It’s the final day of cinch presents Latitude 2021, but before we say goodbye for another year, let’s wrap up another day’s worth of highlights.
With the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Bastille ReOrchestrated, The Vaccines and many more, it truly was a beautiful ending to a beautiful weekend. See you in 2022!
It’s a dusty and warm Sunday morning. The campsites are quiet, a weekend’s revelry beginning to take its toll. The trees rustle in the wind, the birds chirp on a peaceful morn. The woodlands seem tranquil, the arenas are empty, anticipating one final day of excitement. At the Obelisk Arena, a man from the west country with fingers of fury plays a mandolin like he’s playing for his life before he’s even had his lunch in front of thousands of people. Wait, what?
That’s the anarchic magic of Bill Bailey to a tee. In a surprising first for Latitude, the Comedy Arena has taken over the Obelisk, but it felt wholly natural. Even if, as he admits, he had to win Strictly Come Dancing to make it to the main stage. A 21st century renaissance man, the actor, comedian, dance champion and musician has been packing out arena tours for years with his blend of silliness and musical wizardry, and it was out in force in front of thousands despite the early morning wake up call.
The skill on show was absolutely immense, but Bailey is such a ball of energy it just feels like he’s having a giggle as he plays around with some instruments. The bells of metal, bible guitars (two settings: old and new testament), kick drums, hand pans, the… horns of metal. All took us through the musical comedy odyssey only Bill can do. Let’s just say you really haven’t heard Old McDonald played until it’s been played by Tom Waits.
Stepping onto the Obelisk Arena stage next is the tongue in cheek Self Esteem, arriving onstage to the opening bars of ‘Prioritise Pleasure’ – a powerhouse of a self love anthem focused on the hopefully no longer radical act of female pleasure.
Rebecca Lucy Taylor and her trio of backing singers are delightfully self-aware as they execute dance routines any good classic girl band would be jealous of. The crowd is treated to as yet unheard material from Taylor’s upcoming second record including ‘Moody’ and the slower bars of ‘Still Raining’.
Enjoyment and happiness radiates from Taylor as she introduces yet another new one. ‘How Can I Help You?’ thunders into existence, with a distinct aura of ‘Black Skinhead’ by Kanye West to it.
The dancing, the harmonies and the sly digs at boys who don’t pay attention or reply to texts are all delivered with precision and a sense of humour. Formerly of the band Slow Club, Rebecca Lucy Taylor has encountered her fair share of music industry execs telling her to be anything but herself – but thankfully for the world, she has stopped listening and has put her own enjoyment and self first. The result is an empowering stage presence and wall to wall enjoyment across the Obelisk Arena.
As Taylor and her band exit the stage to the apt sounds of ‘Gimme More’ by Britney Spears, pleasure has absolutely been prioritised this fine Latitude Sunday.
Joel Dommett was by his own admission, a little worse for wear after Chemical Brothers last night, but at least it makes for some great material today. Dancing about on stage with the trademark Dommett energy, he recalls the hugging, the screaming, the messy attempt at lyrics. He remembers the moment of clarity you can only get in a festival field at 10pm. As the heavens opened almost poetically during ‘Star Guitar’, he has the revelation: “Woah. God’s loving this”.
Dommett was obviously ecstatic to be back on stage, for slightly different reasons than most. Thanks to the storming success of ‘The Masked Singer’ but the stuck-in nature of lockdown, he’s taken to corporate editions of the show entirely on Zoom, no longer revealing popstars or politicians, but Karen from Accounts. He rattled through material, dissecting the teenage rap songs he produced (featuring his mum on piano) and revealing the tune to the world via the power of the aux cable. We may be biased, but we think there’s an Obelisk future for Joel on the horizon. Or at least a secret set in The Alcove.
He knows his material has changed over the years, especially since getting married, with talk about weddings and houses instead of the trappings of a single life. In fact, he even gave the Comedy Arena audience a little exclusive. He and his wife are expecting… a sofa… going to take about twelve weeks apparently. It’s taking ages.
