Live Review of Live at Leeds 2013

Having quickly established itself as the best metropolitan music festival in the UK, Live At Leeds returned over the warm bank holiday weekend to send a spark of excitement and energy fizzing through the city's streets. As ever with LAL - and most other festivals - line-up clashes were inevitable though it did little to dampen the atmosphere of what proved to be one of the best Live at Leeds offerings yet.

Live at Leeds

The thing to remember when wandering the streets with a crumpled programme trying to figure out if you can sprint from Brudenell Social Club to The Wardrobe in under 8 minutes is that you really don't need to. The whole point of Live at Leeds is that there's always someone playing, somewhere, and it makes for a far richer experience to circle a couple of your must-sees though pretty much go with the flow of the festival.

Incidentally - after a visit to the Holy Trinity Church to catch the end of the impressive Harry George Johns - the first real port of call was the horrendously busy Cockpit venue in the city centre, where queues snaked up and down the street with hundreds of fans desperate to gain access. Luckily, organisers had put together a pretty tasty schedule for the venue so waiting wristband holders were eventually treated to something worth queuing for.

London band Sons and Lovers were greeted by a healthy crowd for their return to Leeds. The group supported Ellie Goulding at the O2 Academy in 2012 and appear to have honed their expansive sound for the bigger venues. Fans who saw The 1975 later in the day could have done worse than catching Sons and Lovers who offered a similarly melodic largely inoffensive set of radio-friendly rock that showed off their impressive tightness as a four-piece. Ok, so don't be surprised should Kings or Set My Heart pops up on the Made in Chelsea soundtrack anytime soon, but keep an eye out for these all the same.

Next up was the hugely popular Geordie band Little Comets at the city's biggest venue, the O2 Academy. The group effectively pulled in a sold-out crowd, with hundreds left queuing outside to catch the opening riffs to Dancing Song, and Jennifer. With a sound that far outweighs their unassuming three-piece presence on-stage, the spikey poppers riffled through a snappy set. The crowd appeared to show their appreciation - many had seen these Newcastle natives before. The superbly crafted Opus Song was the highlight of a memorable set that raised the bar for later acts looking to tame the expectant Academy crowds.

The trek across town to the folky-jazz venue The Wardrobe paid off with a much needed atmospheric set from Hunting Bears. Armed with ukulele, double bass, trumpet and five-part harmonies, the five-piece delivered a genuinely beautiful sound that acted as the perfect pre-evening set.

Though a folksy five-piece appeared to be a good idea, it only served to lure the ears into a false sense of security ahead of The 1975's set at the now bulging-at-the-seams Cockpit. Though the Manchester indie-rockers have been plying their trade for a while now, their recent smash-hit single Chocolate has turned everything up to 11. What could have been assumed to be the queue into the venue actually turned out to be a gathering of girls hovering around the band ahead of their set. Things were similarly frantic inside as security decided enough was enough and stopped admitting fans into the main room of the venue, leaving them instead with their ears to the wall. One guy offered security £30 in cold hard cash to merely open the door and let him hear the band. It's not difficult to figure out why The 1975 have drummed up the hype. A set that somehow managed to sound chaotic yet note perfect rocketed along, with frontman Matthew Healy appearing every inch the frontman. The female contingent agreed. It's easy to dismiss and discourage a band like The 1975 but the crowd at The Cockpit presumably required little thinking time when asked of their festival highlight.

And so it was back to the O2 Academy to catch AlunaGeorge, the electronic music duo from London and darlings of BBC6Music and Radio One's Nick Grimshaw. The band had been shortlisted for the 2013 BRIT Award for Critics' Choice after releasing their delightfully cool debut single Your Drums, Your Love.  Unlike the Little Comets at the O2, AlunaGeorge failed to immediately grab the crowd's attention though the Disclosure collaboration White Noise managed to have the desired effects - Attracting Flies did the rest. Ultimately, it was an up-and-down set that left it pretty evident an AlunaGeorge/1975's venue swap would have benefitted everyone involved.

A visit to Leeds Met was hastier than expected after Laura Mvula kept everyone waiting, though it proved a blessing in disguise after stumbling across a set from Stockport's finest, Dutch Uncles at Leeds University. A gloriously ramshackle set led by frontman Duncan Wallis - offering a set of the finest dance moves in the West Yorkshire area - was a gladly appreciated shot in the arm after an early evening lull. The danceable beats and toe-tapping rhythms are all very Talking Heads, though it's certainly no bad thing and with Flexxin' they offered an early contender for single of the year.

And so the Live at Leeds contingent scurried around the city to get in line for their headline act of choice. Darwin Deez, The Staves and The Walkmen offered something for most, though the pin dropped on Everything Everything, a Manchester band at the very top of their game. The complexities of new record Arc were in full flow, though Leeds wasn't ready to finish the party and it was MY KZ, UR BF and Photoshop Handsome from the band's critically acclaimed debut Man Alive that took the set up a gear. It was a perfectly balanced headline set from easily the tightest group of the day, fittingly closing Live at Leeds for another year.

Micheal West.

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