Live at Leeds Festival 2015 on Saturday, 29th August 2015
Saturday rolls round and I look forward to seeing Eliza and the Bear, who, again I caught last year at The Wardrobe, Leeds. The five piece from Essex seem to be built for festivals, their anthemic and euphoric take on Indie/Folk/Pop attracting passers-by out of the early afternoon sun and into the Festival Republic tent. Having recently fractured his shoulder, guitarist Martin Dukelow looks slightly more sheepish than usual, but still thrashes away at his six strings with enthusiasm and vigour. Those two words almost epitomise the band, who look to be having the best time of their lives on stage. July saw them release 'Lions Heart' a single which gets a great reception as the boys bounce through a live rendition, however, it seems that most people are here for 'Friends' a song which was featured on a national TV advert earlier in the year. The chorus is uplifting and goes down a storm.
Prides are next up, flying the flag for Scotland. Their regional accents add a real charm to their playful banter with the crowd: 'Come on Leeds, louder than that, I can still hear Reading from yesterday ringing in my ears', is the jibe. Whether I believe them or not is irrelevant, as the age old Leeds VS Reading battle encourages the crowd to up in volume by almost 50%. Single, 'Little Danger' gets a great reaction from a now attentive audience, the hook line 'I wanna be' being sung loud and proud as the band perform the rest of the clever arrangement, hunched over their keyboards. Despite being a largely electronic band, it is obvious that Prides' songs are written from the ground up, sat down at the piano, and would all work very well in a stripped back environment. This kind of environment however, is a million miles away from the incredibly ambitious lighting rig that sits behind the drum kit. Neons and lasers are the order of the day as we move through the set and continued cries of 'when I say jump, you'd better jump' keep the crowd moving. Unfortunately for the band, Alt J have just started on the Main Stage and the audience slowly begins to filter out of the tent. You have to hand it to Prides, they don't waver and stay in fifth gear until the final chord of recent single 'Messiah' a thoroughly enjoyable, and highly polished pop tune.
As night falls, people arrive in their thousands to the Main Stage, where Mumford & Sons are due for their first ever Leeds Festival headline performance. Of course, the upbeat blend of Indie/Folk has always been festival ready, but there were some questions asked upon the bands' announcement, whether four men with tweed jackets, banjos and acoustic guitars could hold such a large crowd. These questions were swiftly answered with the release of Mumford & Sons' new album, Wilder Mind. Replacing tweed with leather, Banjos with ballsy guitar riffs, and a single bass drum for a full kit, the band managed to hone their song writing craft and produce a very coherent rock album, offering options at all sides for their set. From this record, 'Snake Eyes' is their first song and gets things off to a life affirming start. Moving into previous singles 'I Will Wait' and 'Little Lion Man' the band prove that their old songs can stand shoulder to shoulder with new, coaxing out the same excited reaction from the huge audience. 'Awake My Soul' offers a slow in tempo, continued by 'Believe' as the crowd sways and sings loudly. Mid-way through this, the bands' come back single, distortion pedals are kicked into life and, foot up on the monitor, guitarist Winston Marshall plays a series of mind blowing riffs, looking almost triumphant to throw off the shackles of his Banjo and show what he can do. Musicianship in mind, lead vocalist, Marcus Mumford climbs atop the drum riser taking pride of place behind the kit as 'Lover Of The Light' picks things back up, vast shouts of the chorus lyric ringing around the fields. 'The Cave' and 'Roll Away Your Stone' prove to be further crowd pleasers before 'Just Smoke' and 'Ditmas' lead us to set closer 'Dust Bowl Dance' a frenzy of thrashing cymbals and flashing lights. Of course, no festival headline slot is complete without the almost enforced encore. We are eased back in with 'Hot Gates' before 'The Wolf' brings the evening to a spectacular close.