Switzerland is not exactly a bustling music hub, but that hasn’t stopped Priya Ragu from breaking through. Half Swiss and half Tamil, Ragu creates a beguiling blend of alternative R&B enriched with multiculturalism that is reflective of her diverse background. The BBC Sounds stage is very much on the same level as Priya and her full band, embracing the genre changes with each new song played. Delving into hip-hop on one and then zipping back into more singer-songwriter territory, Priya clearly enjoys not sticking in one lane – and with each passing moment, it becomes clear to see why trying to pigeonhole her into one box just simply wouldn’t work.
Ragu’s stage presence is as cool as her sound, drifting around the stage and encouraging crowd singalongs, it’s obvious how destined she has always been to be a performer. Similarities could be drawn to the likes of Tash Sultana, but by equal measure Priya Ragu exists in a musical vacuum that remains ambiguous and mysterious – further adding to the potential she clearly has. There are brief moments of Tamil spoken lyrics added to tracks, highlighting that for Priya, her heritage remains at the forefront of her musical mind.
Surprise guests The Vaccines take over the BBC Sounds stage to an audience that, even at a moment’s notice, are ready to rock!
It has been a decade since The Vaccines first performed at Latitude, and songs like ‘I Always Knew’ and ‘If You Wanna’ have soundtracked the formative years of so many people present. It feels like a homecoming as Justin Hayward Young struts around the stage with a confident Mick Jagger swagger. And not even a broken ankle can stop bass player Arni from putting his all into the set, perhaps the most impressive endurance feat seen so far this weekend.
New album ‘Love City’ goes down a treat in between the classics, the slight 80s direction can be felt from the synths through to the purple and blue lighting that flashes from the back of the stage.
Just like a lot of The Vaccines songs, the set is short but sweet and the crowd are left wanting more – for now though, they get to lose themselves once more to ‘All In White’, and transport life back to 2011, if only for a few short minutes.
It’s official: Kaiser Chiefs have superpowers. Truth be told, there’s been a storm brewing all weekend and we’ve had one eye on the weather. So imagine our surprise when the thunderclouds swerved Suffolk throughout the afternoon, just in time for the Yorkshire legends to take their spot on the Obelisk Stage. Rumours of Ricky Wilson performing a sundance backstage are so far, unverified.
As you can imagine, this was one of the biggest singalong sets of the weekend. We could just type “Ruby Ruby Ruby Ruby” and you’d be ahh-ahhing to yourself in your head. They tore through their back catalogue at a rate of knots and the thousands in attendance revelled in every second. Even dozens of children, born way after the classic 2005 album ‘Employment’, spent ‘I Predict a Riot’ on their parents’ shoulders, hollering every word.
Ricky Wilson is as boundless a frontman as ever, the ultimate entertainer. He toyed with the audience, purred down the cameras, and launched himself atop any standing that’d have him. Wilson quite rightly announced this was their Latitude debut, and that the petition for it not to be their last starts with a collective chant of the ‘Oh My God’ chorus. Thousands signed in unison.
Petition received and, we have no doubt, thoroughly approved in future.
“I turned down Love Island for this” – Jo Brand’s opening salvo on the last set of the Comedy Arena for 2021. That’s another Latitude exclusive, then.
For nearly four decades, Brand has used her razor-sharp wit and deadpan personality to continue to be one of the most adored comedians on the scene. She regularly slices her way through the annoyances of life, and her Latitude set was no different. But first, she had to broker a deal. A little girl is front and centre on her own, while her dad sits rows behind. It’s because she doesn’t like her dad as much as her mum, she grins cheekily. Brand’s solution? Money, as she began negotiations between the two. The kid’s opening offer? “Ten grand”. And just like that negotiations close.
On with the show, and it was a real scattergun approach to her irritations. It was almost as if Brand had been locked in for eighteen months. Going down a deep YouTube hole mid-lockdown, she became spellbound by videos on how to change the battery of an iPhone. She initially loved a snoop in people’s Zoom backgrounds but suggested we all now start to hide lewd things to make it more interesting.
It’s the government that took the biggest bashing, the ex-nurse pondering on the single George Cross medal awarded to the entire NHS. Quite rightly, why not give it to every single nurse instead? Failing that, she’ll accept everyone taking a turn with it like the school hamster.
