LIVE REVIEW: Leeds Festival – Sunday @ Bramham Park, Leeds – 28th August 2016

After the lashing rain that’s persisted through most of the night, Sunday actually seems fairly mild by comparison. Musically though, it’s anything but, with possibly the highest concentration of heavier bands seen all weekend, and one of the most anticipated headline acts of recent times making their much-feted return to the UK stage.

But seeing as it is Sunday morning and there’s bound to be a fair share of delicate heads, the decision to have Fatherson [7] opening the Radio 1 / NME Stage is incredibly well thought out. There’s a gentle, warm vibe to the Scottish band’s rich indie rock, and the likes of Forest and Lost Little Boys simultaneously entice and caress. It’s further buoyed by Ross Leighton’s vulnerable vocals, forming the basis of the anthemic, emotional core that songs like Just Past The Point Of Breaking are built around. The singalong potential is readily fulfilled too, with Leighton seeming genuinely humbled by the already burgeoning early doors crowd belting out every word. Clearly it’s an indication that Fatherson are onto a good thing. • LN

Opening the main stage of Leeds Festival is kind of a big deal but at no point do Sundara Karma [7] show the pressure. The crowd is huge considering it’s the last day of the festival and an early start but frontman Oscar never waivers in his confidence as he stalks the stage like a modern day Jarvis Cocker during fan favourite Vivienne. New single She Said proves incredibly popular already with a few even singing back but the biggest reactions are saved for older tracks Loveblood and Flame, with the whole crowd clapping along with their infectious melodies. The only disappointing thing is that, despite their best efforts, the band sound slightly washed out as if not sonically ready for such a huge stage, not that the crowd seem to mind. However judging by the ease with which they perform and the reaction they garner, it won’t be the last time Sundara Karma will be gracing the Main Stage. • CD

Whatever’s coming from the Radio 1 / NME stage sounds perfect for a summery day, and even though that’s not exactly what Leeds has gotten today, it certainly feels like it with Sunset Sons [8]. The warmth and energy from the slow-building Remember and slick, funky She Wants is more than enough to magnetise people to the tent as the set goes on, and there’s not an unresponsive person in there. Heads are bobbing to singer Rory Williams’ gorgeous tones and fast-paced delivery which just about falls short of rapping – it’s not a vocal performance you hear every day, and that paired with the instrumental euphoria, particularly in stunning closer On The Road makes this seem inexplicably special. This set has proved that Sunset Sons are a band tailor-made for festivals. • GJ

Think Five Finger Death Punch were a curveball the other day? Then just wait until Clutch [7] turn up on the Main Stage to confuse everyone! Their involvement here of all places was questionable to begin with, only further reciprocated by a crowd of which the majority have no clue what’s actually going on. It’s a shame because Clutch play so well, a grizzled concoction of hip-swinging boogie rock and guttural delta blues, fronted by their crazed, southern preacher of a frontman Neil Fallon. Fallon really is the engine room that drives the band’s sound today, wailing and screaming his way through scorching cuts like Firebirds! and A Quick Death In Texas before rounding off on a fantastically dirty Electric Worry. It’s the sharpest left turn in sound you’re likely to see here, but while Clutch mightn’t be what the Leeds Main Stage wants, they’re definitely the sort of thing it needs. • LN

Skindred [9] playing a Main Stage mid-afternoon slot – surely everyone knows the outcome by now. And with their set bumped up to an hour thanks to the very last minute cancellation of Parkway Drive, it’s only got to be better, right? Too right it does! The Welsh wonders have become known for translating a consistently patchy discography into a first-class party metal live show, and today they do as stellar job as always. It’s in no small part down to frontman Benji Webbe being the larger-than-life, über-charismatic character he is; he’s consistently bawdy and obnoxious, but instantly lovable and frequently hilarious (choice cut: “If anything I’ve said today has offended you…fuck off, you cunt!”). The band’s presence is as integral to the show as their songs – Nobody and Kill The Power are the sort of rabble-rousing anthems that a high-profile set needs, but punctuated by Webbe’s jabs at the crowd and what genuinely border on skits at points (DJ Dan Sturgess drops Justin Bieber’s Sorry mid-set after a prompt to play some “satanic shit”), the whole experience is tied together under the banner of “bloody fantastic time”. Rounding off with Warning and the now traditional Newport Helicopter is the kind of thing that pure festival gold is made from. • LN

