LIVE REVIEW >> Live At Leeds 2018

Getting the festival season off with a bang, LIVE AT LEEDS transforms the bustling city into a huge festival metropolis as music lovers hit the streets of Leeds alongside the usual hen dos this May Day ban holiday weekend seeking out the best new music and big-name attractions.

Pale Waves - Live At Leeds

Pale Waves – Photo by Andy Hughes

Pretty much the best appearance this Saturday is SUNSHINE – and lots of it. In between sets, every inch of green space around the city is packed with festival-goers topping up their Vitamin D before heading back inside which ever way-too-hot venue is next on their list.

We kicked our day off in Nation of Shopkeepers for Bradford four-piece GRDNS, whose psych-tinged indie rock drew a hefty crowd at noon. Their vintage vibe is slightly dampened by the venue’s sound, but singer Jacob Lyons’ powerful falsetto shone through. Well worth catching these guys ASAP.

Due to traffic disruptions and tight scheduling, we had to forgo our out-of-town trip up the the Brudenell to see Magick Mountain so headed for Headrow House to see Centre Stage alumni POLO. They’ve come a long way since we last saw them – their dark, brooding pop has been given a solid drum and bass face-lift, as singer Kat prowls the stage delivering chart-bothering grooves destined for Ibiza club mixes.

Up at Leeds University’s Stylus, international superstars SUPERORGANISM brought so much joy and colour to the dark basement venue. The collective, sporting a rainbow of raincoats, served up dizzying electro-pop with such passion and style. Believe the hype swirling round this lot. They are an absolute riot and MUST been seen when they return to the same venue in October. Fun, fun fun.

After a bit of chaos trying to get into Becketts, we eventually catch indie-rock idols ASH mid-set. It’s been 24 years since a wide-eyed teenage trio released Jack And The Planets, and today Ash’s Dorian Gray-like abilities keep their power-chord big-hitters just as vital and demanding.

Kung Fu, Girl From Mars, Shining Light, Burn Baby Burn – all the classics are gleefully absorbed by the (probably over-) capacity crowd and new tunes from forthcoming album Islands, including brash, punky Buzzkill goes down a storm.

Beer and sunshine finish off our already faltering schedule, but we eventually make it inside to see THE MAGIC GANG who won us over at Leeds Festival last summer. In the O2 Academy, however, they somehow manage to avoid hitting the spot this time round. It’s clearly just us, as the rest of the crowd bounce along to their indie-pop, singing back every word to the Brighton four-piece.

Up at Church, moody buggers THE HORRORS focus on their latest album, V, shrouded in dim lighting and a muddy sound, meaning the ethereal vibe they craft gets a little lost. Faris and co deliver a frenetic, gothic set, as the wired frontman jolts around his mic stand, seemingly oblivious to the lack of power his vocals are carrying beneath the wall of tinny synths and booming percussion.

Opener Hologram bares little resemblance to the intricate sprawl of the recorded version, and Machine follows form, the angular stabs of electronics are lost in the heavy live mix. Maybe things improve after In And Out Of Sight – we hope so, but it’s time to go as the balmy night air calls us further out of the city centre.

And so to the Brudenell Social Club for PALE WAVES, who are no strangers to the legendary venue, having played there now four times in less than two years – though they’ll probably won’t be gracing a stage that size again. Their uber-80s guitar pop shimmers with Cure-like melodies, the sunshiney bubblegum-goth eching front woman Heather Baron-Gracie’s dramatic stage presence.

The atmosphere in the Brude is palpable (or maybe that’s just the sweat from the capacity crowd), and with only a short eight-song set – coz that’s all the songs they have for now – Pale Waves command the crowd with ease from infectious opener Television Romance to textured synth-laden finale There’s A Honey.

There’s absolutely no mistaking that this goth-pop four-piece are going to get as big as their fellow Mancunians and Dirty Hit label mates The 1975 (who, incidentally, had a hand in producing some of Pale Waves’ tracks).

From the fresh young hopefuls kicking off the day to capacity-crowd-drawing headliners, there’s a Live At Leeds for everyone. Whether you make a sturdy back-to-back schedule or wing it and hope for the best; whether you hit up as many venues as possible or take it easy and hang out at one or two, you’re going to discover something new, something exciting, and be a part of something big.

Live At Leeds 2019 will take place on Saturday, May 4. And we’re already counting down the days.

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