Reporter Andrew Trendell reviewed Leeds Festival 2012 at Bramham Park from 24th – 26th August.
Wow, that really escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand, fast. Reading and Leeds is one of the true highlights of the musical calendar, and never has it gone by in such a flash – but what a weekend it was.
These are the fields where history is made. From Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine to The Stone Roses and Meatloaf – the course of a set over the August Bank Holiday weekend has the power to turn good bands into great bands or see giants tumble from almighty heights.
The first band to really grab the occasion by the throat and the hips were the Eagles of Death Metal exquisitely combining Their Queens of the Stone Age-esque desert riffery, with almighty grooves and debauched stage banter.
Things stayed heavy as the thundering Americana folk-punk of Gaslight Anthem drew in massive crowds, which is hardly surprising. I’ve lost count of the number of appearances they’ve made in these fields – I think they’re the unofficial Leeds Festival House Band.
Not that there’s anything wrong with an old favourite – as proven by local lads the Kaiser Chiefs. As Northern and familiar as Kevin Webster’s purple jacket, you can always count on the Chiefs to give Yorkshire exactly what they want: anthems, and lots of them.
Many would sneer and say that their shelf-life ended a good few years ago but the zeitgeist really does go out of the window when all you’re after is good pop fun. With more than a handful of indie disco classics and their rendition of The Who’s Pinball Wizard from the Olympic Closing Ceremony thrown in for good measure, no one whips a crowd up quite like Ricky Wilson. Altogether now: “Oooohhhhh, oooooo-oooooooh, OOOOOOOO-OOOOOHHHHH, OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHH.”
The Black Keys also live up to the sense of ceremony. After years of toil playing sweaty rooms, The Black Keys’ ambitions and impeccable songcraftsmanship have finally exploded into a world of bigger and better things. Some moments of their tightly-knit gritty blues fell a little bit flat in the wide open air, but the awesome impact of Lonely Boy and I Got Mine showed that The Black Keys are more than capable of a headline performance.
Of course, it was the Foo Fighters that everyone was here to see.
Opening with a frantic rendition of White Limo, Dave Grohl and co tore through a 22 song set that leaves no hit untouched.
“Are you ready?” screams Grohl. “We’re going to have some fun tonight. It’s going to be a long night.”
Too right. It was over two and a half hours of rock n’ roll classics that will certainly go down in festival history.
From All My Life to This Is A Call to the closing tear-jerking notes of Everlong, every moment buzzes with electricity.
Just when you’re asking if they could’ve possibly done more, they whip out Roger Taylor’s son for a run-through of Queen’s Tie Your Mother Down. It was all a bit ‘Foos-by-numbers’, but it was more than show-stopping – it was unforgettable.
Saturday afternoon was alright for dancing as sharp-suited Swedes The Hives packed out the Radio One tent for some infectious guilty pleasures, before sweet songstress Lucy Rose more than fulfilled her hype to a pretty rammed Festival Republic Stage.
Having made her way in music by playing with Bombay Bicycle Club, now she’s making a pretty good name for herself solo with her angelic funk-driven folk-pop. It doesn’t take much for her swooning sounds to get the bleary-eyed Saturday crowd swooning.
Shortly after, Alt-J draw indie fans en masse to the Festival Republic tent for an equally triumphant set. With their sky-scorching melodies floating above a foundation of whimsical electronic experimentation, their performance is not only a showcase of their own awesome skill, but a toast to the impeccably rude health of British music today.
To further stress that point, Bombay Bicycle Club’s majestic skitter-pop sends waves of glorious good feeling throughout the fields of Yorkshire as their main stage slot proves exactly festival boss Melvin Benn has already marked their card with the words ‘future headliner’. The smiles that spread across Leeds will only be outlived by the choruses of earworms Shuffle and Always Like ringing out into the hills.
Emo power-pop princess Hayley Williams and the new line-up of Paramore bring a short-sharp kick of radio hits to keep the pre-pubescents entertained before The Cure take Leeds on a long and meandering walk down memory lane.
The word ‘epic’ is overused in music reviews, but it’s the only word that does justice to the mighty prowess of icon Robert Smith as he leads his rag-tag band of ghouls through a 33 song demonstration in why they’re one of the greatest pop bands in the history of recorded sound.
He may look like a cross-dressing, overstuffed meat scarecrow in your nan’s Miss Selfridge top, but Mr Smith and The Cure still sound as soul-searing and essential as they ever have. Far better than Macca has lately too.
From the haunting chimes of Open onwards, every moment feels extraordinary. What other band could play a set that flows so beautifully and effortlessly from the likes of (take a deep breath) In Between Days into Just Like Heaven into Pictures Of You into Lullaby into The Caterpillar into The Walk?
The Cure are icons for a reason, and tonight was a two-and-a-half hour masterclass in why.
Distant ancestors of The Cure, The Mystery Jets picked up the baton on Sunday morning with a delightful and danceable dose of latest album Radlands along with other nuggets of shameless indie-pop genius like Two Doors Down and Half in Love With Elizabeth.
Over on the smaller stages, the new kids kick up a storm as Notts lads Dog Is Dead get the weary Sunday crown going before Noel Gallagher’s new best mate and Nottingham’s other most promising bright young thing Jake Bugg dazzles with his spikey sounds.
Future folk heroes Dry The River were the greatest revelation of the weekend. Lazy ears might lump them with the likes of Mumford and Sons, but their accomplished sound, rich melodies and fiery performance put them in a class of their own.
The Vaccines sent the crowd feral in a way that only they could before Florence and the Machine held Leeds enraptured with her huge lungs and monolithic ballads. Usually, she does my head in – but wow, can she put on a show. As she skipped across the stage holding thousands of devotees in the palm of her hand, I had to admit I was converted (and never before have I seen so many teenage girls stood on shoulders at once).
Capping the event off in their own idiomatic styles across three stages were a trio of headliners in the form of Feeder, At The Drive-In and Kasabian.
While Feeder drew a pretty impressive crowd considering the competition and their ever-declining profile, their classics sounded as harmless but awesome but newer tracks sounded desparate and a little bit cabaret.
Running over to the Radio One Stage to see the recently reformed At The Drive-In was worth the jog, as El Paso’s wildest sons made the long-awaited return that we’d never thought we’d see and belted out an inimitably insane and dizzying Wurlitzer of post-rock .
At this festival, more than any other, there’s always a volatile sense of bravado in the air – like anything could happen at any moment. That is exactly what Kasabian are all about.
Four lads from Leicester tore the sky down with fire, fury and a fistful of rock n’ roll. As singer Tom Meighan pointed to the moon to dedicate Let’s Roll Just Like We Used To to late astronaut Neil Armstrong, I daresay the crowd were loud enough for him to hear.
Leeds Festival 2012 may have flown by far too quickly, but it was one that will endure – a weekend to remember.
Review by Andrew Trendell
Photos by Ian Taylor, Kristina Mordokhovitch, Pooneh Ghana, Giles Smith and Andrew Trendell
- Check back later for MORE pictures of all of the best acts in our special Leeds Festival 2012 slideshow