Festival Review: Live at Leeds 2019 – Take 2

I’ve been envious of editor Adam’s certain and confident plans for his 2019 Live at Leeds schedule; I made a couple of festival school boy errors namely being strangely (for me) indecisive about who I wanted to see, and wishing the schedule and the band clashes were something different to what they actually were. Thus until I chilled into the day, I’d worked out a plan that was ultimately always going to see me on one side of the city whist wishing I was at the other. Live at Leeds is so vast it’s impossible not to have a good time so I really should not have overthought it and in the end I still scored some real gems.

I know Adam is a right Yorkshire miser when it comes to dropping H points for his festival gig ratings so I’ll forsake my Welsh generosity and attempt a more critical approach although I saw some banging performances.

H2N Lives: HHHHH Unreal HHHH Excellent HHH Great HH Met Expectations Poor

In Your Prime (HHH) opened my account of 9 acts bagged, up in the far reaches of the Live at Leeds hinterland at the cellars of the Hyde Park Book Club. To use the parlance of Game of Thrones, Hyde Park Book Club is located at the Live at Leeds equivalent of Castle Black with the ice wall and the wildlings beyond. The 2 mile hike from the ticket exchange was well worth the exercise as I’ve been hankering after catching this grand Leeds band for a while. The walk did remind me while I was close to In Your Prime I’m far from being in my prime.

I do love the sheer power of a two guitar plus bass combo and In Your Prime have the musical guns to power most off the stage. Musically In Your Prime made the most of their near 3 years together with a beautifully tight set. There was an amusing moment where guitar axe Ethan Mumby-Green had his back to the rest of the band and lead singer Ruby Cooke took the wrong intro, but that’s all part of the live performance and the slight blushes were fun to see.

Musically these guys fit so well together and the complex tunes twist snugly together while Cooke’s vocal lose absolutely none of its power and soaring beauty in the live environment. The technical hitch of the loose wandering drum kit of Matt Martin did nothing to diminish the groove.

I think the band were genuinely pleased to see that so many folk had arrived early to see their set; there must always be that nagging thought that no one baring one of the band’s sisters might turn up for the first set of the day.

While I was enjoying this tight 30 minute set, I couldn’t help reflect on a comment often remarked by my beloved who really likes her music to be anthemic, and it’s true In Your Prime with their gun power, would absolutely slaughter it with a couple of well placed choruses in their songs.

As I was up this end of town, I avoided hopping over the ice wall to the Brudenell Social Club and instead wandered down to The Library to catch another long anticipated band Ivory Wave (HHHHH) play live. Yes top rating for those Birmingham baggies Ivory Wave as I think these guys were my act of the day.

It takes real performing class to convince an audience that it’s 10pm, they’ve had a few shandies and it’s time to groove when in fact it’s still just 1pm and I was firmly on diet coke, but Ivory Wave achieved it effortlessly (and in fact lead vocalist George referred to evening a couple of times, so far were we all into the zone. The sound of the band was top class and we were immediately transported to a re-imagining of 1990’s Manchester baggy with a dancy beat and a bit of spiky attitude up there on the stage.

Of the 5 piece ,I was stood in front of a slightly annoyed looking Heineken swigging man wearing a hard glare and a bass guitar, while lead singer George was exhorting the full audience to come closer so he could smell the mingle of Lynx and Paco Rabanne. There’s always a combination of skills and luck required to make it to rock and roll royalty and in terms of dedication, professionalism and swagger Ivory Wave are gonna make it all the way. To be fair I’d be a bit grumpy drinking larger, and of course the band were perfectly approachable and I took a few moments to chat and pay my praise to the band.

I’ll skip saying too much about the next couple of my hours at Live at Leeds apart from a long abortive walk back to the Wardrobe, not aided by my deciding to follow the ring road thinking it might be a more direct route (doh, what did I miss in that key clue word “ring”) and then a bun fight at The Social, and a chill out spell listening to a bit of class RnB soul at the Belgrave Music Hall.

I walked back in the room in the nice, cosy and indie cellars of the Key Club for Norwegian noise masters Spielbergs (HHH), where I got a pleasing garage Ramones vibe. This was an older trio of musicians and I appreciated the casual style of the band, clearly just rocking up to share their music and not giving a stuff about the look of the multiple pieces of gaffer tape holding their guitars together (pretty damn cool actually). I will concur with Adam that the atmosphere in the bosom of the Key Club still felt early and I’ll happily give these affable Norse guys another hearing when they tour the UK again later on in the year.

I’ll bypass a bit more of my day here, but 6pm saw me well fed and looking forward to seeing The Elephant Trees (HHH) again after a walk back up to the Lending Rooms, this time they were performing with a new (to me at least) bassist. The Trees were hopping backwards and forwards between weekend festivals and Martha was trying to keep it all going judging by the commentary she was giving between songs. Anyone thinking music is all glamour needs to fit in sets in two or three cities on the same day to realise how slogging it can be.

The Elephant Trees music here showed another step away from straightforward indie and into a more complex almost avant garde style of sound. I’m getting a feel the Trees are ready to shred another skin and morph into another version of themselves before too long, but they provided a good run through of their existing material for this set, and a completely sizzling version of their last single 4100.

As always Martha, Sam and the Elephant Trees guys left me just wondering where they were going next and a feeling I had witnessed something pretty different and special.

To end my Live at Leeds I just had to be the fan boy and get into the University building early, where first Black Honey (HH) put their back into a punchy performance and who certainly got the large crowd hot, sweaty and bouncing. I do have to say that while they left a lot of shiny happy people shouting for more, they left me just slightly wondering what was different about them, but then the band aren’t really my style.

My purpose for the visit was for my 11th time of seeing Tom Grennan (HHHH). Our Tom knows how to command and whip up an audience, and soon we were swaying arms and shouting back lyrics to the man while he was adoring the buzz. I always end up feeling that Tom can just be a little too eager to please the crowd, and as a result his sound suffers a little with hanging notes and a loss of subtlety on some of the lines. Given how excellent Tom Grennan is I sound churlish.

While Tom Grennan’s voice was as it always is, massive, I was a touch disappointed given the Live at Leeds schedule gave a 90 minute set, and Tom himself earlier in the spring suggested it was the end of the Lighting Matches album set. As it turned out, Tom returned to the standard songs with no try outs for new material, and the set was an hour long.

First time I saw Tom a couple of years back, he was standing there solo, so it says how much the man has traveled with brass and female backing and a total of 11-12 people on the stage behind him (and on the payroll) this time around.

The gig was perfect with Tom being his usual chirpy self and as always I was pretty hoarse (what do you mean, you didn’t come to listen to Tiggerligger doing Tom Grennan covers?), but I do have to pay regard to the gig being a little over promised so the show loses that last H as I’m just going to have to wait until gig number 12 for the new songs.

Chris R

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