On a sunny Sunday morning the Latitude site is just beginning to stir to life. The dust is settling, the sun poking through the trees and a gentle breeze is rippling the water. Some are swimming, others taking a boat ride or going for a jog.
At the Waterfront Stage, saxophonist Jess Gillam is playing a dazzling rendition of “Dappled Light”, a careful composition of gentle sax solos and pondering keys that overflows into a larger orchestral piece. “This song is about the world waking up,” Jess explains, “which I suppose the festival just is.”
With a captivated audience perched at the water’s edge, Jess and her ensemble meander through a variety of period pieces as well as more up-to-date jaunts. There’s a bit of tango, a percussive samba, an upbeat allegro introduced as “rave music from the 1700s” and modern-day covers aplenty. Boasting her spellbinding stage-presence and mastery over both her instrument and ensemble, she also treats the audience to ingenious covers of James Blake’s ‘Retrograde’, Thom Yorke’s ‘Suspirium’ and Björk’s ‘Venus as a Boy’.
A more than fitting soundtrack to a suitably sleepy morning — and dubbed by festival boss Melvin Benn as his “favourite act of the weekend” — there couldn’t be a more idyllic start to Latitude’s last day.
Troy Hawke, the character created and performed by comedian Milo McCabe, opens his packed out stint in the Comedy Arena with a gag about dopamine. Everyone in the world can be split into two groups, he says,“high dopamine people” and “low dopamine people”. He falls into the latter: needing a bigger adrenaline rush to feel fulfilled.
But if it’s a happiness hit you’re looking for, Hawke’s set was the place to find it. In full character, complete with deep purple silk robe, beige chinos and facial expressions that look as though they’d been plucked straight from a seaside caricature, the comedian was on form as he began to let rip on his unwitting afternoon audience.
From jibes at an unsuspecting onlooker in the front row to an inspiring spiel on imposter syndrome and a feminist dissection of Roger Hargreaves’ ‘Mr Men’, Hawke’s blisteringly funny 1930s persona was character comedy at its finest. Nimbly digressing between antiquated observations and commentary on 21st century culture, the only disappointment was that it was over far too soon.
Jose Agudo: Carmen
As the sun rises ever higher in the sky, the Sunday afternoon crowd can see a dance retelling of the popular novella and subsequent opera ‘Carmen’. Set against a backdrop of the river sparkling in the sunshine next to the Waterfront stage, the Agudo Dance Company uses a mix of flamenco, contemporary and Indian Kathak dance to retell the popular tale. They even add a new sapphic romance for the main character.
Jose Agudo, the company’s artistic director and choreographer, uses his roots in flamenco to tell the story in sumptuous, sensual detail. The mix of dances adds to the tension of the original storyline, that explores obsession, freedom and very real feeling human emotions. It is with a careful mix of these varying styles of dance, and a purposefully bare stage, that the audience find new facets to love about an old tale.
Bounding onto the Obelisk Arena stage looking like he’d raided the wardrobes of Harry Styles or a younger Elton John, Mark Owen brought the energy from the opening bars of his recent single ‘Are You Looking for Billy?’.
With jangling, feel-good percussion, a roaring, responsive crowd and a strutting stamina that most of us can only wish we had come 5pm on a Sunday afternoon, Owen tore through a blend of shiny new material, older solo hits and a handful of Take That classics.
From the shimmering pop singalongs on ‘90s cut ‘Clementine’, to the hearted hand-waving on unreleased ‘Rio’ and full-blown singalongs on ‘The Flood’, ‘Shine’ and ‘These Days’, Owen was unfaltering throughout. A stunning display of showmanship — broken only temporarily as he sweetly asked the audience to wish his ten-year old daughter a happy birthday — the singer-songwriter played up to his audience with sparkling popstar passion.
