Live Report: Live At Leeds: In The Park 2024

A rousing one-dayer...

For the past few years, it has become a tradition for music fans around Leeds to venture over to Temple Newsam Park during the late May Bank Holiday weekend. While the Sunday plays host to the rock and pop-punk extravaganza Slam Dunk, the site is also used the day before for its pop and indie sibling, Live At Leeds In The Park. With a fantastic line-up as well as our very own stage The Big Top, CLASH made the trip up North to experience this stacked all-dayer.

You can plan a festival the best you can, but the old saying is always true – you can’t predict the traffic or the weather. While the day begins with the weather playing ball, bad traffic on the motorways means we sadly arrive midway through Sprints, missing the start of their highly anticipated set in the CLASH Big Top (you can read our recent interview with them ahead of the festival here). The few songs we do catch though make for a seismic start to the day, with the poetic adrenaline shot of ‘Literary Mind’ leading into a colossal closing performance of ‘Little Fix’. The latter sees frontwoman Karla Chubb jump into the mosh pit during the song’s climax, screaming the words from the eye of the storm at the front of the stage. An epic moment that sets the bar for the rest of the day.

We then stick in the CLASH Big Top for the wonderful indie-punk of Tor Maries, aka Billy Nomates. In terms of the day’s stage attire she’s a clear frontrunner, wearing a customised leather tracksuit sporting her name down the side and some silver tassels on the arms. It’s a set centred around her brilliant 2023 sophomore record ‘CACTI’, with ‘Blue Bones (Deathwish)’ and ‘Balance Is Gone’ standing out as she brings the energy with her captivating dancing. The 45-minutes fly-by and she ends the set emphatically on the anthemic, ‘Spite’.

It’s then time to venture down the hill to The Cockpit Main Stage, named after the iconic but sadly now defunct Leeds nightclub and music venue. The hilly grounds of Temple Newsam Park create a natural outdoor arena bowl, with many families and punters sat on picnic blankets for Corinne Bailey Rae’s set. Sadly though, what should’ve been a triumphant hometown show for the Leeds-born singer-songwriter is instead plagued by issues. She arrives on stage wearing a dazzling Rainbow jacket 15 minutes later than scheduled, prompting her to move straight into ‘Erasure’. She’s barely through the first verse though when the sound then completely cuts out, taking another five minutes to get back up and running again. After blasting through the frantic guitars of ‘New York Transit Queen’ to get the crowd back in gear, she starts to introduce ‘Earthlings’ before moving onto a different song, seemingly unable to perform that one. A real shame and you can’t help but feel bad for her.

It wasn’t Corinne’s day and with the momentum killed, we head back up the hill to the Hype Stage where young indie hero Tom A. Smith is performing to a packed tent. Recent singles ‘Fading Away’ and ‘Get Me Started’ sound massive, before ‘Little Bits’ causes the first big singalong of the day. The highlight of the set though is ‘Never Good Enough’, with free t-shirts fired into the crowd before a goosebump-inducing acapella singalong of the song’s refrain by everyone in the tent. He’s still young but Tom already has the stage presence of a superstar, conducting the crowd like a pro throughout. He ends his set on a crowd-pleasing cover of LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’, prompting “Here We, Here We, Here We F**king Go!” chants from the audience. As perfect a festival set as you can get.

It’s then a venture around the corner to the picturesque The Temple stage, set right on the top of the hill overlooking gorgeous greenery as far as the eye can see. “We’re The Slow Readers Club from down the road in Manchester – today is a good day” says vocalist Aaron Starkie during his introduction, a lifelong United fan who has clearly gotten word of their FA Cup victory. With plenty of fans down the front wearing their merch, they all respond passionately to the likes of ‘All I Hear’, ‘Plant The Seed’ and the bass-rumbling ‘Forever In Your Debt’. It’s the pulsating duo of cuts from third album ‘Build A Tower’ that get the loudest response though, with ‘You Opened Up My Heart’ and ‘Lunatic’ closing the set with a bang.

There was famously a lot of complaints coming out of Slam Dunk last year regarding the Temple Newsam site, but it’s worth noting at this point the site itself is causing CLASH no issues today. Sure, the hilly ground makes for a tiring day and there’s a little bit of sound bleed between a couple of the stages, but there’s also no huge bar or toilet queues with plenty dotted around. Live At Leeds also has one of the widest selection of drinks options we’ve experienced at a festival, with the dedicated Craft Beer tent and Low-and-No Alcohol bar welcome additions that hopefully inspire other organisers to follow suit this summer.

Now let’s face it – any 90s kid who gets the opportunity to see a Spice Girl perform live is going to take it, so it’s time to head back down to The Cockpit stage for Melanie C. She knows the score here, sending the crowd into a nostalgic ecstasy with Spice Girls classics ‘Spice Up Your Life’, ‘2 Become 1’ and ‘Who Do You Think You Are’. Her solo material gets a warm reception too, with Bryan Adams collab ‘When You’re Gone’ and dance-hit ‘I Turn To You’ both getting the huge crowd bouncing and singing along. Without a doubt one of the day’s highlights.

It’s then back up the hill one last time and into the CLASH Big Top, with White Lies’ set already well underway when we get there. They’ve drawn a big turnout, with their moody, atmospheric indie sounding impeccable. While ‘Getting Even’, ‘Tokyo’ and ‘I Don’t Want To Go To Mars’ all get the crowd moving and singing along, the roof of the tent nearly comes off for the final duo of ‘To Lose My Life’ and ‘Bigger Than Us’. A huge performance from a sometimes-underappreciated band.

While the likes of The Kooks and The Cribs play into the late evening, for us the day ends in the CLASH Big Top with synth-pop icons, Future Islands. They arrive 10 minutes late to the stage but it doesn’t matter, as ‘King of Sweden’, ‘For Sure’ and ‘The Tower’ immediately turn the CLASH tent into an absolute party. The band are flawless, but the performance is all about the enigmatic Samuel T. Herring, who is completely entrancing as he animatedly jumps and karate kicks his way around the stage. His vocal acrobatics are mind-blowing too, belting out powerful choruses one moment before dramatically growling in the next breath. The set itself leans heavily into new album ‘People Who Aren’t There Anymore’, but with huge singles like ‘Peach’, ‘The Thief’ and ‘Say Goodbye’, it may as well be a greatest hits set. That said, it’s inevitably ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’ that sends the crowd into a euphoric frenzy, before they victoriously finish on the ‘In Evening Air’ duo of ‘Long Flight’ and ‘Tin Man’.

It’s the best show of the day and the perfect way to end our Live At Leeds In The Park experience. With good organisation, a scenic location and a well-curated line-up catering to both families wanting a day out and music fans looking to catch some of their favourite artists both old and new, it’s a great way to spend the Bank Holiday weekend. 

Words: Karl Blakesley

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