EMINEM capped off a brilliant yet muddy Bank Holiday weekend at Leeds Festival.
Joined by DIDO and rapper ROYCE DA 5’9, EMINEM propelled himself through a career spanning set including hits such as ‘Cleaning Out My Closet,’ ‘The Way I Am’ and ‘Real Slim Shady.’
The classic set was most impressive for its relentless nature as Marshall ran through a series of medleys which ‘boxed off’ different manifestations of his musical style. Furthermore, this methodical, professional style to his music and knowing what the people wanted made EMINEM such a fantastic headliner.
Many people were surprised when EMINEM was named headliner earlier this year, some claiming he was past it but this performance will have proved many critics wrong; especially looking back to his last Reading and Leeds appearance 12 years ago. It was so much more rounded than before. With an awesome backing band, hype man Mr. Porter and a sober Shady, he was back (back again, Shady’s back - tell a friend).
The festival ended with a brief encore from EM. ‘Lose Yourself’ rang around the Main Stage in one of those classic, unforgettable, festival moments - a fitting end to an extraordinarily good weekend of music.
In many respects, Leeds Festival gambled on its headliners this year in BIFFY CLYRO, GREEN DAY and EMINEM but certainly, in my opinion, did it pay off massively. All the questions of could BIFFY step up to being a headliner? Did the people still care enough for GREEN DAY? Was EMINEM past it?
Well, yes, yes and no.
Possibly a stroke a genius.
The only slip-up (literally in many, many cases) was the weather. Torrential downpours Thursday, Friday and some steady drizzle on Saturday night dampened the ground but thankfully, didn’t dampen spirits. However, the rain made for unsteady grounding, flooded tents and mud baths galore - not the most ideal festival conditions sadly not helped by the festival’s lack of preparation for the scheduled deluge of rain.
Sporadic hay and wood chip proved lame whilst car parks became a gooey porridge seasoned with cars desperately trying to find some traction. Shambolic.
However, there was this feeling of togetherness mixed into the festival as everyone shared that ‘drowned’ feeling and this was extended as people came together to help push cars through the mud - a great display of ‘festival spirit.’
From the beginning, 12 noon on the NME Stage, DINOSAUR PILE-UP kick started the festival. Their anthem ‘Nature Nurture,’ set the precedent for the festival. It was punchy and clever with choruses that stretched on around the arena.
From there I hopped over to the Rock Stage (in a revised format to the arena this year, a much more intense formation of stages over a smaller space) to see BEWARE OF DARKNESS. BEWARE OF DARKNESS are relatively new to the English rock scene but following a successful tour supporting THE SMASHING PUMPKINS, this Californian trio are becoming ever popular with their brand of quirky garage rock.
Mid-afternoon threw up the first (of luckily few) soul destroying clashes. EDITORS or ARCANE ROOTS?
Now, you may not have heard of the latter but let me assure you that will very soon if you haven’t already with some massive support tours and an absolutely incredible new album...but I chose EDITORS.
Thankfully, they did not let me down. Playing a few wonderful tracks from their incredible new album ‘The Weight of Your Love,’ as well as their hits ‘Munich,’ ‘Papillon,’ and ‘An End Has A Start,’ EDITORS delighted the Main Stage with a perfect festival performance.
Fate then presented another decision, stick around waiting for FALL OUT BOY with the light pattering of rain that was beginning to come or see HAIM?
Well, after the plaudits for their Glastonbury performance - I had to catch HAIM and again, they were incredible - so tight, so creative and so commanding of the NME Stage. As one of the stand out acts of 2013, they easily could have been bumped into a Main Stage slot but the NME tent suited them perfectly and they had it absolutely packed.
Following the brilliance of HAIM, I stuck around for City and Colour and well, I was left a little underwhelmed. Maybe it was the result of HAIM comedown or being a big ALEXISONFIRE fan but Dallas Green just didn’t seem all there with the focus very much being on the new record and new tour rather than the festival.