The Stopgap Dance Company: Frock
The waterfront stage is a perfect setting for the fluid – both in gender and in physicality – dancing presented by The StopGap Dance Company. Frock is a production of six dancers, with a range of varying disabilities and neurodivergence. They’re dressed in their gender stereotype’s opposite outfits; costumes include Bugsy Malone esque suits and flowing, vibrant orange skirts. The dancing largely has a beautiful flow, made even prettier by the surrounding water scenery, but there’s deliberate moments where the music crescendos into punk and the dancing moves into riotous, harsh shapes.
As we watch the group go from graceful to the more stoic dancing associated with breakdance – one dancer even flips in their wheelchair to great applause – we see that ‘Frock’ is here to challenge common perceptions in every way. The message behind the dancing leaves the audience enraptured. Many are lining the bridge and the far side of the waterfront to catch a glimpse, and we’re left with more than we came with. As StopGap finishes to thunderous applause, the audience will have something to chew on for a while longer.
piri & tommy
piri & tommy’s hit ‘Soft Spot’, mixed, produced and written by the couple, is a breakbeats-inspired track that blew up on Tik Tok. It’s no wonder, then, that the Alcove is packed full of mainly a Gen Z audience to begin with. But as the duo start playing, opening with their follow up single ‘Beachin’, they draw in everyone who happens to pass by. It’s clear that their high energy songs are infectious for anyone looking to have a good time, regardless of age.
With many needing to shake off the late nights from Friday and Saturday, the duo were perfect. Bopping along to the addictive dance music piri & tommy loved so much they started to produce it together in lockdown was as easy as breathing. Their pop-leaning lyrics are quickly caught onto by newcomers to the artists.
As they showed the audience what the new generation has in store for club music, hardcore fans awaited the single that brought them to fame, which the couple saved to the very end. Its singalong chorus and euphoric reinterpretation of club music has everyone on their feet as lights fill the Alcove.
Circus Abyssinia: Tulu
Circus Abyssinia have performed on some impressive stages, including the Edinburgh Fringe and the Royal Variety Performance. Now they’re bringing their new show ‘Tulu’, inspired by Ethiopian Olympian Derartu Tulu, to a fully packed Theatre Arena at Latitude.
The show is a truly breathtaking display from start to finish, set to a stunning soundtrack of traditional Ethiopian music. Contortionists twist themselves into positions that seem to defy nature. Two performers on roller skates perform some jaw dropping stunts, whilst tumblers flip and spin with flawless precision. The collective “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd feel like you’re at a firework show. In reality, you’re witnessing something far more spectacular.
The Olympic theme continues with a hula hoop sequence representing the Olympic rings. The iconic Olympic flame is carried by fire jugglers, and one of the hoops is set aflame for performers to tumble through in a series of dazzling stunts. The performers close each sequence with grins that display rightful pride and triumph as they receive rapturous applause.
After a magnificent aerial sequence set to the beautiful ‘Dunya’ by Anteneh Minalu, ‘Tulu’ finishes with some death-defying stunts on a giant swing set. As the performers take their final bows to a standing ovation, the audience is left to pick up their jaws from the floor after one of the most spectacular shows of the weekend.
Manic Street Preachers
Well accustomed to roaring festival sets and heady summer revelry, Manic Street Preachers arrived at the Obelisk Arena armed with two Welsh flags and a catalogue of classics. Another one of the weekend’s quick trips back in time, the Manics breezed their way through their melodic alt-rock discography with spirited singalongs aplenty.
The trodden grass of Latitude’s main space was pounding under foot, arms were flailing and the Welsh rockers were on fine form as they pitted big bouncy choruses against spiralling guitar solos and intrepid tambourine taps.
With a set spanning their career to date, from 1988’s ‘Suicide Alley’ right through to last year’s ‘The Secret He Had Missed’, the set also saw an appearance from fellow Welsh musician The Anchoress for a dynamic duet of 2007’s ‘Your Love Alone Is Not Enough’.
And as they strode into final track ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’, the first spatters of rain started falling from the sky. But rather than dash for cover or make a grab for their umbrellas, the crowd embraced the downpour just as though it had held out for this precise moment. Seeing in one of the most triumphant singalongs of the weekend to date, the Manic Street Preachers proved they have both the music and lyrics to stand the test of time.
