Thursday, 22 July 2010

Latitude 2010 - Review (Part 3)

Despite over indulged weariness and the hottest day of the festival, a decent sized crowd trooped towards the Obelisk stage on Sunday lunchtime for the second set of the weekend at Latitude by Tom Jones - a late addition, the result of his Thursday night set being missed by many due to overcrowding and capacity issues at the small stage in the woods.

Rumours suggested that this set would see Jones wheel out the hits, but it was not to be. Instead he performed the same songs as on the Thursday, with Jones keeping his ladies man reputation alive by referring to his female backing singers as “lovely,” in a suggestive voice that got a laugh.

“Good morning Latitude,” announced a member of The Antlers in the Word Arena. “It’s not morning,” one of his colleagues advised. Whatever time it was The Antlers suited perfectly, their soaring, atmospheric soundscapes of songs emotionally numbing with their bludgeoning weight. Two was particularly impressive, the bands feedback rock-pop taught and mesmerising.

If Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys had just woken up, put a Dougal from the Magic Roundabout red wig on and played slacker-surf-rock songs from the 50’s whilst reinterpreting Billy Childish he may have just found himself transformed into the lead singer of Spectrals. Their short songs performed on the Lake Stage had a direct approach which sometimes hooked and caught, but in other moments it was just a little too hazy for its own good.

Evidence of the continued ascension of the soon to be Mercury nominated Mumford and Sons was one of the biggest crowds of the weekend turning up for their mid afternoon set on the Obelisk Stage. “Can we start?” they questioned the masses, receiving a huge roar in reply. It seems like only yesterday that the band were wheeling out their americana-folk inspired tunes to small pub crowds and now they’ve become possibly the first UK arena-sized bluegrass band. White Blank Page, Little Lion Man and Roll Away Your Stone were all greeted with hugely positive reactions, but for those who have seen Mumford and Sons a number of times over the last few years it all feels a little bit ‘one festival set too many.’ Time for some new songs perhaps? They did at least oblige with one new slice of mass-market folk-rock, a song with Marcus playing drums, a horn section adding depth and lyrics of “I’ll be yours if you’ll be mine.” Laura Marling were you listening?

As the black clad Morning Parade blasted out Pieces in the Sunrise Arena it became easy to understand why they are being tipped as potential next big things. Their confident brand of epic guitar drama combined with washes of fluttering synth made a sound tough and muscular enough to be liked by the indie rock kids but accessible enough to find itself on daytime Radio 1. Soaring choruses, guitar licks and strong vocals - the only thing they lack is originality.

Samuel Chase (previously known as Samuel and the Dragon) drew the short straw. Dressed as a huge red feather love heart (!) he played to about six people standing at the barrier at the Lake Stage - anyone else who may have been interested took shade from the searing sun under trees some distance away. You really had to feel sorry for him. Yeasayer had just finished their set in the Word Arena and thousands of people were passing by. If Samuel had grabbed the moment and started his set five minutes earlier then some of these punters were his for the taking. But by the time he started his first tune the moment had passed. His songs were a mix of plaintive vocals, electronic jittery beats and live strings - torch songs for a place far from a hot outdoor stage. His fantastic single Diamonds On A Boat didn’t even get an airing and the impression left was that Samuel just couldn’t wait to get it all over with and extricate himself from the stage.

Finding an audience was no problem for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart who played under the shady canopy of the Sunrise Arena, which seemed a blissful respite from the heat. Visually they were like a cartoon indie pop band - boys jigging round with guitars, and girl gently swaying at her keyboard - their sound consisting of twee optimistic fuzz-tones of lovely noise and soft unaffected vocals. They mixed old songs such as the giddy Young Adult Friction with new ones and joked about reading a poem at the festival. “Music is all the bad poetry you need,” singer Kip Berman quipped.

If Beth Jeans Houghton were a rock she would be quartzite. A metamorphic girl who changes every time she takes to the stage. Gone was the big wig. Gone was the bleached blonde. This time she was dark. Next time we expect to see her she’ll probably be sporting a Sinead O’Connor crop. O’Connor is a reference point musically as well, with Houghton’s vocal having an air of the celtic soul sister to her. With tales of dropping her sunglasses in the festival toilets (her manager rescued them) and a punk rock song that she dedicates to him, Beth entertained in between songs even although we suspect that her quirky stories were well rehearsed and practised before. The entertainment factor was kept high during the music as well, the songs varied considerably from danceable oddball pop to jaunty folk.

Latitude 2010 was almost at an end. Musical overload. Grizzly Bear were the closing act on The Word stage. They played to a mainly partisan crowd, who listened intently, their collage of sound subtly shifting between songs creating something that is highly admirable, very worthy and yet for this reviewer not a performance that could ever be loved. Their layered harmonies and experimental sound glided with well played competence, but maybe overexposure to three and a half days of music has numbed the soul and brain. It was time for bed. Goodnight Latitude 2010. The rapes, the canopy collapse, the Crystal Castles incident and the stinking toilets may have brought the festival down a notch or two in our ratings, but overall it was still an excellent event for lovers of music and the arts. We will probably be back at some point.

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