Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Leeds 2009 Day 3

In a valiant effort to open a much-needed discussion with us muggles about the state of the music industry, Sunday at Leeds opened with two hours of ‘Instigate Debate’. Ten questions were distributed around the sitting audience to be put to a panel featuring the ubiquitous Jon McClure of Reverend And The Makers, Jamie Fullerton from NME, and Clint Boon of Xfm Manchester. The questions, ranging from ‘Are gig tickets too expensive?’ and ‘Would The Clash or The Libertines ever have made it in today’s industry?’ required some serious thought, resulting in several semi-drunken, semi-sensible outburst from the crowd. But it was McClure who stole the show, turning every question into a mini advert for his oh-so-worthy musical outings. Shush now, young man, and let the rest of us have a say.

It was The Horrors, later on in the afternoon, that proved substance will take you a lot further in life than a loud mouth and a few nice outfits. Their NME/Radio 1 Stage set blew doubters out the arena with new tracks like ‘A Sea Within A Sea’ and reinvented old ones, bolstered by the band’s more confident sound. The struggle with noise-laden records is often in bringing them to a live setting, but The Horrors managed admirably.

The Big Pink, by contrast, nearly fell on their arse with a lacklustre, rambling set of very little energy, failing to recreate any of the buzz surrounding new album ‘A Brief History Of Love’ in the Festival Republic tent. At one point the whole show looked set to implode as the music was replaced by a heated discussion between vocalist Robbie Furze and drummer Akiki Matsuura, presumably about the next song on the setlist. Onlookers stayed politely until the end, but those yet to be convinced by The Big Pink’s big sound are unlikely to be satiated that performance.

Jamie T entertained in a packed out set mid-afternoon, punters struggling for a space in the cavernous NME/Radio 1 tent. His set erred almost on pantomime, the south London wunderkind mustering sing-a-longs and call and responses with all his might. And then, as he drew to a close and everyone present trekked over to see Kings Of Leon on the mainstage, the carnage started. Muddy fields had prompted the organisers to make the festival one-way, and suddenly hundreds of festival-goers found themselves trapped and suffocating in a massive crush to get into the main arena. It was terrifying and frankly could have been fatal – that security were no where to be seen and KOL carried on regardless shows Leeds up as the corporately organised riot for which it has become reknown.

And for what? Kings Of Leon’s set was a disaster of wet stadium rock, a messianic Caleb Followill rambling endlessly about the band’s success and promising fans to return from the US next year with the best album the band have ever made. “Every song I wrote, I thought of England,” he gushed, before launching into the lifeless rock-by-numbers that is ‘Reverie’ and ‘Use Somebody’. Even old tracks ‘Red Morning Light’, ‘Four Kicks’ and ‘Charmer’ seemed devoid of the grit and guts that once made them so special. At the back, watching the circus, early fans felt betrayed. Yet the word on everyone’s lips was that this was the gig of the weekend, the best performance of the band’s career – just proves, if you’re going to sell out, you might as well do it properly. And if the thousand-strong crowd enraptured by this performance are anything to go by, KOL have done it very successfully indeed.

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