Monumental full day of great live music in Leeds, but The Murder Capital and Dream Wife steal the show at The Brudenell
Words Bill Adamson
Photos John Hayhurst (@snapagig)
After more than two years of pandemic living Live At Leeds, one of the finest city music festivals, was back. As usual it was impossible to see every act, but there were plenty to choose from.
The journey for me began at Leeds Beckett Stage 2 for The Clause. This band have an awesome rhythm section and anthemic tunes. They have a little of Oasis about them but with a far heavier edge. Arch rock vocals too from Pearce Macca. The Clause are a 4-piece hook-laden, riff machine.
Next it was off to the HiFi Club for Ava In The Dark and boy was it dark in that venue! This band are purveyors of fine ethereal rock tunes with a strong injection of electronica. This is all underpinned by some choppy guitar riffs. The vocals are sometimes reminiscent of Evanescence with an added spark of Dolores O’Riordan. It was a quick jog to Oporto next for the rather delightful Sunflower Thieves, sadly I couldn’t stay for their whole set, but these ladies have harmonies to die for. Has there ever been two more perfectly matched voices than those of Amy Illingworth and Lily Sturt-Bolshaw? The Northern Guitars Café Bar hosted Morgan Harper-Jones. She writes and plays self-proclaimed “sad fucking songs”. Morgan has a great voice with vocal stylings which at times reminded me of Bjork. Yes, her songs are sad but they are also very good, especially “Lie To Me” a tune on which her voice was staggeringly good. Morgan has been compared to Joni Mitchell and nothing showcases this better than the sublime “Tell Me That You Miss Me”.
The Wardrobe drew me in next for Liverpool band Courting. This lot are the bastard offspring of a sweaty union between Slaves and Royal Blood, a union that was voyeured by Iggy Pop and the White Stripes. This bunch know how to rock hard! Reverend and the Makers appeared for my first visit to the cavernous O2 Academy. As expected, they kicked off with the roof shaking epic “Bass Line”. Rev very quickly had the crowd bouncing like super balls and frankly they would have done anything he asked of them. You definitely get “banger after banger after banger” from Reverend and the Makers. Jack Garrett was next up on the Main Stage at Leeds Beckett University. When did Mr Garrett become so wonderfully camp and flamboyant? From being incredibly nervous the first time I saw him back in 2015 he is now a full-on and supremely accomplished showman. He has amassed a fine canon of banging tunes and his glittery one-piece outfit would have made Elton John green with envy! A great performance from a fabulous artist.
A first visit to Nation Of Shopkeepers brought me in front of Belfast band Dea Matrona. This is a great trio fronted by two very talented and immensely exuberant rock chicks from the school of Suzi Quatro and Joan Jett. They gave us awesome rock ‘n’ roll that would have pleased any fans of great music. They kicked off with stupendous covers of “White Room” and old Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”. Dea Matrona got better and better with each tune.
Fizzy Blood, based on evidence from their impactful set on the Beckett Main Stage, are developing into a really diverse and talented band, perhaps in the vein of the Arctic Monkeys. Their new tracks are fresh, vibrant, exciting, and very original. A quick hop to Beckett Stage 2 next for Scottish singer Luke La Volpe. Luke is a great passionate rocker with a bluesy, nu-soul sound sensed some Edwyn Collins, Jack Savoretti and even Jeff Buckley in his performance. Luke has a great voice and some beautiful and well-formed songs. He was by some distance the most sartorially elegant artist on display today. His band, a.k.a. his henchmen were all dressed in black. But Mr La Volpe is more than just a sharp dressed man, he oozes talent and many of his tunes were born to become epic anthems. “Dead Man Blues” will be on heavy rotation for me.
Staying at the Beckett I caught Manchester’s Larkins. They paly hard nosed pop rock with tons of punk attitude. They have some excellent tunes, and they handled their backing track technical difficulty really well. But seriously why do so many bands use backing tracks? “Sugar Sweet” was pounding rock turned up to 11. They had some ingenious keyboard hooks too. The vocally treated acapella track, sorry I didn’t catch the title, was beautifully laden with soul and emotion. “Something Beautiful” was my favourite Larkins song from their first class set.
Back to the O2 Academy for the marvellous Sports Team. This band are manic and magnificent with a frontman and lead singer who is part Mick Jagger and part Justin Hawkins. The keyboard player adopts a miserable-as-fuck pose which even Ron Mael would be proud of. But aside from all those performance elements it was a great set from Sports Team.
A short drive across the city took me to the Brudenell Social Club where I spent the rest of the night. I got there just in time for Just Mustard in the main Brudenell room. They provide sparse, percussive, dancey drone sounds. The music is overlayed by sci fi soundtrack style heavenly vocals like Julee Cruise on speed. This is a great band, although I think I would rather experience them live than listen to them at home. But a special mention to the centrepiece of the band, drummer Shane Maguire. The most talented sticksman I have seen all day. Malady were next in the Brudenell Community Room. I am not sure whether they sound like anyone else. They have some mesmeric, metronomic tunes that get into your head quickly and stay there using the musical equivalent of a fishhook. It is very hard not to like Malady. FEET were next up in the Brudenell main room. They were like Iggy Pop fronting Talking Heads or David Byrne returning the favour with the Stooges. Lead singer George has that St. Vitas dance style that Ian Curtis did so well. FEET are a great band that could measure their lineage back through Frank Zappa to the Clash via Blur. Sfven appeared next in the Brudenell Community Room. Is Sfven Ned Flanders in disguise? He has some great story songs propelled with a beat driven jangly indie style with a rock edge.
One of the most highly anticipated Live At Leeds sets was special guests Murder Capital in the Brudenell Main Room. This band secretes enigmatic menace and carries tightly wound nuanced tension in every note. This was a supreme performance from a band at the top of their game. To make things even more interesting it felt like the couple of new songs that they aired had a bit of a prog feel. Stylishly dressed lead singer James McGovern crowd dives better than any other artist I have seen, it takes huge cojones to dive into a crowd like that. This spectacular set was probably my favourite of the whole day.
Winding the whole day off was Dream Wife an Anglo-Icelandic power trio who produce punk with a smooth indie pop edge and all with a social conscience. I once said of this band that “If Madonna had fronted Bowie’s Tin Machine back in 1989 it might have sounded like this”. I stand by that comment totally. Lead singer Rakel Mjöll told us that we were all bad ass bitches and that felt good!
It was great to have this wonderful city festival back and bring it on for 2022, this year was for me the best one yet!