by Matthew Langham
On the first Bank Holiday Saturday in May, The Student Playlist returned to Live At Leeds for a third year in a row. Having enjoyed vintage years in 2013 and 2014 with acts from all manner of musical disciplines, #LAL2015 seemed a bit thin on the ground in terms of established acts, at first glance at least. The bill was crammed with cutting edge indie artists familiar to regular listeners of BBC Radio 6 Music, but possibly lacked a marquee mainstream name to pull in the pop kids. That, and the terrible weather compared to the gorgeous sunshine of previous years, explained the slightly diminished buzz around the venues this year. So, with early May resembling late November, we trudged through the cold winds to our first port of call.
Gaz Coombes – O2 Academy
Gaz Coombes, frontman of ‘90s Britpop trio Supergrass, took to the stage at the O2 Academy in front of an almost full venue. With fans queuing for a good hour before the opening of the venue, this was one of the most eagerly anticipated performances of the weekend. Promoting his latest release ‘Matador’, the nine-track set featured three tracks (‘Sub-Divider’, ‘Hot Fruit’ and ‘Break The Silence’) from his 2012 solo debut Here Come The Bombs.
The authenticity of Coombes’ voice is unmistakable, by far the most powerful instrument on stage. The stage presence was that of a performer with years of experience – natural enthusiasm with distinct warmth. By almost conducting his band on stage, he highlighted his own confidence in the new material by choosing not to resort to any Supergrass classics. This live performance lacked the inclusion of the gospel choir which features on ‘Matador’, but it didn’t matter. A flawless motorik encore of “Break The Silence” perfectly weaved in samples of which Brian Eno would be proud, as well as some classic choral harmonies. A tremendous performance in which he showed why he is one of the most underrated songwriters of the last two decades.
Pinkshinyultrablast – Brudenell Social Club
The Brudenell Social Club hosted St. Petersburg outfit Pinkshinyultrablast for the early afternoon slot. In front of a three-quarters full room, the quintet were hindered by technical problems on their first track but it didn’t stop them courageously ploughing through. The consisted of tracks from their recent debut release Everything Else Matters and was a polished performance full of ethereal, shoegazy riffs that remind us of noughties shoulda-beens Stellastarr*. Their unique sound made for a stunning set with a degree of complexity. Unfazed by the technical hitches, tracks from their debut including ‘Umi’ and ‘Wish We Were Here’ were particular stand-outs with a distinct nod to shoegaze influenced pop. Our new, favourite Russian band!
Gengahr – Leeds Beckett
Set to release their debut record A Dream Outside after their summer festival slots, hotly-tipped London four-piece Gengahr played a faultless set on the Doc Martens stage at Leeds Beckett. The distinct vocals of lead singer Felix Bushe played perfectly with the early 90s baggy guitar riffs. Natural comparisons may be Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Swim Deep crossed with pop-influenced Tame Impala. Main highlights of the set included early single ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’ and ‘She’s A Witch’, both tracks having the potential to be mellow indie pop anthems filled with washed-out guitar hooks. Perfect listening for the summer festival and you will no doubt be putting on lists of “ones to watch” during 2015 and 2016.
Hookworms – Leeds Beckett
After a lengthy sound check Hookworms played in front of a decent sized home town crowd on the Doc Martens stage. The Leeds outfit tore through tracks from both their debut Pearl Mystic and their 2014 follow-up The Hum. With a distinct nod to bands including Clinic and Neu! the five piece showed why they have gained plaudits over the last two years, with their clangorous sound bouncing off the walls of the boxy confines of the venue. Stand out tracks including ‘Radio Tokyo’ and ‘On Leaving’ were perfectly accompanied by spectacular psychedelic visuals. Their music is unrelenting and unnerving at times but with a perfect mixture of pop psychedelia. Their live performance is an audio-visual experience and one not to be missed.
Palma Violets – Leeds Town Hall
Being unfamiliar with Palma Violets I went into their show I was pleasantly surprised by the solid set from the London outfit. On just before The Cribs, they played in front of a full Leeds Town Hall and impressed with a raucous set along with flying pints of lager. At £4 a pop, the audience must have thought it was worth it! They belted out tracks from their debut record 180 as well as a bunch from their newly released follow-up Danger In The Club, but it was ‘Best Of Friends’ drew the best reaction for their dedicated fans. Although a couple of tracks from their new record seemed a little underwhelming they created a great atmosphere in preparation for the headliners. Those who are “well read” when it comes to music may say their music lacks originality but nobody can doubt their popularity and the musicianship of their set.
The Cribs – Leeds Town Hall
Hard to believe that this venue, which just 48 hours previously was host to the biggest concentration of vacuous bullshit you could probably hear it out in space, was now filled with people anticipating the righteous racket of the biggest cult band in Britain. With a queue of over 300 people outside and security operating a one-in-one-out policy, many will have been disappointed to miss out on LAL2015’s flagship set by The Cribs. Having recently returned from an American tour that spanned most of April promoting new album For All My Sisters, the brothers Jarman visibly have spring in their step from the moment they take to the stage.
Over ten years, The Cribs have amassed a fearsome arsenal of fan favourites that they can pick and choose any combination of instant crowd-pleasers they like. But tonight, it seems to be an even greater concentration of carefully selected classics – first album highlight ‘The Lights Went Out’ and a slower, beefed-up version of 2005 single ‘Mirror Kissers’ are among some of the best tracks. A fair number of new songs, most of them boasting the much-vaunted ‘pop’ sound that they’ve rediscovered, are scattered throughout.
Even old single ‘Moving Pictures’, arguably the most commercial thing the band has ever done and a song that Gary dislikes singing, gets a rare outing. It is this aspect of The Cribs that makes them so compelling to watch live. They like to challenge themselves and the audience, but they never forget that their primary objective is to entertain and give people what they want to hear, and their fans almost always reciprocate by welcoming any new material with the same adulation as the classics.
Tags: Forever Cult, Gaz Coombes, Gengahr, Hookworms, ilikepress, Live At Leeds, Live At Leeds 2015, Matthew Langham, Palma Violets, Pinkshinyultrablast, review, The Cribs
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