Latitude Festival 2011 - Saturday

With Adam Ant, Villagers, Fight Like Apes
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Festival rain. A bad thing if you’re a punter with a leaky tent and no wellies, but a good thing if you’re a band and your stage a roof over it. Today’s grey and extremely precipitative sky must have been a promising omen then, for acts due to play the Word Stage here, but strangely it didn’t seem to swell the ranks beyond a half full tent. Unless of course you happen to be an extrovert 80s pop icon, in which case you don’t need rain to help you get a crowd.

Adam Ant and his relatively newly-assembled The Good, The Mad and the Lovely Posse are certainly a draw, partly out of curiosity, partly out of nostalgia (one fan said she’d been waiting 30 years to see him live; many others have face-paint-nose-stripes a la Prince Charming), but people stay, and are enthralled, because Ant knows how to write pop songs, and he knows how to entertain. Ant, dressed as a Napoleonic Jack Sparrow, and his posse, effortlessly roll out a stream of greatest hits including Stand and Deliver, Prince Charming (yes, with actions), Car Trouble, and Goody Two Shoes. Ant (and his saucy backing vocalists) flirts with the crowd, and need only say two words to us (“Good afternoon”) the whole show, but with such a cheeky grin, he doesn’t need to elaborate. The Adam Ant of today’s Latitude shows no flakiness of recent times, and it’s testament to his enduring popularity that fans are left wide-eyed, grinning and speechless by a performance that’s every bit as theatrical as you’d hope.

Not to be anticlimactic, last year’s Mercury nominated Villagers follow Ant with a whole different kind of theatrics - subtle, understated, but no less passionate (in fact, probably more so). Conor J O’Brien’s delicate, yet warm and enveloping vocals carry emotion right through you as if you’re sat round a campfire together, his intimate lyrics letting you in on his deepest secrets. He’s a genuinely endearing performer, spontaneously backward rolling across the floor while still playing the final surging riffs to album track Pieces; he holds his head in his hands in sheer joy and happiness.

It’s not long after this that the sun tries to come out again, launching the festival crowds into silly mode (there are even cheers for the first square feet of blue sky for 18 hours), and Fight Like Apes are the perfect complement. Walking onstage in Morphsuits (singer MayKay Geraghty instead flaunts a black tasselly number), and surrounded by brightly painted mannequins, they launch into a cascade of frenzied chords and bleeps, reminiscent of the earlier rainfall cascading from the sky. Geraghty’s vocals contain in equal measures yelping flourishes and sassy growls, and her irreverent banter with the crowd, not to mention her even more irreverent lyrics, quickly mobilise even the most relaxed punter. Thanks for the imagination MayKay & co, for rounding off a serendipitously spot-on set of bands, from a festival that celebrates more than just the musical arts.

Words by Elly Oracle

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