Henham Park, Suffolk Friday, July 19 – Sunday, July 21
Latitude is the kind of place where you’ll go into a tent because it sounds like Everything Everything are onstage, only to discover a theatre troupe doing an interpretive dance to ‘Cough Cough’. The atmosphere is more polite than party, but the line-up always wins out. Friday, however, starts badly. Playing with new band The Intenders, James Skelly is a shadow of his former self. With the spark that characterised The Coral gone, they come off as a ropey pub band, and when they do a reggae version of Coral classic ‘Shadows Fall’, all hope fades away. Tim Burgess fares better, thanks to his infinite charisma and the fact that his recent album ‘Oh No I Love You’ is a low-key delight. Cat Power runs through typically emotional versions of ‘Manhattan’ and ‘Ruin’, Chan Marshall ending the set by throwing white flowers into the small yet dedicated crowd. But The Maccabees are the first band to really hit the mark, taking to the main stage before tonight’s headliners. ‘Given To The Wild’ is in its second year of touring but still sounds fresh, and when they bring out ‘First Love’ and ‘Grew Up At Midnight’, it feels natural for them to play such a big slot. The same goes for Bloc Party, who end the day with their first UK festival headline slot. Drummer Matt Tong’s absence isn’t mentioned, and there’s obvious tension between Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack as they exchange glares and leave via different sides of the stage. But all the underlying drama makes for an electrifying set. ‘Flux’ and ‘Banquet’ are taut and urgent, and new single ‘Ratchet’ sounds snarling and mocking. Tonight is the band’s last gig before they go on hiatus, which lends ‘This Modern Love’ an air of finality. If this is the end, they’re going out on a high.
White Denim kick off Saturday by proving that sometimes, originality isn’t everything. One minute they sound like Supergrass, the next The Black Keys, the next like any other generic guitar band from the last two decades. Despite the obvious influences, there’s enough energy behind singer Josh Block’s howling vocal and the Austin natives’ blues-rock shredding to guarantee a good time. Jagwar Ma are an irrepressible ball of energy, transforming ‘The Throw’ and ‘Exercise’ into looping swirls of Haçienda-indebted party anthems. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, meanwhile, prove that Karen O is still the most badass frontwoman around. Decked out in neon yellow and a crown, she bounds, shrieks and writhes around the stage, spitting out (relative) newie ‘Sacrilege’ and oldie ‘Date With The Night’ with equal ferocity. Hot Chip might not have the New Yorkers’ punk spirit, but Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard’s nerd disco is always a crowd-pleaser, and ‘Over And Over’ never fails to unite. Which leaves Kraftwerk – the weekend’s hottest tickets, but not the most festival-appropriate act. Though their 3D visuals and stage aesthetics are incredible, the crowd are appreciative rather than enthusiastic. There are small bubbles of activity for ‘The Model’ and ‘Autobahn’ (complete with floating 3D road signs), but the majority of the Germans’ immaculate set is met with stillness. No-one would dare ruin their street cred by admitting it, but, seminal or not, Kraftwerk don’t really work
at a festival.
Sunday hosts a special afternoon performance from Bobby Womack, whose warmth on recent career-rejuvenating hit ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’ cradles the crowd’s flagging Sunday spirit. James Blake is just as soothing, though less engaging, come mid-afternoon. ‘Limit To Your Love’ stands out, but in the blaring sun he sounds a little cold. It’s left to Swim Deep to bring the party vibes. Their album may not have landed yet, but everyone already knows the singles ‘The Sea’, ‘Honey’ and a final ‘King City’. Grizzly Bear are the spine-tingling penultimate band of the weekend, ‘Yet Again’ and ‘While You Wait For The Others’ soaring into the dusk before Foals round things off with a performance so visceral and fiery, it feels like their entire career has been leading up to this point.