It’s a hard job for Whitney [5] who not only have to perform at a festival, but they have to win around the huge crowd who are patiently waiting for Blossoms to come on next. They do a decent job as vocalist and drummer Julien Ehrlich puts himself at the centre of the stage and commands attention; the southern tinge to their sound is more than pleasant as they plough through tracks such as Polly and Golden Days. However, the songs seem to go on to long and there is no knowing where one song finishes and another begins unless the band say otherwise. Perhaps they can tell that attention is fading because they resort to a quick fumble on the speaker and being doused in water while shirtless to grab it back. It certainly does the trick for all of five minutes before a cover of Bob Dylan’s Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You is attempted. Whitney do it justice but a festival should be fun and energetic and Bob Dylan hardly conveys these things. In spite of a slightly reluctant audience and banter that is more of an in-joke for the band, Whitney produce a decent set and should be proud. • CD

 As thousands of excited Parkway Drive fans approach the Main Stage for the metalcore mob’s debut performance at the festival, they’re greeted by, well, a leather-clad, long-haired indie band. Citing family issues, Parkway Drive have pulled out of Leeds, and festival organisers have seized the opportunity to give Judas [6] a shot at the big time. Genre-wise, it’s a stupid replacement, but seeing as the Scouse quartet were intended for a tiny slot at the Jack Rocks tent, they do a good job adjusting to the considerable scaling up. Call Me and Love Is The Enemy carry well (even though most of the crowd are grumbling about no breakdowns and paying little attention), but it’s obvious Judas are new to this kind of set. Frontman John Clancy seems to plug a social media link of theirs between nearly every song, and it’s a bit of a vibe killer. But regardless of performance, Judas will have certainly increased their Facebook like count by playing this slot, and kudos to the festival organisers for giving them a chance. • GJ

 Five thousand or so people have piled into the Radio 1 / NME tent for Blossoms [9] and the band exceed expectations from start to finish. From the moment they step on stage the crowd go mad and are putty in their hands as they blister through tracks such as the glam rock of At Most A Kiss and radio friendly Honey Sweet. My Favourite Room allows frontman Tom Ogden to truly shine as the band leave him to do it solo. It seems he relishes the opportunity, altering the track so it’s dedicated to a recently broken up couple (hi, Ben and Martha) before he leads the crowd in a medley of You’re Gorgeous and Half The World Away. The band return and resume their triumphant show, with Charlemagne bringing to an end a set that is far too short for many fans there. As soon as that familiar riff kicks in, the crowd go mad and it’s impossible not to be swept along in the sea that the jumping crowd has now become. A quick “viva Stockport” sees the exit of a band that have just marked themselves out as future main stage residents. • CD

 Having conquered the Radio 1 / NME Stage last year, the only logical move for Slaves [6] this year is the Main Stage. And with their formidable in-your-face live prowess and pounding punk jams, everything’s set for a game-changer. Except that doesn’t quite happen. The songs played are a mixture of EP songs and cuts from Are You Satisfied?, and the lulls in the set mostly lie with the former. While a storming White Knuckle Ride opens proceedings, Girl Fight and Beauty Quest don’t hit the heights of Sockets, Cheer Up London and The Hunter, and everything seems rushed and a bit too fuzzy. It’s not as enjoyable as a Slaves set usually is, and it’s hard not to imagine how much better this set could be in a small room. A passable Main Stage debut. • GJ

As far as You Me At Six [8] are concerned, everything that happens before January is just the build-up to their big moment. Their fifth album Night People was announced only a few days ago along with the title track, and while this secret set on The Pit may see them take residence on the smallest stage they’ve played for a long time, it’s the perfect opportunity to get back on the horse and get the hype meter rocketing back up. So it’s a good thing they don’t screw up then, isn’t it? Apart from a power cut midway through Loverboy that temporarily derails pretty much everything, the Surrey lads’ set goes off without a hitch, with their massive alt-rock anthems sound absolutely life-affirming here. Stay With Me and Reckless are the sort of foundation-testing bangers that this band excels at, while Night People has a hulking swagger that’s more akin to Royal Blood than anything they’ve previously pulled off. It takes a searing final gambit of Bite My Tongue (dedicated to late Architects guitarist Tom Searle) to summarise everything this set throws onto the table – at the level that You Me At Six have returned at, there’s no stopping them whatsoever. • LN

