Festival review: Leeds Festival 2011
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Friday The near monsoon on the drive up the A1 puts us a little behind schedule so TNS misses what would have undoubtedly been amazing sets from Fucked Up and Best Coast. Kicking off our Leeds is Cage The Elephant who seem to have a bee in their bonnet these days. After the initial hype around their debut, new album Thank You Happy Birthday has received a less than rapturous response. This live incarnation of the group is heavier, darker and suitably more pissed-off. All their tunes have a fuzzy, grunge edge – everything now coated in pure distortion and rage. New album tune ‘Sabretooth Tiger’ ends the set in feedback ridden, punk glory. Forget all the crap about Hollywood upbringings and celebrity boyfriends, the only fact that matters is that Warpaint have developed into a phenomenal live band. They have more than lived up to the hype! A fresh downpour forces a large crowd into the NME tent for 45 minutes of magnificence. Their ethereal cover of The Supreme’s ‘My Guy’ is as touching as it is unexpected. For a brief time Death From Above 1979 burned brightly as the most visceral and exciting of rock bands – all crunching bass riffs, and kinetic techno energy. The duo have always been a contradiction and tonight the exuberance of Sebastien Grainger is offset by the dour demeanour of Jesse F. Keeler. But it is not the duo's dynamic that makes it all so amazing as the pair unleash a cacophony of noise proving that on their return DFA1979 can still cut it with the best of them. Elbow never fail to deliver an astonishing set but in light of the televised ‘love-in’ scenes from this year’s Glasto today’s set feels a little limp – not in the quality of the tunes or performance, the songs are as beautiful as always and Guy Garvey engages the crowd effortlessly – but the sparse crowd just aren’t in the mood. The gathered throng make it hard work for Garvey and Co with everything getting little more than an apathetic, mediocre response. Even the majesty of ‘One Day Like This’ fails to unite everyone in a joyous sing-song. The big draw today is prog-purveyors Muse who are in nostalgia mode. Playing 2001’s Origin of Symmetry in its entirety for the first time, this is Muse taking a step back to the album that shot their career in to stratosphere. Coming out to Tom Waits’ ‘What’s He Building In There?’ (their staple introduction in 2001) the band launch directly into Origin for a relentless two-hours of prog-bombast. Muse are fine showmen, doing what they do best, putting on a stunning stage-show that is out of this world. Where Muse fall a little flat is that as a group they have never moved into new territory and within 40 minutes when the shiny awe of the setting dies down, their music follows the same formula throughout – big riffs, classical piano and surging falsetto vocals played at one pace, Muse don’t do nuance. The trio are the perfect style-before-substance band, but in the live arena their style makes them an exciting prospect for most. As Muse finish up their set 2ManyDJs are tearing up the NME stage with mash-up magnificence. Few DJ acts can lift a crowd like the Soulwax boys, who cut between soaring techno and a plethora of styles – as this is Leeds there is a suitable rock showing, the likes of Queens of the Stone Age dropping into the mix. The set closes with the mind-blowing mix of Max Romeo and the Upsetters ‘I Chase The Devil’ and the Prodigy’s ‘Out of Space’ before a kinetic reworking on Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ – TNS leaves sweating, beat and with our ears ringing. Saturday It really doesn’t matter what time you put Pulled Apart By Horses on, they are going to give you a kicking – they don’t care about your hangover! The gapping chasm between stage and audience doesn’t stop them clearing it to ride the sea of hands. The new songs sound immense and ‘classic’ ‘High Five Nose Dive Swan Dive,’ is met with excitement en masse. Don’t be shocked to see them taking to the main stage next year. Cardiff’s Islet do it differently – these guys don’t even have a website! Their sound switches styles as often as the members switch instruments throughout their restless, eccentric and compulsive tunes. They make a chaotic, experimental noise that you can dance to – that is pretty special. Check out Islet ASAP.
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