Most of the music world has been eagerly awaiting the return of The Libertines, and I’m sure by reading this review you’re curious as to whether they still have the magic or if they screwed it up. I’ll get back to this later but let’s just say the set wasn’t uneventful…
As we arrived on the Friday there was a smug feeling on the Leeds festival site with all the stories of mud baths at sister site Reading, helping to prove the commonly known fact up North that the Yorkshire site provides the better festival experience.
Lining up in front of the main stage the sounds of Hoppipolla by Sigur Ros managed to get all the sunbathers to rise to their feet in anticipation of Modest Mouse. The big question everyone was asking was if Johnny Marr would join them on stage as he was due to do a set with The Cribs a couple of hours later. Issac Brock, his beanie hat and his 5 compatriots came on stage and entertained the alternative crowd with hits from his growing back catalogue. The smugness was wiped off faces as the first of the predicted showers hit the site whilst the two drummers who from a distance looked like and played like twins at times. For lesser bands the crowds would have dwindled as festival goers hid for shelter in nearby tents, but the dedicated crowd stayed and were treated to a strong set even without Johnny Marr or their best know track due to the Guitar Hero game, ‘Float On’.
Frank Turner started off in the guise he's been building a live reputation off at festivals, coming out alone, with an acoustic guitar and hundreds of people singing every word of The Real Damage with echo’s of “halfway through best days of your life” reverberating through the tent. Joining him almost seamlessly for the second track the rest of his band including a misplaced bass player who probably was previously in a metal band judging by his moves. Much of the set was spent with Frank bouncing around stage like Tigger and encouraging audience participation with pretty much every song, including a brand new track which brought huge cheers at the lyric “Who'd have thought something as simple as rock n roll would've saved us all”. Finishing the set with a circle jig instead of a circle pit, Frank Turner left another festival crowd grinning from ear to ear.
Now this is probably the most difficult review I’ve ever had to write, the band that truly got me into music, the band I followed round the country, the band that I followed every up and down of since reformed for a special appearance at Reading and Leeds festivals. For the last 5 months I’ve been trying to lower my expectations, knowing that if I raise them I’ll only be disappointed that nothing can match a sweaty night at Nottingham’s Rock City or Sheffield’s Leadmill.
To the tune of wartime favourite ‘We’ll Meet Again’ a montage of old images depicting Carl and Pete as best mates seemed a fitting way to reintroduce the band to the public at large. Starting with Horror Show the crowd quickly got back into the swing of things, the front of the crowd bouncing in unison, but it quickly looked like the reformation was over. After a couple of tracks Pete and Carl left the stage in confusion or what seemed like a badly managed publicity stunt, my cynicism turned out to be an overly raucous mosh pit, where the band were asked to leave stage whilst everyone was helped up onto their feet.
My personal highlights included the opening riffs of ‘Death on the Stairs’, the crowd joining in note perfect on “Oh I cherish you my looove “ in ‘Time for Heroes’, early demo ‘What a Waster’ and Pete accidentally (or not) pushing Carl off the microphone during closing song ‘I Get Along’, all first album tracks, but fans rightly loved later tracks like ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’ and ‘Music When The Lights Go Out’.
They weren't note perfect but they never were. It was all about the chemistry, no, it didn't reach the drug fuelled highs of the past but it was certainly a long way from the drug fuelled lows too. At the moment there's no talk of this becoming anything more than just a couple of gigs but I personally think it would be a waste of their talents and songs that have inspired and helped define the last decade of UK guitar bands.
After a band as emotionally draining as The Libertines, Arcade Fire had a lot to live up to. But they are epic in every sense of the word, from the huge lighting rigs and props on stage to the sheer number of people, there's 8 of them, EIGHT!! An alternative pop orchestra with two of the best albums of the last decade, recent album ‘The Suburbs’ has just hit UK number one. Known best for their anthemic tracks building up to frantic endings they drew a large expectant crowd.
The new album doesn’t have the same impact as Funeral and Neon Bible, on record or live, and I think even with eerie mystical tracks like Rococo they don’t manage the same heights as their earlier counterparts. But saying that, there’s not many bands who can finish on five tracks as good as ‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’, ‘Rebellion (Lies)’, ‘Month Of May’, ‘Keep The Car Running’ and an encore of ‘Wake Up’. Up until Wake Up the crowd was fairly subdued and increasingly sparse, which seemed a shame but probably said more about the selection of Arcade Fire as Main Stage Headliners than the quality of the Canadian band?