Latitude Festival, Suffolk
Performers and poets bask in the Latitude gratitude
Monday 19 July 2010
Latitude bills itself as "more than just a music festival", and it's true. Within two hours of arriving, we've sampled comedy, poetry and music. The RSC shares a bill with Florence And The Machine, and the crowd ranges from happy toddlers to hipster teenagers to middle-aged ex-hippies.
Laura Marling is a festival fixture this summer, although she confides that Latitude is the first one she's "really been looking forward to" (a sentiment many performers seem to share). Her personal, poignant songs are lent rich warmth by her backing band, with No Hope in the Air a tingling highlight.
Friday's headliners are revealed on the main stage when black silk sheets drop to reveal Florence and her "machine": a backing choir, concert harpist, and small orchestra. Florence stands centre stage, resplendent and ethereal, with white swathes of material gusting between her wrists and the satin, high-cut bodice she's barely wearing. The stage is bedecked with flowers and bird cages; her red hair festooned with ribbons.
But is there more than just spectacle? The crowd were restless for hits, but there's no denying her impressive vocal performance. From the opening number Drumming Song, she swoops between bird-like trills and throaty blasts – and even a piercing full-on scream.
By the encore, she's melted with Latitude gratitude: "It was such a pleasure to break our headliner cherry with you," she purrs, before getting the entire crowd to pogo.
Friday finishes with a bedtime story from the comedian Daniel Kitson, on a floating lake stage surrounded by lily lamps providing an atmospheric backdrop for his bittersweet story.
Saturday comes warm and windy, but many are prepared to sweat in a tent for Noah and the Whale. They've found a happy balance between the folky cheeriness of their hit 5 Years Time and recent melancholic outpourings, and produce an assured, uplifting set. James deliver a nostalgia-fuelled afternoon slot. Frontman Tim Booth is soon doing his jelly-limbed spasm dance, but it's not until Sit Down – with Booth perching on the front barrier – that the crowd really joins in.
The poetry tent is a haven, with a rolling line-up dominated by new young performance poets. There are knock-out sets from Laura Dockrill, Aisle 16, and a blistering Kate Tempest, who prompts a standing ovation.
Unlike Florence, Saturday's headliners Belle and Sebastian perform without any bells and whistles. But with seven albums to pick from, the enduring twee indie-folk favourites' set is a real treat.
Stuart Murdoch banters lightly with the audience, encouraging us to "have a wee jig" – and getting a gaggle of teens on stage to do just that during The Boy With the Arab Strap.
He promises several songs about creatures, and it's an emotional Fox in the Snow and joyous Judy and the Dream of Horses that provide the real (animal) magic.
Sunday starts with a special performance from Tom Jones. That voice has certainly aged well, bringing a gravelly grandeur to his new, religion-soaked rhythm'n'blues.
We're warned he's going to play his new album, but think surely they'll be some hits too. Nope – everything's new with this pussycat.
Yeasayer were supremely slick, their falsetto vocals, tight guitar riffs and infectious beats prompting a spot of enthusiastic afternoon dancing.
From bouncy opener Holiday, Sunday headliners Vampire Weekend deliver a thoroughly enjoyable set that keeps those feet moving and rounds off a pretty good last night of Latitude too.
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