Leeds Festival - Bramham Park - 29.8.04
Its the closing day of Leeds Festival and we're all a little tired and emotional. So when faced with a few minutes of the 5678's we have no choice but to turn and look the other way and much of the crowd felt the same way. Sure "Woo Hoo" was one of the anthems of the festival and barely a night went past without the cries rallying around the camp site, but we must also remember that the other chant going round the site was bollocks. Put em together and you get exactly what we saw for the rest of 5678's set. Onwards and upwards is what we'd expect with the Bloc Party. But despite the fact the crowd ended up going wild for a full 30 minutes we didn't find anything of interest apart from the singles "Little Thoughts" and "Banquet". A dirge fronted by a Robert Smith aping frontman isn't exactly something new in 2004 and although they're seen as the figureheads of the New Cross DIY scene we'd actually look at Luxembourg as the real deal.
Agent Blue are the first real highlight of the day. A tour de force playing to the youth who mosh frenziedly at the front with home-made Agent Blue flags pledging their allegiance to the movement. With an energy comparable to fallen indie rock heroes Symposium they have the desired effect of baffling anyone over the age of twenty one, who in turn run aghast back for their Keane albums. One song sounds like Oasis' "Columbia" played twice as fast and although the rest of the songs don't quite match it, they make up for it with the sheer energy alone.
The Leeds Festival crowd don't know what to make of Razorlight. Johnny Borrell's confidence comes across like a more reserved English Howlin Pelle and as they play the crowd don't know whether to mosh or simply stand in awe. "Stumble & Fall", "Golden Touch" and "Vice" demand the crowds attention, but sadly the crowd stands indifferent. The crowd does go mad for Har Mar Superstar, the tents overflowing about 3 metres...and yet we don't see why. The limp electro funk doesn't match Chromeo on Friday and the fact he's a celebrity sleaze bomb soon grows tired. After just twenty minutes we've had enough of this Har Mar Superbore.
During Franz Ferdinand's "Michael" we ended up in the gents toilets and sang the words aloud much to the bemusement of the 10 strong queue behind us. Now if there's a funnier thing to do at a festival than singing the words "You're the only one I'd ever want. Beautiful boys on a beautiful dancefloor" at the urinal we'll pay £10 to the best suggestion. The fact that we missed the rest of Franz Ferdinand's set didn't seem to matter after this, so we grabbed a pint and headed down to watch the Libertines. After hearing on the rumour mill that Pete had tried to turn up at the Reading leg of the weekend to make up with Carl and play with the band there was something unnerving about the bands performance. If you looked in Carl's eyes there was something missing, a detachment with reality like he was simply going through the motions and didn't really want to be up there on stage without his brother in arms. Seeing Pete a couple of weeks ago performing with Babyshambles in Manchester it's clear that although Pete's a lost soul he's still got the support of the fans. By the look on Carls face you wonder exactly who he has got looking out for him apart from the management and record company who are keen to keep the Libertines machine rolling on. "Up The Bracket", "What A Waster", "Boys In The Band" and "Can't Stand Me Now" we're all present, how present Carl actually was is up for debate.
If there was justice Morrissey surely wouldn't be playing second fiddle to the White Stripes. Still we have to be thankful he turned up after the no show at the Benacassim Festival a few weeks earlier. Morrissey's comeback has been nothing sort of spectacular and whereas once we'd come to expect the odd show here and there he now surely must be working above and beyond EU Worktime Regulations. After seeing Mozzer twice over the past four months there was a sense of whether he could deliver something different and we weren't disappointed. Opening with a glorious version of "How Soon Is Now?", a song which was reported to be hit or miss back in the Smiths hay day. Heading straight into "November Spawned A Monster" and then "First Of The Gang To Die" it really was a case of picking the best songs from a career spanning over 20 years.
"There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" as always is one of the highlights of the set, but it was during "Such A Little Thing Makes A Difference" when Moz writhed around on the floor with his legs spread which was more illuminating. Ad-libbing towards the end of the song he sings the line "most people keep their brains between their legs" before cheekily adding "I do". A rare outing of "Now My Heart Is Full" from "Vauxhall & I" is welcomed by rapturous applause and just moments after the tongue in cheek remark earlier Mozzer gets serious announcing that "just remember if you vote for Blair, you vote for Fascist Bush" before launching into "Irish Blood, English Heart". Ending on "Shoplifters Of The World Unite" you can help but notice a tear in Morrissey's eye and you begin to wonder if Morrissey has realized for the first time since he made this year comeback that the world really does love him more than he could ever imagine. As I look to my right Marc Riley of Mark & Lard fame is singing along to every word, his young daughter in front of him joins in on the newer material and you realize this comeback has not only reached out to the old fans, but to a whole new generation as well.
It made perfect sense that as Morrissey left the stage the heavens opened and as he predicted early on the evening "it's going to get a lot worse from here on". From the moment The White Stripes came on stage they could only disappoint us. Usually a firm festival favourite it seems that following Morrissey was always going to leave them handicapped.