John Cooper Clarke
On paper, John Cooper Clarke’s words lift off the page. It’s impossible that distinctive Manchester lilt doesn’t rattle round your head as his jazz-like tempo surges and swells through all of his poems. It does this tenfold when the man is in the room with you, the unpredictability of the punk king of poetry powering a mesmerising end to the Listening Post. It’s that trademark delivery that makes him so adored. ‘Hire Car’ has the flow of acapella heavy metal and the breakneck ‘Beasley Street’ almost imitates an auctioneer, but he can bring that down to a rolling plod at the drop of a hat.
Clarke is such a well-received stalwart of the festival, he almost feels like the custodian of Latitude literature. His readings never stick to a set and this year was no different. At times it felt like the JCP jukebox, the tent firing out requests. Dr John Cooper Clarke flits through his own published collections and notebook to find the right poem for the moment, or just the one he’s remembered at that moment.
Everything comes with a tale, or a witty one-liner to warm the situation. He happily spoke about selling out, proudly proclaiming himself the first-ever sidekick for the Sugar Puffs’ Honey Monster. Stories about his love life precede tender verses like ‘I Think I’m In Love With My Wife’ while his thoughts on the NHS are attached to the classic poem about growing old in hospital and feeling the ‘Bedblocker Blues’.
We’ll see you again soon, good doctor.
Bombay Bicycle Club
Bombay Bicycle Club take to the Obelisk in a joyful explosion of pink and white confetti, before launching straight into the opening bars of ‘Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)’. Conducting the crowd like an orchestra in between strums of his guitar, frontman Jack Steadman is beaming from ear to ear at the sight of not just the jovial crowd, but of the double rainbow that has formed over the Latitude site.
The introduction of a horn section for ‘Shuffle’ gets even the weariest feet in the audience going, the jangly piano acting as a cure all for a weekend of revelry. Live percussionist Emma Topolski is ushered to the front of the stage by Steadman for a blissful cover of Selena Gomez’s ‘Lose You To Love Me’. The pair transform the track into an idyllic sundowner, their harmonious back and forth transforming a break up anthem into a celebration of finding yourself in the chaos.
As streamers spill from cannons drenching the crowd in yet another festival of colour, Bombay Bicycle Club kick off a portion of their set dedicated to celebrating 10 years since debut album ‘I Had The Blues But Shook Them Loose’. Treating the audience to a slew of classic fan favourites, the atmosphere shifts from focusing on a partying mood, to one of gratitude – taking a moment to reflect on the luck of being at a festival surrounded by people after so long away.
The closure of their set sees yet another confetti release, this time in the Latitude 2021 colours as the band reiterate their core message of music as a source of hope and light, a sentiment many will carry with them long after the festival shuts its gates for another year.
The headline slot from Bastille is no ordinary outing for the band. They have masterfully reimagined their set to include a full orchestra and choir, transporting their already full sounding live performance to new heights.
As frontman Dan pounds the stage like a spider on a treadmill, strings soar from behind him and the heavenly choral arrangements thrust the euphoric factor all the way up to 11. The heightened sensation and drama of songs like ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ burn brightly in the evening sky, and it is a pleasure to occasionally have Bastille step back to allow the choir and orchestra room to shine as individual entities.
More than just a straight up orchestral version of their normal show, Bastille go the extra mile by adding in breakbeat and hip-hop to their ever expanding repertoire. It shows a true passion and understanding of how to graduate from a well loved band to a fully fledged festival headliner.
‘Send Them Off!’ goes a long way to show off Dan Smith’s vocal range, hitting the swelling chorus notes as though his life depended on it. Bolstered by the choir, there is a church-like feel introduced to proceedings.
Despite it being their own moment in the sun as headliners, it is a wonderful surprise when Bastille introduce Griff to the stage for a performance of ‘Rhythm Of The Night’, an early cover that helped propel the band into the big leagues. It’s a humbling moment as Griff is visibly awed by the experience of momentarily headlining, following on from her electrifying Obelisk set earlier in the day.
The spine-tingling finale of a stripped back version of ‘Pompeii’ allows the choir to carry and hold everyone in their arms. As is the theme of the weekend, Bastille can’t quite believe their luck to be headlining the festival, but their set has proved them more than worthy of top billing.