As Friday drew to a close, NINE INCH NAILS returned to English soil (mud) following their hiatus to rapturous delight. With a minimalistic but effective stage show, NINE INCH NAILS let their music do the talking with a full bodied sound and Trent Reznor’s incredible voice slicing through the Main Stage. It was impressively sharp and despite it being a ‘Greatest Hits’ set list, there was a vibrancy and relevance to NINE INCH NAILS. Very impressive.
Then up stepped BIFFY CLYRO. I was always sure they would step-up to headliner status despite scepticism from other festival-goers but the Scottish rockers smashed it. Despite my assurance, there did seem to be a part of BIFFY CLYRO that wanted to make absolutely sure they lived up to headliner status by bringing an array of goodies to the Main Stage. With a huge metallic tree/staircase dominating the stage, lasers, smoke cannons and flaming beacons, BIFFY CLYRO left nothing to chance in putting on an incredible show.
Not to mention there was some music too.
Already topless, they opened with ‘Different People’ and ‘That Golden Rule’ before appearing to blow their speakers during ‘Sounds Like Balloons.’
From where I was stood, a couple of rows from the front, Simon Neil followed from ‘Sounds Like Balloons’ into ‘Biblical’ without any sound but their monitors working and so, for the first verse, they believed they could be heard but the crowd watching them was absolutely silent then...just before the chorus...the sound cut back in to enact absolute pandemonium for that chorus. Just imagine how that looked through the band’s eyes. Amazing scenes.
BIFFY then continued glitch free and flexed their muscles at their impressive back catalogue playing ‘57’ and ‘Glitter and Trauma’ which both received the same enthusiasm as the new tracks (post their cover of MATT CARDLE – really!) which have opened BIFFY CLYRO to a new breed of fans.
To close, the trio launched in ‘Stingin’ Belle’ and finally ‘Mountains’ which was accompanied by a magnificent burst of fireworks which punctuated the night sky and hammered home the lasting idea that BIFFY CLYRO are the best live rock band on the planet right now.
Saturday morning rolled around and a surprisingly small crowd gathered to see Dry The River at the NME Stage. It seemed only the damp and hung over were in attendance as they played but they performed magnificently, constantly lulling the crowd with a blend of choir-like rock then erupts into something monstrous. It was the equivalent effect of a hot cup of coffee for all those who turned up; getting the day off to a great start.
From choir-like rock to, well, the complete opposite on the Main Stage. In one of the most musically brutal days Leeds Festival has ever thrown up, I jumped in to see BRING ME THE HORIZON take to the stage.
Oli Sykes and co emerged on stage with their faces painted but the camaraderie stopped there as they blasted into ‘Shadow Moses’ from their newest masterpiece ‘Sempiternal.’ Sykes demanded the best from his crowd, ordering circle pits, crowd surfing and even for them to sit in the mud during ‘Diamonds Aren’t Forever.’
Following BRING ME THE HORIZON, I had hoped to see THE COMPUTERS play the Lock Up Stage but sadly their slot had been moved and now conflicted with System of a Down.
So, I settled for FRANK TURNER who despite slipping two discs in his back and against doctor’s orders played valiantly. It was odd; TURNER couldn’t play his guitar because of his injury and so ended up moving around on stage a lot more than he would have done - probably not the smartest move. It was odd (part 2); FRANK TURNER split BRING ME THE HORIZON and DEFTONES - seemed like bit of a festival faux-pas.
DEFTONES arrived on stage and whilst many hoped the Californians would bring some sunshine, Chino could only produce a moon whilst trying to clamber back on stage following a stint in the crowd during ‘My Own Summer.’ For me, I was in a longing daze during their set, just marvelling at the quality of DEFTONES as, to my shame, this was the first time I’d seen them play despite being a massive fan of theirs.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN played as support to GREEN DAY following on from DEFTONES which is personally a dream team selection.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN are my bet for performance of the festival - big words I know but they had it all. Regardless of whatever politics or feuds have been rumoured behind the scenes, they came out together, looked happy and gave it their all.