Reginald D. Hunter
In the Comedy Arena, an excited crowd are waiting for headliner Reginald D. Hunter to take the stage. Soon we were met with Hunter’s signature long musings, including around sibling rivalry, his relationship with his late father, and even Meghan Markle. His charisma is a huge part of his hold on the audience, with a dramatic story of a childhood friend – now a drug dealer – and a particularly unique impression of Boris Johnson commanding belly laughs from the audience.
Although his set felt over too soon, he packed in a lot of material for the large audience. Known for his unique approaches to political observations, especially around race and fatherhood, his set richly delivered on the audience’s expectations for this often controversial comedian.
Let’s Eat Grandma
Taking to the stage for their headline Sunrise Arena slot, it’s clear Let’s Eat Grandma have well and truly earned their place amongst Latitude’s ranks. As they take a quick breather, the duo tell the audience it’s their fifth time playing the festival — the first aged just fifteen in the festival’s Inbetweeners Teen Area. “We’ve slowly made our way up the bill,” they laugh.
Putting on a startling show of friendship that extends both through and beyond their music, the two-piece bounce through syrupy, synth-heavy opener ‘Happy New Year’ before moving into more warped, experimental territory with the edgier ‘Falling Into Me’ and ‘Hot Pink’.
With cloying vocal harmonies, bubbling synthesisers and an occasional interjecting guitar or sax solo, the two-piece put on a deliriously hypnotic spectacle of late-night art-pop. Breaking up their rave-ready beats only occasionally with softer tracks like ‘Two Ribbons’ that tread carefully into experimental ballad territory, the set is a celebration: of friendship, of love, loss and intriguing experimentalism.
Falling somewhere between an illegal warehouse rave and an excitable teen sleepover, the duo round things off with an effervescent version of older track ‘Donnie Darko’. And as the spotlights dim and the two euphoric figures bow out gracefully from the stage, one thing is clear — Let’s Eat Grandma are a band more than worthy of bill-topping.
Ireland’s finest, Fontaines D.C., have arrived. As they take the stage flinging flowers into the crowd, the crowd are raucous and ready for some rowdy rock tunes. Thankfully, the band are here to deliver.
Pulsing strobes fill the tent as ‘A Lucid Dream’ causes mosh pits to break out left, right and center. Frontman Grian Chatten is bursting with vigour and energy. The crowd are in the palm of his hand as he leads them in the carefully controlled chaos of ‘Sha Sha Sha’.
Rumbling drums signal the arrival of ‘Televised Mind’ as Chatten wields a tambourine. The crowd never lets up, right the way through to the encore of fan favourites ‘Boys In The Better Land’ and ‘I Love You’. With shows as epic as this, it truly feels like Fontaines D.C. could be main stage headliner material not too far from now.
They say everything good comes to an end, and the same can be said of Latitude. As we approach Snow Patrol’s set, a light drizzle descends on the Obelisk Arena – wonderfully refreshing after the heat of today. As the last headliner for the very last day, everyone is ready not only just to have a good time, but to soak in the atmosphere of the end of Latitude.
The Irish-Scottish band have a raucous turnout for the final night, with audience members especially loud for popular hits such as ‘Chasing Cars’ and ‘Open Your Eyes’. However, despite the poignant rainfall and the atmospheric coming together as the crowd backs up frontman Gary Lightbody, there was a bigger surprise in store.
Lightbody tells the crowd that it’s guitarist Johnny McDaid’s birthday, and that the next song is dedicated to him. With the help of the crowd, the group launch into Ed Sheeran’s ‘Bad Habits’, penned by McDaid alongside Sheeran and Fred Again. As Lightbody claims he doesn’t know the words all too well as it’s not his own song, a surprise guest appears to help out. That’s right – it’s Sheeran himself.
The crowd eat up the surprise performance, with Sheeran coming back for the encore of ‘Just Say Yes’ to hugely loud applause. We couldn’t have asked for a better show. If everything good has to come to an end, we just have to be grateful that Snow Patrol (and Ed Sheeran) ended it in such style.