Live At Leeds 2014: Various venues, Leeds

As Live At Leeds becomes an even bigger event in Yorkshire’s music calendar, the breadth of artists and variety of venues grows too. Now in its eighth year, it’s hard to escape the behemoth it’s become, if you happen to be in Leeds at the same time. Being spread so far and wide across the city, Live At Leeds allows you to enjoy artists like Bat And Ball, in a venue as exotic as the Holy Trinity Church.

Bat And Ball are lucky enough to have arrived on the heels of Daughter’s 2013 debut. Equally as pensive, pounding and pretty in their delivery of moody vocals and shimmering guitars, they provide an eerie soundtrack to a half hour spent inside a 300-year church in Leeds City centre.
Appropriately, their hymnal quality stuns the seated (at pews, of course) audience into amazement.

It’s a foreboding to start to the day’s performances. “Come closer, we ain’t gonna do anything fucking stupid,” beckons God Damn frontman Thom Edward. Last minute replacements for piano-plinking duo We The Wild, Wolverhampton’s God Damn attract a respectable audience at Nation Of Shopkeepers. How did they manage that when they were booked at just three days’ notice? Whatever, their mix of the dirtiest end of grunge and good old fashioned metal blasts the cobwebs off those who were down for a good time. They didn’t do anything stupid – but they did provide one of the early highlights of the day.

George Barnett is Tom Odell – if he learnt how to enjoy life, realised there was more to life that dreary piano ballads and cut his hair. What George Barnett isn’t is your typical Cockpit indie fodder. Sadly, he’s had huge support from Radio 1. You can see why: he’s exactly the sort of the quasi-indie artist the likes of Greg James likes to big up to show they, y’know, follow guitar music too. But don’t let this kind of endorsement put you off: There may be cheesy guitar solos on songs like Lone Rose, or sub-Foals beats and 80s synths on Don’t Tell Me – but George Barnett is a rising star to follow.

Another Radio 1 approved artist, who needed no introduction to the effervescent crowd 30 minutes later, are Darlia. Sounding far heavier live than on record, the reception they receive is fervent to say the least. Their primal thrills, topped off with a 90s sheen channel Longpigs and Nirvana as if The Strokes never happened. It’s all great fun though – and if you were in any doubt as to whether the band were enjoying themselves up on stage, you only had to see them pissing themselves as a stage invader stripped in front of them as confirmation. Finishing with a gigantic take on last year’s radio hit Knock Knock, Darlia have kicked off a year that should see them go stratospheric.

In contrast, Eliza & The Bear over at Belgrave Music Hall prove popular, but sound past their sell-by date. If you think you’ve heard those sophomore student synth-beats before, it’s because you have: Vampire Weekend were just one band trading those kind of influences five years ago.
As we move into a 90s renaissance, Eliza & The Bear sound like the ghost of indie past, like one last hurrah for the class of 2008. It’s good to have them here though, and Belgrave Music Hall would have been a far more solemn place without their chirpy sounds.

Live At Leeds alumni The Sunshine Underground bear the heavy weight of anticipation on their shoulders as they take to the stage at Leeds University later on. A new album just around the corner – their first in four years – means now is as crucial time as ever for the Leeds band to prove their relevance. With Albert Hammond Junior waiting in the wings, they plough through a plethora of new material. It’s Only You and Don’t Stop sound incredible – both demonstrating the more electronica-centric direction their new album has taken. It suits them, and the strobe-heavy set feels more like the soundtrack to a nightclub for the elite than a journey through a ten-plus year career of an ever-eclectic band.

As Parma Violets end their surprise set at the Faversham across town, Albert Hammond Junior takes to the stage at Leeds University. There’s as much anticipation as you’d expect for the Strokes guitarist. Yet, despite the respectable crowd and the support he gets upon gracing the stage, he’s not in the best of moods. Things don’t start off well: a lengthy run-through of second album material mutes the crowd, most of whom are likely here to hear tracks from his debut Yours To Keep or maybe even a sneaky Strokes number thrown in.

A cover of the Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) halfway through re-energises the set – but then the mood is cut short when Hammond Junior himself cuts short Strange Tidings, from recent EP AHJ. “Stop, that sounds fucking awful,” he mutters to his band – and then proceeds to lead them into another song.

50 minutes in, Hammond Junior waves goodbye and exits the stage. The lights briefly stay low, before it becomes apparent that there won’t an encore. Oh well – we all have off-days, even members of The Strokes. Shame this is how Live At Leeds is brought to a close – but at least there’s been plenty of fine memories made elsewhere during the weekend.

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