For a band who’ve been so adored both critically and within the UK rock community, the tent for Milk Teeth [7] is surprisingly sparse. Regardless, there’s a lot to be gleaned by the dedicated few from the band’s punked-up grunge racket. Becky Bloomfield’s bass tone is enough to set teeth rattling on Brickwork, and the nervous shimmy of Brain Food sets up a solid foundation nice and early with its infectious yet downbeat melodies. Ultimately though, while there’s enough goodness in their short set to justify their place amongst the top crop of emerging British bands, it betrays the fact that they’re perhaps the ones with the most growing as a band to do; they can sometimes feel ploddy and tired and tail off towards the end, and the dedication to Harambe the gorilla reaches a level of peak meme that no band should ever aspire to hit under any circumstances. But this is very much a band still in its infancy, and even with that qualifier, they’re pretty damn good at what they do already. • LN

Having read numerous reports of how frantic their live shows are, we’re a little sceptical as we make our way to the Festival Republic Stage to see VANT [9], but our doubts are quickly silenced. Playing their whole Spotify back catalogue, the band deliver blistering renditions of tracks such as Jesus Was A Conman and Karma Seeker before the crowd could even catch a breath. A hundred people strong mosh pit punctuates the set, as frontman Mattie Vant challenges Leeds to better that created by Reading, always a dangerous thing to do and the chaos that ensues survives the whole set. Even the band aren’t free from injury as guitarist Henry cuts his finger while shredding his guitar and the gentle ribbing that it creates showcases the natural charm of the band that makes them so likeable. It’s so refreshing to see a band that are actually passionate about what they are doing and that passion and fire is consumed by the audience who go berserk, nowhere more so than for radio regular Fly-By Alien. If VANT aren’t on your to see list, put them on immediately. • CD

“Welcome to our second show,” beams William DuVall. The Alice In Chains frontman is clearly talking about Giraffe Tongue Orchestra [6], the hotly anticipated AIC / Mastodon / Dillinger Escape Plan supergroup who have chosen The Pit to make its live debut. Not that you’d be able to tell though, with the tightness and synergy that the quintet display clearly being a result of their day jobs in such widely adored bands. The fact that the collective sound pretty good is also a bonus, infusing hard rock with elements of prog and post-hardcore, with DuVall showing himself as a truly visceral frontman. The problem is that, as of now, they’ve only actually got two songs for public consumption, meaning that, no matter how good they are, there’s an overt branding of “curiosity” on their collective forehead. An over-familiarity also begins to set in before long, the only breaks from the formula being the Stones-esque sass of Everybody Gets Everything That They Really Want and the squawking disco-rock of Blood Moon. As of now, the jury’s out on whether Giraffe Tongue Orchestra really live up to the sum of their parts, but hey, the album’s not that far away. • LN

We saw The Vaccines’ Justin Young strut around the Main Stage like a total rockstar on Friday – Liam Fray of the Courteeners [8] certainly doesn’t strut, but he possesses the same rockstar quality while still keeping his feet on the ground. He tells the (huge) crowd how he attended Leeds Festival as a punter and about his drunken memories at Bramham Park. It’s excellent seeing someone relatable so high up on the Main Stage. The songs prove that the quartet are more than worthy of their place, too. Cavorting provides blissfully youthful energy, Small Bones is nothing short of heartwearming, and of course, Not Nineteen Forever plays the indie anthem of which the crowd can laddishly sing the guitar line. Courteeners have clearly mastered ringleading huge crowds, and from here, the future looks even brighter. • GJ

After two days where the vast majority of punters has been early- to mid-twenties at the very highest, it’s a weird sight to see the old guard of rockers fill The Pit for Kvelertak [7]‘s set. It makes sense in reality though – there’s definite widespread appeal in the Norwegians’ fusion of classic rock and black metal, and even after the flabby mess that was Nattesferd, their live show still has a surplus of fire in cuts like Bruane Brenn and a much-improved 1985. The driving focal point still remains frontman Erland Hjelvik; part tatted-up longhair, part Viking warrior, he’s the aesthetic lifeblood of Kvelertak that makes it that bit more interesting as a show, from his jewel-encrusted owl mask / helmet combo to the gigantic branded flag he brandishes over the first few rows of the crowd. It’s still debatable whether Kvelertak can truly be classed as extreme metal, but for this more uncompromising breed of heavy music, they’re flying the flag at Leeds – both figuratively and literally – and it’s hard to think of anyone more capable. • LN

