A fruitless attempt to charge my phone battery means I miss Bombay Bicycle Club opening the Carling tent on Saturday morning, but I am in position for next band Ripchord. They’re bright, they’re brash and their songs have big hooks. And their singer looks like Tony from Skins. Expect big things from them.
Little Man Tate are probably lucky they have such a good slot on the bill, and they choose to take advantage of their lofty Main Stage perch – by playing new songs. It never ceases to amaze me how many bands flout the golden rule of festivals – don’t bore your audience with too much unfamiliar material! It’s a shame, because LMT’s big singles like “European Lover” and “House Party at Boothy’s” go down a treat, they could be Britain’s next great singles band in the vein of Ash.
It was then that your intrepid reporter stumbled across one of those special festival moments on the way back from the portaloos. I was sure I recognised the opening bars of the songs starting in the Carling tent so I popped in, to find Kaiser Chiefs playing a secret set under the alias of Hooks For Hands. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the relevance of the name, Wikipedia has failed me for the first ever time! The tent is full to bursting point within moments, and I choose to leave after a couple of songs to catch The Long Blondes instead, who are excellent, with Kate Jackson the most impeccable woman on site in the afternoon sunshine. Formerly a bit of a joke live, practice has made perfect for the band, now as tight a unit as they come.
It’s back to the Carling tent after that, for the truly amazing Manchester Orchestra. Their final song absolutely blows me away. I wish I’d seen more of their set. Punk upstarts Blood Red Shoes follow, who win over the crowd firstly with free t-shirts (a bit bigger next time though, please!) and secondly by making a tremendous melodic racket for just two people.
Having enjoyed The Enemy’s album hugely, and raved about it on these very pages, I am disappointed by their show in the NME tent. Choosing to pander to the chavs in the audience I feel let down by the lad-rock sound they knock out. I’m sure they are capable of better, but the fans lap it up. Even album standout and title track “We’ll Live And Die In These Towns” falls a bit flat, the band knocking the life out of it by playing it far too fast.
After The Enemy is Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly, whose name I have always enjoyed more than his music, so I move off for Maximo Park on the Main Stage. The Park are in danger of becoming one of those ubiquitous mid-afternoon festival bands that everyone quite likes but doesn’t think are that special. Today is no different. The hits go down well, the rest fall flat. It’s a typical Maximo show all around, with Paul Smith’s masses of energy and emotion let down by some of the weaker songs.
Cajun Dance Party are the band I was perhaps looking forward to seeing most in the whole weekend. We arrive at the Carling tent early where there is a massive crowd assembled watching Reverend & The Makers. I assume people have arrived early for CDP, as we have, but it appears I am wrong, many of them leave at the end of the set. Still, their loss is our gain, and we sneak our way right to the front for one of those “I was there” band-defining moments. It is hard to remind yourself that the band are all still only teenagers. This is only the 50th gig they have played. They’re a superb prospect, moving away quickly from the throwaway Kooks sound they were beginning to be labelled with. Their songs are much bigger, much more important, and in singer Daniel Blumberg they have an icon in waiting with his Morrissey-esque microphone lead twirling. New single “Amylase” is a particular standout and the crowd disperse clutching the CDP balloons that had filled the tent chatting about their new favourite band.
Kings of Leon have always been one of those bands I’ve never paid much attention to. The odd single has caught my ear but none of their albums have ever grabbed me. However, tonight, KOL hit the big-time. I note it is three years since I saw them in an identical slot at Glastonbury on the say so of Noel Gallagher. That night they looked like rabbits caught in headlights up on that famous stage, but tonight at Leeds they brim with confidence. It’s a concise set, surprising how many KOL songs are known to everyone despite them not having a massive hit in their armoury. The sound is a tad tinny but the force of the songs shines through, next time surely they are headliners.
Razorlight are exactly what I’d expected and feared. A seamless, well-oiled, festival headlining machine. But machine is the important factor. Johnny Borrell has transformed the band from a likeable middling indie band into a stadium rock band straight from the U2 blueprint. The older, punkier material sits uncomfortably alongside the ultra-polished new album songs. There’s nothing fresh and exciting here. Borrell would do well to remember his days on the toilet circuit in the early days with The Libertines. Tonight seems all to be about stroking his massive ego, and I hate it.
Ash couldn’t be more different. Accepting their role in the landscape of British music as a pop singles band long ago they have quietly gone about their business infecting the population with their golden hooks, even since the departure of guitarist Charlotte Hatherley. We arrive just in time for a closing sequence that includes “Oh Yeah”, “Girl From Mars” and “Kung Fu”. They close with the astonishing “Twilight of the Innocents”, a humongous epic from their latest album. It’s the first time I’ve heard it and I have trouble standing up in the face of its sheer power. They encore with 1994 debut single “Jack Names the Planets” and the NME tent pogos away happily.