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FESTIVAL REVIEW: Live at Leeds In the Park 2024

At a time where music festivals are under an immense amount of pressure to deliver for their audiences and financial stressors are continuing to cause disruption, it is good to see a festival still going strong. Now in its third year, Live at Leeds: In the Park returned to Temple Newsam for a day-long, multi-stage musical adventure. There was wind, rain, clear skies, and big stars. It proved eventful.

Each year the festival attempts to streamline their offering, so to make best use of its site and to carry on improving what it brings to the people, this time round the open-air stages got bigger and the (waterproof) tents went smaller. Overall, the layout of the site worked well: stages were evenly distributed, we didn’t experience any congestion in any of the main areas and each stage offered great vantage points wherever you happened to be. It seems that the only place where the festival struggled this year, was in ground management, dealing with the mud that soon accumulated once the rainfall started in the late evening. The fact that it started raining seem to put a lot of people off, many skipped the headlining set by The Kooks because the rain was just a little too much. A disappointing close to a good year for the festival. Its line-up was packed with great names and it was set to be another sunny day out in the fields, unfortunately the North of England doesn’t always stick to the planned weather report and that’s that. Anyway, plenty of fun was had before the weather took a turn and we’ll focus on that.

Pop music was very well represented this year, and there was an array of choice—particularly great, was Beth McCarthy‘s set on the new Temple stage. We heard their upcoming new single a week early: ‘Good Bi’ starts out all Billie Eilish balladry before exploding into some kind of pleasant chaos, the hook—”How could anyone hate a good bi?“—just screams crowd sing-along moment. McCarthy is originally from York, and was extra elated to be back in Leeds performing for a Yorkshire crowd, dressed in classic pop punk attire (a la Avril Lavigne) it’s quite obvious that their career might just go in a similar direction as the aforementioned Canadian singer-songwriter, but it’s McCarthy’s own character that shines through most and leaves the lasting impression, their exuberant and bubbly personality makes the thirty minutes a breeze (and so much fun). 

Flowerovlove played the DIY stage, and quite possibly won us over the most out of everybody playing on the day. There’s a vibrancy to her music that is so incredibly uplifting, songs like ‘Boys’ and ‘Next Best Exit’ fit really well in a festival environment because of their catchy melodics and memorable hooks. It really comes across how talented an artist is when we experience their live set, and Flowerovlove has that special spark of genius about her that only a rare few truly carry, it’s exciting to be excited about an artist’s music and that’s how we felt watching Flowerovlove on this occasion. And it’s particularly cool that she has a song named ‘Hannah Montana’. I mean, that’s the sign of a classic right there. Everything about her music seems to be artistically driven, thoughtful, and unique to her own style, which, in our book, are some of the main components that make a successful career. The set wasn’t as well attended as it should’ve been, but we know the more word spreads about Flowerovlove, the busier the shows will get because she has exactly what it takes to become an icon.

A lot of anticipation surrounded Melanie C‘s early evening slot, ‘Will there be Spice Girls songs?‘, ‘What solo tracks will be on the set list?‘, ‘Will it take us back to the ’90s and ’00s?‘. All good questions—yes, there was. There were many. And it might just have. Announcing that this performance was her first in a while and that she’d just recently turned 50 and is still in celebration mode, gave the whole set an air of the sentimental. It was already a precious occasion upon knowing that an icon like Melanie C would be performing in the North of England and playing to home-crowds once more, but to experience the set was another thing. Honouring her love of dance music, her own extensive back catalogue of solo work, and her part as a member in one of the biggest pop bands in history, the set list was indeed packed full of throwbacks, heavenly reworks, and familiar gems. Everything it takes to bring the party to the fields. There was an acoustic section featuring Spice Girls hits and that sensational Bryan Adams collaboration, there was a chance to hear songs from Melanie C’s more recent electronic-leaning albums, and of course, those early singles from her much loved debut album, none of it left us feeling disappointed at all.