Furthermore, you can’t ask much more a festival band where the audience knows every song in their set list as a hit and they duly delivered with corkers like ‘Chop Suey,’ ‘Toxicity,’ and ‘Aerials.’
Frontman Serj Tankian was as brilliant as ever, his voice/range is extraordinary despite it not being used in the ‘System’ style as much as fans would like in recent years. But still, we can hope for that new album one day.
Then GREEN DAY came. They were like the perfect meal; it’s the only way I can describe it.
The starter involved the massive hits ‘Holiday’ and ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams.’
A main course was marked the ‘Dookie’ banner being unfurled as the punk rockers played through the 1994 album in its entirety.
For dessert, ‘Minority,’ ‘American Idiot,’ ‘Jesus of Suburbia’ and the icing on the cake came with an intimate rendition of ‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).’
You cannot complain with a meal like that. Yes, you compromise with hundreds of times you have to sing ‘Heeeeey-Ooooh’ but you will probably never see ‘Sassafrass Roots’ or ‘Emenius Sleepus’ performed again.
Billie-Joe played a marathon set which saw him drag members of the crowd up on stage, use a t-shirt gun, a water pistol and play a cover of The Who thus proving that GREEN DAY not only have something for everyone but they can also do whatever they like.
As Sunday loomed and the weather steadied, I looked at the line-up and wasn’t sure where I was going. From being stretched the previous two days, my ‘must-see’ list looked a little bare.
I headed to the Main Stage and found a mud bath and MALLORY KNOX whose intelligent poppy rock was a welcome dose of morning punch.
Then, a little later, in the NME Stage came DEAF HAVANA whose impending third album brings with it a third manifestation of the band in terms of image and music. With the first album seemingly forgotten, they jumped into new tracks ‘Mildred’ and ‘Boston Square’ to which a healthy crowd lapped up.
From seeing DEAF HAVANA develop a lot from the pre-first album days, they have both settled in their music and relaxed as people into becoming an established band whose coming album ‘Old Souls,’ may be one of the albums of the year.
I was then persuaded to see WHITE LIES, whom I wrongly assumed I wouldn’t enjoy - it seemed relentless TV advertising campaigns had already burnt WHITE LIES into my knowledge and I enjoyed it massively. I shouldn’t be so judgmental.
Then over to the Lock-Up Stage to see THE BRONX. The music is too loud, it’s dirty, you get bitten, kicked, pulled, punched and it’s brilliant. The music seemed a little rough and technically lethargic but that is kind of what you expect and you just enjoy the spectacle of a hefty, bald, thirty something man running around a mud bath with his microphone in hand, screaming something inaudible. Beautiful.
IMAGINE DRAGONS had the NME fit to burst by the time I got there and they were extremely impressive. They had so many people watching them as there seemed to be something for everybody from the gritty dubsteppy to the explosive rock and it was wonderful to see them enjoy such a massive crowd.
Before EMINEM, I stumbled into TIM BURGESS who was excellent; charming and professional despite being victim of having to compete with playing at the same time as FOALS and IMAGINE DRAGONS.
All in all, Leeds Festival pulled it out of the bag. They took some big risks in their headliners and with NINE INCH NAILS and SYSTEM OF A DOWN but it all came off - they were all excellent. Whether it was luck or brilliant planning, we may never know but it was a wonderful line-up.
The tag that Reading and Leeds was ‘softening up’ was dispelled whilst a nod to the R’n’B traditions of the festival were kept alive too. Personally, it was the festival line-up of the summer and it delivered in abundance. A terrific end to the festival season.
You can buy early bird tickets for 2014 online now from www.aloud.com
Words: Alexander Bradley
Photo: Todd Owyoung