Latitude 2015: Saturday - Henham Park, Suffolk
With the amount of dust in the air, and much of it clinging to every follicle of hair, Saturday at Latitude resembled a scene from the recent Mad Max film with staff and revellers alike wearing scarves and masks to try and go about their business with a degree of normality.
Musically it was a day of contrasts, beginning with Badly Drawn Boy turning what should have been a celebration of his 2000 album The Hour of the Bewilderbeast into a whinge about how little he was getting paid (about £5k apparently), right through to the imperiously atmospheric headlining performance from Portishead despite Beth Gibbons admitting that nerves were tingling beforehand.
In between, Nadine Shah stunned the iArena with her beautiful voice and easy charm that is somewhat at odds with the intensity of her music. The tracks lifted from her recent Fast Food album showcased her development as an artist over her short career to date. On the BBC Radio 6 Music stage the ever truculent Mark Kozelek, in his Sun Kil Moon guise, manages to not lose his shit over sound bleed from the Obelisk Arena and deliver a masterclass in challenging, fascinating, melodious, kinda Americana; he’s impressive live and his near stream of consciousness lyrics keep your ears engaged.
Backing up Kozalek in the loud stakes were Wolf Alice who, to be blunt, are fucking brilliant. You can’t help but think that they’re the real thing: a swag bag of great tunes; boundless energy; personality to spare; and with a female frontwoman - something that’s sadly rare at the upper end of festivals this summer. It’s tough to pick out specific tracks as the standard is uniformly high, but the endlessly magnificent ‘Your Love’s Whore’ and bombastic ‘Giant Peach’ sum up their appeal the best. Cue endless moshing from teens and 20-somethings.
Old stagers The Charlatans are still a tight musical outfit and Tim Burgess manages to keep it all together, a run including ‘One To Another’, ‘The Only One I Know’ and ‘How High’ at the end of their set confirm their semi-underappreciated excellence.
The one thing that Latitude does well is diversity, and if soulful pop is your thing then Leon Bridges and Lianne La Havas are perfect for sunny afternoons. They both deliver smooth, slick, soul: Bridges more retro, while La Havas, despite her beautiful voice, sweet songs, and Prince mentoring, is a little overwhelmed by the Obelisk Arena.
Finally, in an almost perfect segue into the headliners, folky Laura Marling goes a bit electric for her early evening set and dubstep king James Blake wins fans with his technology-with-a-heart turn. And his live version of ‘Limit To Your Love’ is one of the most heart wrenching songs you'll hear. Really though it’s all about Portishead. A shaky start from Beth Gibbons gives way to a gripping set of still groundbreaking songs (a superbly sparse 'Wandering Star', eerie 'Mysterons', the overwhelming two hander 'The Rip' with guest Thom Yorke), reminding you just how influential the band remain despite only releasing three albums in twenty years.