Review: Leeds Festival 2011

Reporter Andrew Trendell went along to Branham Park to review Leeds Festival 2011

AS Pulp take to the stage as the final act of the weekend and the opening notes of Do You Remember The First Time take the audience back a few decades, it’s almost as if Jarvis Cocker and co are nostalgia incarnate.

Indeed, it’s no secret that festivals are said to be struggling. The solution? Pack the bill with dead certs and timeless classics. And that’s the beauty of Leeds. The draw of such monolithic acts keeps an excellent institution afloat, one which also brings the masses to the best new talent.

Elbow however are a band born for this stage. As the masses flock to hear their trademark, all-embracing, celestial, every-man gospel, these mild-mannered Mancunians succeed in making even this vast open Yorkshire field feel intimate. They get the job done in what can only be described as a pure celebration.

Then, the undisputed greatest live act in this or any or other universe arrived. Muse came, saw, conquered and set a standard that wouldn’t be topped all weekend.

They courted controversy when they announced that they’d be using their coveted headline slot to play magnum opus Origin of Symmetry in full.

As awkward and overblown as it is accomplished and eccentric, the album was the watershed moment when Muse realised their cosmos-sized ambitions, and never has it made for sense that when brought to life in mammoth scale and with face-melting passion and aplomb.

From the evocative piano intro to epic superbeast Newborn, to the stadium-sized imagination of Citizen Erased and the dizzying, hellish rapture of Megalomania, Muse pull off something truly special – a rare, flawless and timeless performance that people will talk about for decades to come.

Come Saturday morning, just by putting your ear to the wind you can hear the word ‘Muse’ being said all over the arena. But there are things to be getting on with.

Bringing the teeny punk rock to a fitting close on Saturday we have My Chemical Romance. The last time they played the crowd pummelled them with bottles, but they played on regardless. That same steely determination and vigilance sees them return this evening as world-conquering champions - injecting a world of comic-book colour and life into what many would expect to be quite dark and solemn proceedings.

On Sunday as soon as the kings of New York cool The Strokes make their first footsteps, blinking into the daylight, the crowd is sent into a mental feral frenzy – largely fuelled by the ecstasy of nostalgia.

Opening with the chilled pop-perfection of the title track from their iconic début Is This It, it seems that their isn’t a man in Yorkshire that doesn’t know this off by heart.

The Strokes were once famed for the cool nonchalance of their performances, but today their act falls slightly flat. Each member delivers well individually, but together they seem distant as the stresses and tensions between them become manifest.

Many thought that they’d never see Pulp in their lifetime – let alone at the gig of their lives.

Jarvis Cocker has aged like a fine wine, the years have only served him well.

Sorted For E’s and Wizz is still the ultimate festival soundtrack and inviting Yorkshire crooning king and former-guitarist Richard Hawley onstage for a pounding rendition of This Is Hardcore can only be described as a moment of inspired genius. The world needs this band.

Leeds this year brought the past, present and future together, leaving many asking ‘were you there?’

Review by Andrew Trendell

Photos by Tony Woolliscroft, Lara Leon-Cullen, Jamie Boynton and M Shethi 18