Indie heart-throbs Sea Girls are good at what they do: bright, big sing-alongs filled with the absolute essence of feel good. Their songs talk mostly about being young and carefree, mainly because that’s been their experience as songwriters up to this point—’Too Much Fun’ is the embodiment of this, channeling the spirit of a night out and the pleasures that come with it. ‘All I Wanna Hear You Say’ is still the ultimate indie clarion call that ushers in bouncing crowds every single time that that sweet chorus hits. ‘Do You Really Wanna Know?’ looks more introspectively, placing focus on mental health rather than just the good times, it sparkles with fun, catchy melodies so that it still ticks that box in bop territory. Returning to the main stage once again, they drew a big crowd and confirmed why indie music still is such a staple in our lives. There’s a reason why Sea Girls remain festival mainstays, and that’s because they always deliver.

Live at Leeds is well known for its of backing indie and alternative music, and when it comes to great rock sounds, Lucia & the Best Boys have found a sweet spot. Still riding high from the release of their long-awaited debut album, the band played an array of songs from that 2023 record alongside some earlier material, it all worked very cohesively and drew a full tent. As their first field festival of the year, it goes to show that they sound great in all formats: whether in club venues or outdoors, they bring a lot of energy and move about the stage confidently, and the thirty minute set just passed so fast. Guitar music is so versatile and can hold the brightest, most shimmering effervescence—and Lucia & the Best Boys with their goth, new wave style seem to capture the darker corners of rock perfectly without losing their signature shiny pop glow. They are one of the best bands doing it right now, and we’ll always race to see them whenever they play near.

It had been a while since London trio White Lies had played Live at Leeds last, so hearing that they were returning to the festival for the outdoor edition was a brilliant treat. They played the Clash big top tent, and their set seemed to draw the largest crowd for the stage that day, it’s hard to be sure, but it certainly was a popular show. People were palpably excited, the audible buzz surrounding 2019’s ‘Tokyo’ was a sign that even after the band’s most successful commercial years have passed, recognition for their music is still going strong. They blasted through songs from across their six-album discography, picking the best of the batch, and still sounding as fresh as they always have. Singer Harry McVeigh alters certain phrasings here and there, so even if you’re already familiar with their songs and how they sound in a live setting, they still manage to keep you on your toes every now and then. As well, ‘To Lose My Life’ sounded much slower in the choruses than it usually does, but that just all boils down to personal preference and the band’s chosen pacing for that performance. The music sounded alive regardless, and the whole thing felt extremely joyous and affirming. White Lies have stood the test of time for a reason, long may their music-making continue.

Our unofficial headliner was Circa Waves, even though they did indeed headline the Temple stage, so why not, as well, class them as our festival headliner? Unfortunately, their set took the brunt of the rapidly increasing rainfall and had the band shouting “F*** the rain” all the way through. Whereas the crowd had been chanting “Yorkshire” all day long during every other artist’s set, for Circa Waves they started calling: “T-Shirt Weather.” It is safe to say that that song still remains synonymous with the band today. The group rattled off a good amount of tunes in their time, covering their ten-year-plus history in true pro form. As the set goes on, you start to spot the fans who have been there for a while across the years and the ones who are more tuned into their recent eras, songs like ‘Fossils’ and ‘Be Your Drug’ act as the real test of what Circa Waves songs you know and which ones you don’t. It was particularly enjoyable hearing so many songs from their 2020 record, Sad Happy—it is undeniable just how revelrous and immediate their music is, they have a knack for finding that spark of sing-along in every song, which is why they’re the band so perfect for festivals (even if the weather is dreary and miserable).

Live at Leeds returns later in the year with its ‘In the City’ all-dayer, taking place on Saturday, 16th November across Leeds city centre venues. The first wave of line up announcements have already hit, so check that out on their website whenever you feel like it.

Photo Credit: ‘Melanie C’ by Georgina Hurdsfield (Tiny Raindrop Photography)

Charlotte Holroyd
Editor, Creator and Founder of Bitter Sweet Symphonies. A lover of music and cinema, who's constantly attending gigs and in search of a great experience.

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