Underestimating Live At Leeds is an easy mistake to make; it’s becoming a serious festival player.
Yes, it lacks tents and fields. Yes, it might not be the biggest brand name. And yes, you have less chance of an awful experience in a toilet. But when it comes to festivals these days all this means nothing.
What it lacks in ‘authentic’ festival experience it makes up for elsewhere; by no means the only urban festival, it might nevertheless just be the bravest. Why? It takes chances, hires variety and offers more. Its ‘gimmick’ is an experience that appeals to all without ever feeling watered down.
There are other festivals where you’ll get pounded by bands like Slaves, Vant and Idles, but they won’t then offer that broader spectrum. From Rag N Bone Man to Kojey Radical, or Carys Selvey to Tom Grennan, Live At Leeds wants it all.
The only problem is no one can be in two different places at once, even if two bands can. The trick is to make a decision, never second guess it, then sit back and enjoy.
With these decisions made, what was the Live Forever LAL experience? Treeboy & Arc opened with a surprise. The surprise initially being trying to get to see Wuzi and failing, turning quickly into the realisation that that was no bad thing. They hit very hard, very early, which is always the best way to open your festival account.
And then all bets are off, in so many different ways.
Carys Selvey’s songs were as beautiful as they were earnest, while Atlas Wynd added some much needed funk to their guttural riffs. And Dead!’s exuberance and charisma made for lent charm to a frighteningly exciting set.
As the event began to wind down, the bands really started to dial it up. Idles, from the off, tore everything to pieces. From their clothes to the stage to their equipment. It’s a wonder, as they walk off, that there’s anything left for the following acts to perform on.
For the finale, we’ve opted for something a little more rhythmical: that will be Jagwar Ma and Wild Beasts. With the Beast’s recent slide towards synth, there is now an unusual commonality between the two. They sound nothing alike, but both add a little rhythmical soul to the blend.
Jagwar Ma were faultless. Their music melded into a wonderfully cohesive mess – exciting to watch and continually feeling as if it was veering out of control. It’s also that perfect fusion between dance and rock that so many bands attempt and very few do convincingly. The Ma go way beyond convincing.
This momentum wasn’t lost on Wild Beasts. Their set tailored to the audience, the event and expectation, but also with an eye on their competition. They had no intention of being outgunned.
The songs from Boy King seemed almost purpose-built for this event. Played live, the album’s power and intensity also had a scope and scale that was bewildering. Brilliant to watch, but even better to feel as it steamrollered over the crowd. Intoxicating.
And then it was over. All except for random discussions with strangers you meet on the way home about their wholly different account of the day. And that’s the difference. Standard festivals feel more like a collective experience. LAL is more personal; everyone experiences something wholly distinct, from bands to venues. And that’s something not to be misunderstood or downplayed, as that’s when bands are at their most powerful; when they can speak directly to their audience.
What’s more important than that when playing live?