What classic Morrissey / Smiths song would you like to see added to the set?
Are Agent Blue Britain's Best New Live Band?
Have the White Stripes had their day?
Should Carl let Pete back in the Libertines?
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Young, dumb and full of fun (Ed: We thought you were going to say something else then Nick), Fireapple Red come across like a heavier version of A. This five piece hard-core band scream, howl and rock out with some nifty guitar solos. Touring with Bad Religion must have rubbed off on the band as they work the crowd mercilessly, although midday on Sunday is perhaps a little too early for moshing. Their self-titled album was released last year and should be an essential purchase for those of you who live, breathe and sleep rock music.
Who said the Americans don't understand irony? The Bronx who are on the Radio One Stage are actually from Los Angeles, those crazy guys. Predictable but engaging, the Bronx are a typically loud and unsophisticated bunch with a tired and turgid punk rock ethic. They do encourage the first crowd surfer of the day though. "Stop Love Bleed" is passable enough, but nothing to write home about. Much better is recent single "They Will Kill Us All (without mercy). One dimensional and too eager to please, I was glad their set was only 35 minutes.
Recently invited personally by Morrissey to the Meltdown Festival, The New York Dolls have made a successful comeback. Before even one not of music is played, David Johansen recites some poetry and dedicates the performance to recently departed bass player Arthur 'Killer' Kane. Still relevant and important The Dolls know how to party with their brand of glam rock posturing, punk sensibility and outrageousness. We sing along to "Rock N Roll Nurse" and marvel at the spectacle of such an entertaining performance. There's a song in memory of the other members of the band who have sadly passed away and the bass player from Hanoi Rocks does Arthur proud. For such an exceptional performance picking one single highlight isn't easy, but after much thought it has to be "Trash" with the OTT delivery.
The Ordinary Boys, 75% Mod and 25% Moz, these southern boys may be inspired by late 70s Jam and early Smiths but the vitality of the songs give them a contemporary sheen. Tracks from "Over The Counter Culture" were written to be played live and the crowd are cock-a-hoop at such a lively display of showmanship. "Week In, Week Out" is tremendously tight and vibrant with William J Browns guitar licks emulating the skill of Johnny Marr. The four lads force us into submission with their cover of "Summertime Blues", which leaves us wanting more but alas its their last song. An excellent finale all the same.
In order to facilitate my cheery demeanour I arrive at the comedy tent and see George Egg who's an amiable, rotund man with an easy going, likeable attitude. He's also refreshingly old school, not afraid to use props when necessary. His musings on Jeremy Beadle (easy target, but a funny routine) elicit guilty laughs while the Stephen Hawking material is priceless. The retro stuff like ZX Spectrum and Daley Thompsons Decathlon is well observed, delivered with a longing for nostalgia. Avoiding politics but keeping us all amused with his warped view of life, George Egg is a name to look out for on the comedy circuit. American comedian Peter Berman is a non stop rant, whether is be British Rail, Tony Blair, George Bush or speed cameras. His brash arrogant manner is hard to warm to and while occasionally amusing he's no one special. Like a bargain basement Bill Hicks, but nowhere near as good.
What must be going through the mind of The Libertines Carl Barat? His bandmate and friend Pete Doherty has been arrested, jailed, re-united with his band, then succumbed to drugs again and been asked to leave the band till he cleans up. The pressure is on for the band to carry on while Pete continues with his Babyshambles. Despite playing without Pete, and we all miss this charismatic character, they play a blinding set on the main stage. For some reason the crowd seem unimpressed and restless. With everything to prove The Libertines are giving their all, but the audience aren't really appreciating it. Some of the album tracks of their latest release may take time to enjoy, but the single "Can't Stand Me Now" is their best yet. The Libertines are so much better now than they were when they first arrived on the scene. Much more than an above average indie band, the band play to their strengths on "The Boys In The Band" and "I Get Along". Don't write them off just yet.
The last band on the last night of the festival is The White Stripes. I've seen these guys before at the Manchester Apollo and I failed to see their appeal so as a reasonable man I decided to give the Detroit duo another chance. The White Stripes have the cool image, back to basics style and the whole are they brother / sister, husband / wide curiosity going on. This being their last show of the year, it becomes clear after a few songs that they still don't float my boat. I just find them one dimensional, repetitive and a little dull. Jack White's a rock n roll guitarist with flourishes of Hendrix, but his voice while unique can become annoyingly shrill. The singles "Hotel Yorba" and riff-tastic "Seven Nation Army" still blow us all away though, myself included.
Before I retire for the evening I pop into the concrete jungle stage and watch a headlining set from A. They've been quiet of late, but the amount of new songs unveiled demonstrate that their forthcoming fourth album should be a corker. The bands determination and enthusiasm pays off as their many fans mosh as if their life depends on it. Their return is a fantastic close to this years Leeds Festival.
Nicholas Paul Godkin
Who did you see in the Comedy Tent over Leeds Festival?
Concrete Jungle - is it the best tent of the weekend or what?
Have the White Stripes had their day?
What do you think of the New York Dolls comeback?
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