Live at Leeds 2012 review

'A mecca for music fans'

Photographer:Sara Bowrey

Howard Jones - 06 May 2012

With an ever present appetite for live music, Leeds is a city that demands a festival to rival Camden Crawl and Dot to Dot. Live at Leeds is going from strength to strength despite tough times for other UK festivals. Spread over 15 of the city’s venues and costing a mere £20, the streets are swarming with festival goers desperate to cash in on an outstanding deal for one day only.

The day begins in early afternoon with plenty of upcoming acts playing across the city before the big co-headliners dominate the evening’s proceedings. Jessie Ware (7/10) at the O2 Academy in mid-afternoon is certainly emerging out of the shadows of previous collaborators Joker and SBTRKT. A lot of her music, although still laced with SBTRKT influence, is about brooding soundscapes with catchy hooks that form the backdrop to her incredibly powerful yet sultry voice.

The Cockpit is the next venue for the up-and-coming Adult Jazz (5/10). The four piece are certainly brave and unique in their musical ideas, but too often they fail to bear fruit as promising sounds merging Bombay Bicycle Club with an African-influence start to build, but go nowhere or switch unsatisfactorily from good jams. The lead singer’s vocals match Bjork for obscureness which makes for something never dull and always captivating.

As the evening starts to draw in, the first of the festival’s biggest hitters, Ladyhawke (8/10), packs out the O2. Pip Brown, despite readying herself for the release of new album 'Anxiety', shows no such signs of big show nerves. The venue, near to capacity, bounces to the instantaneous catchiness of her most revered songs from her self-titled debut album. Though not garnering the same feverish reactions, the new album’s songs suggest that with a little more familiarity post-release, these songs will be festival hits too.

Charlie XCX (7/10) is a buzz artist that looks set for great things this year. In the words of Louis Walsh, she looks like a popstar and sounds like a popstar. Leeds Met is merely half full and not the right crowd for the songstress this time. She fully commits to the songs and you feel that a full o2 would be rocking to this.

Los Campesinos (9/10) seem like they are festival veterans now. The indie darlings have a cult following who have stayed with them through four albums and recent line-up changes, watching them grow from twee indie pop starlets to fully grown alternative tigers. They whip up a storm with their repertoire and produce sweaty mosh pits in Leeds Uni that defy the usual rules and regulations for indie gigs. Lead singer Gareth ends up in the crowd for the climax of the set and survives despite declaring a hatred for Leeds United.

Brundenell Social Club is the final act of the festival and Ghostpoet (8/10) is the showman for the job. Drawing from his mercury nominated debut, 'Peanut Butter and Melancholy Blues', he cajoles the crowd into fever pitch and keeps them there throughout. ‘Liines’ sounds like a brilliantly defining moment and set closer ‘Cash and Carry Me Home’ causes a befitting stage invasion.

Live at Leeds appears to be a festival that continues to build on previous successes and another urban street festival to add to a growing list. The line-up although strong, posed some problems for festival goers in that lesser known acts in the evenings suffered from poorly attended shows whilst people were turned away from full capacity venues for bigger acts like The Subways. The usual overzealous o2 academy security staff also caused disgruntlement for some people too. Nevertheless, for a mere £20, Live at Leeds proves outstanding value, extremely convenient festivaling and above all, a mecca for music fans, with something for everyone.


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