Monday, 15 June 2009

Latitude 2007 review: Friday

Opening up the Huw Stephens curated Lake Stage are nice Welsh boyos Threatmantics, who are interesting at best and a horrible mess at worst. Singer Heddwyn Davies’ ability to play viola and sing at the same time is certainly striking, though.

Thankfully the Obelisk arena openers are far more noteworthy. Danish five-piece The Kissaway Trail play glorious, harmonious pop songs many of the festival’s acts would kill to have in their set. Expect big things from them.

Up next are Hot Club De Paris, who sound like a Scouse version of The Futureheads. Their anthem Sometimesitsbetternottostickbitsofeachotherineachotherforeachother is the first great song of the festival and their banter is also hilarious.

A first trip to the Uncut arena follows to catch the end of the truly magnificent Fields. The anglo-icelanders are band of the day with their life-affirming emotional building soundscapes. Maps are next and are unfortunate they have to follow Fields, Latitude leaves their electro-rock en masse to catch Bill Bailey in the Comedy tent, who is recycling old material and just about getting away with it, because he’s a genius.

Aqualung follow, a band still most famous for having a song on a car advert years and years ago. And they’ve bizarrely gone rock for their new album, from which they plunder far too much material for a festival show. A disappointment. Matt Hales should stick to what he does best, beautiful, soaring ballads like the inexplicably absent Brighter Than Sunshine.

If Carlsberg did festival bands, they still probably wouldn’t be as perfectly suited as The Magic Numbers. Their solid set complete with a smattering of genuine modern pop classics sends middle-class Latitude uncharacteristically mental. This generation’s Beach Boys? Only time will tell.

The only genuine A-lister on today’s bill is tucked away on the Uncut stage, even below the abomination that is Air Traffic. He is Albert Hammond Jr and his concise pop-rock is tremendous. The Strokes’ loss is Latitude’s gain today.

Headlining the Lake stage tonight are nerdy types I Was A Cub Scout, who are completely overawed at the experience, despite playing to 1000 people maximum. They occasionally make a brilliant racket for just two people, but there is no flow as far too long is taken up between songs. A shame.

A surprise choice for a festival headliner, Damien Rice delivers an extraordinary performance. He is without his regular backing singer and also his regular drummer but he doesn’t let that bother him. In the past he’s looked uncomfortable in the spotlight but tonight he is happy enough, opening up alone on stage bathed in red light with three acoustic tracks, a brave start. The rest of the set veers from terrible to brilliant. He seems unable to finish a song at a suitable moment, choosing to spoil subtle songs with yowling and wailing into a horrendously overused distortion mic leaving the relatively small crowd baffled. But just as Rice is dying a slow painful death on stage he pulls it out of the bag, telling a lengthy story about a man’s chance meeting with a woman as introduction for an enthralling Cheers Darlin’. Rice has the audience in the palm of his hand for the first time, and follows that up by roping in The Magic Numbers for an excellent cover of Bob Dylan’s I Shall Be Released. A triumph then, eventually.

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