Review: The best (and worst) bands at Leeds Festival 2015

By Graham Chalmers, Laura Hill and Nina Swift

Wednesday, 2nd September 2015, 10:27 am
NAWN 1508303AM26 Leeds Festival. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1508303AM26)

Leeds Festival is always a natural barometer not only of how good particular music acts are but how popular they are, too.

Over the three days at a mostly sunny Bramham Park this year, some acts played impressively but to smallish crowds, others pulled unexpectedly big responses and a few who were hitherto unknown went down an absolute storm.

For fans of Queen or the Rolling Stones, The Struts, Saturday’s opening act on the NME/BBC Radio One stage, were a revelation.

Boasting hook-laden, good-time originals steeped in 70s rock n roll with a uber-theatrical front man dressed in similarly 70s attire who had amazing control over an ecstatic crowd, this is band to look out for- unless they get too silly like The Darkness!

Grammy-award winning rap superstars are few and far between on UK festival line-ups, but Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar looked right at home on the main stage on Friday.

With second billing, he had the liveliest audience of the day, storming through an hour-long set to raucous festival goers who bounced along to Don’t Kill My Vibe.

The same day also saw the return of the kings of shamolic indie rock, The Libertines who faced a crowd not quite as lively as the mid-2000’s Libertines fanbase, prompting Pete Doherty to plead for more enthusiasm.

“You’re making us feel really unloved,“ Pete said but he soon had a roaring crowd of thousands singing along to Can’t Stand Me Now.

Saturday saw headliners Mumford & Sons require wardrobe assistamnce when lead singer Marcus Mumford had his shirt deservedly ripped open after clambering off stage into the audience for a bit of bonding.

Earlier Panic at the Disco added spangle and sparkle - and some good tunes - to a flat afternoon on the main stage. Under-rated band.

The best cover versions of the weekend award was shared by Metallica (Thin Lizzy’s Whiskey in the Jar) and Royal Blood (Black Sabbath’s Iron Man).

Much-fancied London-based guitar band Wolf Alice suffered on Sunday from dreadful sound but two of Saturday’s more upbeat acts, Peace and Bastille both got audiences roused into action from the kick-off.

Two well-known ‘art rock’ bands were very impressive musically but attracted disappointing crowd reactions - Django Django and Alt-J whose drummer is from Harrogate.

Two bands called ‘indie’ theoretically who put ‘middle’ in middle of the road included the highly popular Saint Raymond, who might have fitted in well in 80s bands Erasure or INXS; and Eliza and the Bear who efficiently blended the jolly rootsiness of Mumford & Sons with the anthemic qualities of Arcade Fire without adding anything of their own.

Among the lesser-known acts to make an impression were: Birmingham’s hook-laden psychedelic soul-dance-krautrockers Swim Deep who may well give Foals a run for their money

Demonically theatrical Japanese art-punk band Bo Ningen who were like watching a 3D horror movie.

Shouty, energetic punky duo Slaves who grabbed the audience by the throat.

New York’s Pavement-like alt-rock band Parquet Courts who were like Sonic Youth with a sense of humour.

Finally, a tip for the future - new Bowie-esque Glasgow band White.