Festival Review: Live At Leeds 2017

In Festival Guide, Live Reviews by Jess Lumb

Returning for its annual May bank holiday take over, Live At Leeds sets the city abuzz for Saturday’s metropolitan festival.

At 1pm already crowds are swarming in Leeds’ student areas. XamVolo’s lunchtime set garnered a responsive crowd at Faversham, with a jazz lounge feel and a live band accompanying soulful croons. Ten Tonnes‘ afternoon set at Chapel was proof of how far their live performance has come in a year. A confident yet humble performance boasts a host of old favourites such as ‘Stop’ alongside previews of new single ‘Born To Lose’, as well as cuts from his forthcoming EP. A brash and energetic rendition of ‘Silver Heat’ builds the energy before closing with crowd-pleaser ‘Lucy’.

Later, Seafret’s ethereal set at Leeds Beckett University serves as a love letter to the north. While the breathtaking tracks ‘Skimming Stones’ and ‘Wildfire’ transport us to distant shores, bursts of ‘long live Live At Leeds!’ hark memories closer to Yorkshire’s east coast. Met with a warm reception, flawless vocals are layered with mesmerizing instrumentation and infamous Yorkshire chants are swapped for ambient melodies.

Black Honey fill the grand O2 Academy with their rollicking post punk. Oozing Americana, ‘Madonna’ kicks off the set in effortless fashion. A mystical performance hypnotises an adoring crowd, with the retro rock ‘n’ roll sensibility of ‘All My Pride’ being an anthemic highlight. Lights drench Fickle Friends in ambience for their Refectory show, which boasts the band’s ability to occupy the larger stages, with energy and sound big enough to conquer any crowd. From dance infusing ‘Cry Baby’ to new track ‘Rotation’, perfect vocal lies atop precise instrumentation. Teasing an album and testing a brand new track with conviction like it’s their biggest hit, confidence oozes from the five-piece as they absorb the fun their tracks exude.

Jaws’ live show is played to an understandably large – and ever growing – crowd. Hazy guitar of Simplicity’s ‘Just A Boy’ opens the set and is the perfect celebration of where the band’s sound is now, before ‘Stay In’ is met with a rapturous crowd response, exuding the same euphoria as if it were 2013. New, more melancholy material still garners the same euphoric response as that of first LP Be Slowly, with the dreaminess of ‘Work It Out’ sending a chilling optimism through the crowd. Closing with ‘Gold’,  the ecstasy radiating from the crowd is testament to how Jaws are consistently impressive.

In one of the day’s best, most exhilarating sets, Slaves prove that they’re Britain’s last great punk band. Proclaiming ‘When you grow up in the sticks it’s hard to find like-minded people’ before encompassing an inherent furor, from ‘Sockets’ to ‘The Hunter’, tonight, the O2 Academy is ablaze with Slave’s perfectly executed anarchy. The band’s cover of Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ was an exhilarating moment, with words being chanted by the crowd the same way each of their own verses are recited, with passion and ultimate dedication.

Secluded in the Faversham pub, tonight AJ Tracey’s headline set feels like the festival’s best kept secret. Occupying the stage along with his DJ and two MCs, an intimate set bursts with energy as a mosh pit swarms – an exciting change of pace from a guitar-fuelled day. ‘Pasta’ is inevitably well received but it is ‘Buster Cannon’ that sets the crowd alight – a set cementing Tracey as a grime MC on the brink of greatness.

Spanning Leeds’ many venues and the city’s diverse tastes, as usual, Live At Leeds is the perfect start to festival season – and for its goers, a taste of what their favourite artists have in store for the rest of 2017.

Words by Jess Lumb
Snaps by Sam Wilson