Live review

Live at Leeds In The Park unites indie heroes old and new for a day of cross-generational good vibes

25th May 2024

Featuring The Cribs, Sprints, Mystery Jets and more.

Where Live at Leeds’ winter multi-venue incarnation largely leans towards new artists and spotlighting the future, over at its spring green-fields sister event, Live At Leeds In The Park, the graduating indie classes of the last two decades are gathering for a Northern knees-up. With a booking policy that largely equates to ‘guitars only’, what it lacks in genre diversity it makes up for in comprehensiveness: whether you’re 15 or 40, chances are that fans familiar with one end of the era spectrum will find music to love from the other.

Beginning the afternoon with an early contender for the day’s most ferocious, vital set are Sprints. “We’re from Dublin and we’re gonna show you how to drink properly,” declares vocalist Karla Chubb with a glint in her eye. “It’s only gonna get sweatier from here.” Despite the recent departure of original guitarist Colm O’Reilly, the quartet (complete with new replacement) are a pummelling machine these days; from the metronomic prowl of ‘Ticking’ to the furious snarl of ‘Up and Comer’, cuts from superlative recent debut ‘Letter To Self’ are delivered like cathartic sledgehammers of noise. But while lyrically and musically Sprints are heavy, Chubb’s charming stage presence is the inviting lynchpin that keeps the mood up: “This is a big gay song about being gay,” she declares ahead of ‘Literary Mind’ before throwing herself into the crowd pit.

Over on the DIY stage, flowerovlove might only just be of legal drinking age, but her hyper-relatable tales of matters of the heart are already finding her loyal fans - just ask the two excitable teens wearing her merch that the singer pulls on stage to have their moment mid-set. There’s a cover of ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ to keep the festival spirits up; ‘a girl like me’ is dedicated to “anyone who has a crush where you’re not sure if they like you back”, while the sugary bounce of ‘BOYS’ is like a wide-eyed teenage diary take on The 1975’s ‘Girls’.

Live at Leeds In The Park 2024 Live at Leeds In The Park 2024

You have to feel for Corinne Bailey Rae on the main stage. Forced to contend with a double whammy of challenges, she’s hit with persistent technical issues and an audience who seem to only want her old ‘Put Your Records On’-era hits as opposed to the (far, far more exciting) ‘Black Rainbows’ set that she’s currently touring. She begins by explaining the rich Black historical background behind the record, but even to a hometown crowd it falls somewhat predictably flat in an afternoon festival environment - a true shame, as the punk blitz of ‘New York Transit Queen’ shows just how fresh her recent musical reinvention continues to be.

A short hop over and Baxter Dury arrives as the day’s most unlikely hero. His wry, spoken-word tales of back-alley characters and skulking melodrama might not naturally fit on a line-up headlined by The Kooks, but Dury’s wonderfully odd onstage demeanour (somewhere between a Soho cad and a praying mantis) coupled with a genuine festival ‘moment’ in the form of 2021 Fred Again.. collab ‘Baxter (these are my friends)’ means he ends the afternoon with almost certainly a sea of converts to his name. No converts, however, are needed for Melanie C, who fully understands the assignment. She dishes up a Spice Girls megamix, always-iconic Bryan Adams collab ‘When You’re Gone’ and loads more, thus putting a good case forward for the idea that every festival should have a 5pm Spice pick-me-up.

Back on the DIY stage, it’s a double whammy of treats that begin with the buzz of Good Neighbours. With second single ‘Home’ already a bona fide viral hit (191 million streams and counting), the East London band could easily be playing catch up to their own hype, yet there’s an immediate warmth to their Yeasayer-like, ambitious indie-pop. Sonically, there’s an early ‘10s psych-pop lilt; clad in primary coloured jackets to cement the idea, you can imagine that they’ll likely appeal to a Two Door Cinema Club crowd too. Orla Gartland, meanwhile, is pulling double duty this weekend - following today’s LAL set, she’s straight off to Radio One’s Big Weekend as part of supergroup FIZZ. But there’s no sense of fatigue today, as she bounds into a rollicking ‘Kiss Ur Face Forever’ with the energy of a pop-punk Duracell bunny.

Live at Leeds In The Park 2024 Live at Leeds In The Park 2024 Live at Leeds In The Park 2024 Live at Leeds In The Park 2024 Live at Leeds In The Park 2024

Up on the hill of The Temple stage, Mystery Jets might cut a different shape to their early days, but though only frontman Blaine Harrison and drummer Kapil Trivedi remain from the original line up, it’s a cast iron back catalogue they’ve built up over the last two decades. A one-two of ‘Two Doors Down’ and ‘Young Love’ might be the pints aloft sing-along of the set, but it’s in the gut-punch anthemics of closer ‘Someone Purer’ that we’re reminded of the particular axis of wide-eyed emotion and gutsy melodic chutzpah that the Jets have always been kings of. Nestled in between, they debut an unnamed new song that shows that knack is still in full flow.

And whilst The Kooks are left to battle against the wilds of an unholy downpour on the main stage, it’s hometown heroes The Cribs who close our day with a perfectly-pitched setlist that celebrates undeniable, longstanding hits (‘Hey Scenesters!’, ‘Mirror Kissers’) and deep cuts (‘To Jackson’, the Steve Albini-dedicated ‘Give Good Time’) to a crowd that’s loyal to every note. Well into their third decade as a touring band, the Jarman brothers still throw every ounce of their being at the stage, throats ripping at the vocal peak of ‘Cheat On Me’, guitars ringing out into the confetti-clad sonic ascension of closer ‘Pink Snow’. If Live at Leeds In The Park is a celebration of both the city and the joy of a gang of musicians, making a triumphant noise, there’s no-one who could do them prouder than The Cribs.

Tags: Baxter Dury, Corinne Bailey Rae, flowerovlove, Good Neighbours, Mystery Jets, Orla Gartland, Sprints, The Cribs, Live at Leeds in the Park, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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