On the face of it, it’s surprising that Imagine Dragons [8] are back at Leeds; not just that, but a step higher than their last appearance in 2014, now acting as main support to Red Hot Chili Peppers. They seem like a band everyone knows a handful of songs by, but not a full albums worth. But as Dan Reynolds launches himself into the crowd for Shots and It’s Time, it’s obvious that isn’t the case at all. People are visibly passionate about this band, singing lesser-known album tracks like Hear Me and the stunning Amsterdam word-for-word. On top of that, Imagine Dragons have clearly upped the ante themselves, and they sound a lot tighter than they did two years ago. The amateurish production of songs from latest album Smoke + Mirrors is thankfully completely mastered in a live setting, and Gold in particular sounds absolutely gargantuan. Reynolds himself is something special, too, striking a perfect balance between putting his heart and soul into the performance (ripping his trousers in the process) and being as interactive as possible, spending as much of the set in the crowd as he does onstage. He refreshingly makes sure his fellow band members get their moment in the spotlight too, with Wayne Sermon getting a guitar solo and Dan Platzman a drum solo. Moments like these do carry on for a bit too long and affect the performance’s momentum, but all in all it’s extremely strong. They may not be able to get much higher on the Main Stage, but a return in a few years would be more than welcome. • GJ

With their unfortunate breakup imminent, The Dillinger Escape Plan [8] are not ones to rest on their laurels. Even in the waning months of their career, the New Jersey mathcore legends still deliver an intensity and confrontational tone that would be far too much for most other bands to handle. Greg Puciato prowls around The Pit’s tiny stage with a look of venomous intent in his eyes during Milk Lizard, and Ben Weiman’s spasmodic throwing of his guitar is the source of the most danger this tent has seen all day. Of course, the music itself still matches up, with the angularity of Prancer and Farewell, Mona Lisa slicing through the evening air, and the bittersweet introduction of Limerent Death as “the first song from our last album” only tantamount to its quality. Admittedly it’s unlikely to be one of the band’s most remembered sets (especially after the reports of Reading’s featuring Puciato performing the entirety sat on a couch reading the newspaper), but as one last look at the band who took metal into its most obscure and interesting era to date, you can’t really fault it. • LN

Competing with Red Hot Chili Peppers isn’t an ideal circumstance for Two Door Cinema Club [8], and they play to a not quite fleshed out tent as a result. But in more important news, they’re back! And headlining the second biggest stage on the festival site is certainly the way to do it, if not a little daunting. Can Two Door Cinema Club really pull off this set? As the entire crowd erupts to Undercover Martyn’s intro (clapping at the right time and everything), and burst into “she spoke words that could melt in her hands” in a beautiful unison, it’s clear that yes, they can, and this is going to turn into something special. It seems strange to be dancing to TDCC’s summery indie when it’s already dark, but sun isn’t needed when their trademark staccato guitars ring out. Of course, cuts from stellar debut album Tourist History fare the best, and the trio themselves know it, allowing them to make up over half of the set. But this isn’t a fluke. Although they’re the chink in the hour’s armour, songs from weaker album Beacon sound reinvigorated (especially as duets with the uber enthusiastic crowd), and new tracks Are We Ready? (Wreck) and Bad Decisions are brilliant sneak peeks at what’s to come. A lot of people may have dismissed Two Door Cinema Club when Beacon fell flat, but this set has shown that they definitely still have it, and it’s the perfect way to round off Leeds for another year. • GJ

A few days ago, Fox News anchor Greg Gutfeld dubbed the Red Hot Chili Peppers [6] “the worst band on the planet”, and though their headline set tonight is far removed from such a dubious accolade, it’s easy to see both sides. For a start, this is one band to whom age has caught up with at rapid pace; it’s incredibly mid-paced, plodding along and lacking the funk fire they had in the previous incarnations for meandering basslines and Anthony Kiedis’ weedy croon of a vocal. Speaking of Kiedis, he’s definitely taken a beating over the years, stumbling over himself during any song that has somewhat of a pulse – he outright forgets entire lines of Can’t Stop and decides to deliver Give It Away in his newly smoothened, unpalatable delivery. Even Blood Sugar Sex Magik, broken out for a relatively rare airing, sounds clunky and heavy-handed. But in their more downplayed moments, they actually sound really good; Snow ((Hey Oh)) and Under The Bridge are lent some truly lovely moments of gentleness in their instrumentation, and Otherside is easily the set highlight with Kiedis dishing out some genuine emotion throughout. Even new material manages to pass – yes, Goodbye Angels is still tedious and unmemorable, but Dark Necessities and Go Robot have some flair in their grooves that suggest a galvanisation could still be in the pipeline. It’s very much a set of two halves in terms of quality, with the ‘Chili Peppers just about managing to break out for a mild win. But really, for one of the biggest, most commercially successful rock bands of all time, they should be doing better. • LN

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN), Georgia Jackson (GJ) and Clara Duffy (CD)


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