Leeds Festival 2009 – Arctic Monkeys/Radiohead/Kings of Leon – Festival Review

The August bank holiday has become quite the right of passage for many an emancipated teen over the years. They arrive fresh-faced and full of zeal having qualified from state education, emulating their favoured musical luminaries and genres in the latest Topshop/Topman trend to match; the extent to which they unknowingly parody the event and each other will often raise a wry smile upon the faces of those who have run the three-day gauntlet before them – we’ve all arrived children of the revolution at some point, but we all return edified by our experiences there.

And looking at the Main Stage’s headliners, how could we be disappointed? Arctic Monkeys and Kings of Leon, two of this decade’s most iconic bands acting as bookends to Radiohead’s omnipotent glory and grace. If we are amidst the doldrums of a recession, Festival Republic’s organisers were certainly doing their bit to keep the good ship Albion’s economy afloat.

Arctic Monkeys opened their set with ‘My Propeller’, Nick Cave’s ‘Red Right Hand’ and ‘Crying Lightning’, an audacious statement of intent if ever there was one. This is no longer the band that brought us the pop frivolities of ‘Mardy Bum’, this is a band that have reinvented themselves and the direction of the third album wheel for many to follow. The crowd, however, were polarised to Turner and Co’s new approach: the pop plaudits were disappointed; the pundits left bereft of articulacy.

The rumours and revelations of Thom Yorke’s disappointment to his performance on Saturday night left many perplexed and speechless. This was not the first time the crowd had felt such emotions: a two-hour strong set including ‘Just’, ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’ and newby ‘These Are My Twisted Words’ executed with enigmatic perfection left many open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

With the conversational skills of an echo, Caleb’s messianic interjections between every song began to wear as thin for their apparent enthusiasm for stadium-rock-by-numbers set laced with tracks from Only By The Night. This may have been the performance of their career, the kids may have loved it, but it was somewhat subservient to their commercial appeal, enervating the purists in attendance.

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