘Metal and Dust’, one of the acts I was most looking forward to seeing was the hotly tipped London Grammar. Drawing a huge crowd at the Leeds Met, they played to their biggest audience yet and it was nothing short of serene. Ticking all the boxes; the young, beautiful, accomplished trio demonstrated a resounding level of musicianship with their array of dreamy instrumentation. Their blend of amiable electronica with finespun synths and tender guitars was light and airy in places and more dense and cloudy in others, generating a wonderful labyrinthine aura. And then there was the vocal. Lead singer Hannah possessing a set of lungs that should have Florence quaking in her boots. Robust, elegant and haunting, she coolly wooed us with her genial nodes, hitting notes that we didn’t even know existed. With no gimmicks and an indefinable magnetism, it was quite obvious that London Grammar are destined for ascension.
In something of an ethereal daze we headed down town as up next, bringing the JUMBO vibes back to Nation of Shopkeepers was the effortlessly sassy Chlöe Howl. With a very certain glint in her eye, the ballsy Columbia-signed 18 year old sashayed her way through tracks including ‘Rumour’ and ‘I Wish I Could Tell You’ from her debut EP. Instantly invigorating, her buoyant vibrant demeanour a real breath of fresh air. Exciting and contemporary in every sense. From her cheeky beaming smile to the fizzing bass, it was instantly infectious. ‘No Strings’ complete with its killer synth riff and use of the f-bomb oozed pizzazz and above all else injected some fun. You just can’t argue with the fact that this is the type of thing the industry needs right now; something fresh, convivial and savvy and ultimately something that really perks you up.
Despite having only played a handful of shows, she’s incredibly polished both vocally and in her showmanship, as are her band, confidence clearly having grown exponentially with every gig. Comparisons have been made with the likes of Lilly Allen but Chlöe seems far more credible and the teenage vulnerability that underpins her pithy lyrics makes her even more endearing. Pop music with a good old slather of personality; she’s clearly having a ball too and that only adds to the merriment. ….if only we’d been that cool at 18 years old.
Holy Trinity Church was our next pit stop for singer songwriter extraordinaire Luke Sital Singh. With the exquisite stain glass windows as a back drop, Luke weaved his way through tracks including ‘Fail For You’ and ‘Old Flint’ with raw intensity, his brooding vocals lending themselves gracefully to the ample acoustics of the church. Icelandic songstress Soley proceeded but sadly left us feeling a little underwhelmed. Eager to see how her mesmerising and complex soundscapes would manifest in a live setting; we were expecting something quite spellbounding but were presented with something quite awkward. More concerned with constantly stopping and starting to speak to her engineers it was hard to enjoy the experience, there was something quite self indulgent about it all. Of course it’s important for an artist to feel comfortable whilst performing and for the technical side of things to be correct but when that visibly impinges on the audience’s enjoyment it’s a little vexatious. Nevertheless what we were allowed to enjoy was enigmatic and affecting with a real exploratory feel. It’s just a shame we didn’t get more of it!
And as the day drew to a close it was left to the sprightly Everything Everything to wrap things up. Not ones to shy away from a headline slot, their arresting, velocious sound was a fitting climax. It’s testament to their abounding success this year with sophomore ‘Arc’ that every song in the set was met with equal appreciation from the sweaty crowd. Antsy dance moves both on and off stage for ‘Schoolin’ and ‘Photoshop Handsome’ ensued as did slightly skewed, jittery and joyously undecipherable lyrics from front man Higgs. My favourite part of any EE show is when Jonathan gets his drum out (not a euphemism) because you know that the rip-roaring ‘Cough Cough’ is imminent. It’s fast become their biggest spectacle and in the glorious haze of Leeds University Refectory it well and truly rocketed.
Long live Live At Leeds.
Photo: Andrew Benge
Edited version can be found here: http://www.skiddle.com/news/all/Live-at-Leeds-Review/17096/